Stilt Fishermen of the South

Koggala, renowned for its splendid coastal conditions, has been the perfect place for stilt fishing. Silhouettes of fishermen perched on vertical poles with crossbars, waiting for its daily catch – a  beautiful and picture perfect spectacle.


  • Stilt fishing is an ancient practice of fishing that still exists today
  • A popular attraction for tourism with its unique setting dotted along the coast against the waves against beautiful sunrises and sunsets
  • You can experience the art of stilt fishing by joining in with the stilt fishermen


Stilt fishing – a traditional and ancient fishing practice in fervent use along the south coast of Sri Lanka, a technique that is popular in areas of Koggala, Weligama, Dikwella, Galle and Tangalle to name a few. In local language of Sinhala, stilt fishing is known as ‘Ritipanna.’ The origins of stilt fishing is unknown although many believe that it was introduced by traders to merchants who have witnessed these traders coming from sea with mesh bags filled with fish. Therefore this hereditary practice was passed down from generation to generation.

Stilt fishermen rely on this method of fishing when they do not have access or the means for advanced fishing equipment for this technique requires only a stilt made with two wooden poles, where one long thin pole of 3 or 4 metres is tied to a wooden stick which is nailed into the sea bed in shallow waters of the ocean and the other pole is erected as a crossbar which functions as a seat for the fishermen to sit, perched on these vertical poles for several hours waiting to capture fish by using their fishing rods made out of Bamboo or kithul wood. Afterwards they store the catch in a bag tied to the pole or their waist.

This skillful practice looks rather easy and effortless but requires immense patience and perseverance since the stilt fishermen have to balance themselves by holding onto the stilt with one hand and hold the rod with the other hand and of course waiting for many hours in silence waiting for the catch. They need to stay calm and silent for if there is any noise or disruption in the atmosphere, the fish will move away. Stilt fishing is done in the early morning which usually goes on till 9 am and in the late afternoon around 4 pm, because the fish are said to come close to the shore in the morning and go back to the deep sea during sundown. After they wind up the morning session, they sell their day’s catch before returning in the evening. They usually catch small fish such as spotted herring and mackerel.

The silhouettes of the fishermen with the gentle waves against the sunrise or sunset create a breathtaking spectacle, therefore attracting visitors. You can see stilt fishermen in action during the evenings just before sunset which is done mainly for visitors who like to learn and experience this unique activity and of course to capture that picture perfect photograph.

The peak season for stilt fishing is during the months of the south west monsoon which are from May to September.

If you are interested in enjoying an experience of stilt fishing or witness these fishermen at work against stunning backdrops, EPIC Sri Lanka Holidays have this excursion in their ‘Top Things to do in Sri Lanka’ and have included in many of the tours.