Onboard Crystal Blues we work hard to avoid them, though it is common to be sitting in the cockpit and see one slide past only a metre away. Oops.
The flags are often poorly maintained and they can be very hard to see subject to daylight conditions. Of course at night we have no chance, so our coastal navigation is almost always in daylight.
The dark fish trap flag in the photo above, a good boat length from Crystal Blues, is easy to see against the sky, but difficult against the darker water. We pass many hundreds of these in a coastal day sail, and they are prolific north of Phuket, between Ban Thap Lamu and the Myanmar border. One sailor I spoke to says he has given up worrying about them - he just ignores them. Others I know have spent frustrating hours hooked up to traps, working to clear lines from rudders, skegs and propellers. We value our paint job, so we do everything we can to avoid them.
Long & Tall Traps
Here is Ley standing outside a fish trap workshop at Ban Tap Lamu on the north western Thai coast. These are the conventional size fish traps that are by far the most common - maybe 1.5 meters long and about 1.0 meter in diameter.
However sometimes we see monster traps - huge constructions of fish netting, bamboo and timber, laced and nailed together. East of Ko Ra in the beautiful inland waterway we spotted this boat loaded with monster traps at least 4.0 meters long. We can only assume they don't set them very deep.
Huge Traps In Borneo
In northern Borneo we traveled extensively on the massive Rajang River and it's tributorys. The Iban people we met there are prolific fisherman, and they use traps of all sizes.
Many are beautifully woven by the local women, however we were amazed to see this monster trap in one longhouse in Sarawak. Ley recalls that it was a turtle trap.
Ko Phayam Sea Otters
Of course there is a downside to all this trapping - at Ko Phayam this summer the much loved local sea otter family were killed in a fish trap - they got in and could not get out of course. A local level tragedy that I'm sure is repeated constantly all over the world as we try to feed mankind.