A highlight of our U.S. Thanksgiving weekend in Senegal was a two-day trip down to Popenguine, a little fishing village about two hours south of Dakar. We rented a house on the beach, swam in the sea, and ate leftover turkey. On our first morning there, we all decided to go for a long walk along the beach to town, before the sun got too hot.
On the way, we spotted about 10 men tugging on a thick rope that extended out into the ocean. About two hours later we returned from a stroll in town and the men were still pulling, and more people had gathered to watch and help. Birds were circling and diving. It felt like something was about to happen, so we decided to sit down in the sand and watch.
Laird and Dylan met some village kids and they all played together as we waited for the net to come in.
Given the amount of work, we expected the net to be teaming with fish. But when the men finally dragged it up onto dry sand, it contained barely anything. People from the village carrying empty plastic buckets rushed in and took what they could grab to go sell in the market. Children took the smallest fish, still alive, from the nets and put them in bottles of sea water to watch them swim. The men unfurled the net and put it up onto the beach in preparation for another day.
"We put the net out when the sea is calm, like today," said one of the wizened old fishermen, wearing a blue wool cap. He said they paddle a pirogue several hours before sunrise to set the net about 400 meters from shore, then they pull it in after first light.
"When we catch real fish, we sometimes sell them as far away as Rufisque and Thies," he said, refering to towns about an hour away. "But today we caught nothing."
Laird and Dylan were blown away by the whole scene and said 'fish' for most of the rest of the day.