Traditional river fishing at the river Sieg’s mouth into the Rhine
Since 987, fisher families in Bergheim an der Sieg have fishing rights at the mouth of the river Sieg in the Rhine. Over the centuries, the community of these families became a religiously inspired, guild-like organized association, which is called brotherhood since the late Middle Ages and still has the fishing rights today. The brotherhood teaches about flora and fauna of the area, fishing techniques as well as crafts that contribute to the existence of fishing, such as net knitting and basket weaving. The traditions are still alive today and they are celebrated in public and so form an important element of local identity.
For centuries, fishing has shaped the everyday life of the people at the Sieg and strengthened their bond with nature. A healthy fish stock was vital, which is why fishermen avoided overfishing, respected spawning season, and protected fry. A good fisherman knew habits of the fish as well as characteristics of the waters and chose suitable fishing methods. This traditional knowledge was of economic importance to the region and also promoted industries such as basketmakers, net knitters, boat builders, traders and innkeepers.
Today, the fishing brotherhood has about 450 members who are bonded with local nature and committed to the care of the conservation area of the Sieg meadow. The waters serve as a retreat and wintering place for various species of fish and are not open for fishing, which is why the Sieg is one of Germany’s rivers richest in fish with over 40 different species. The brotherhood is also trying to preserve and transmit old craftsmanship and knowledge about fishing. Many relics of the fishermen's craft, as well as tools of net knitters and basket makers, have found their way into a museum run by the brotherhood. All in all, the brotherhood accomplishes important tasks in the area of education, traditions and nature conservation in the lower Sieg region.