Fish Trap Basket

Artist: Bruce Smith (Dry Creek Pomo/Bodega Miwok)

Dates featured: permanent

Location: in the Native Plant Garden behind the Dwight Center for Conservation Science


Fish Basket (èw holophút’e), 2021, fabricated in steel. This sculpture is an enlarged version of a Indigenous Wappo or Pomo basket used for fishing local streams. The artist has used exactly the same basket weaving process that would be traditionally done using red willow plant materials. By using steel to weave this fish basket, visitors can explore it up close and see how it is constructed.

The basket greets newcomers along with ikhalikhi mi – “welcome” in the Wappo language, native to this land.

History of Fish Trap Baskets

Fish trap baskets provide an effective method of harvesting various sizes and species of fish. They are made of unpeeled willow shoots and consist of two separate baskets. A large conical basket and an inner funnel shaped basket woven together.

The trap is set within a woven brush weir that is built across the stream. Fish seek an opening in the weir and swim into the mouth of the basket. Once inside, they are not able to swim back out. Some fish trap baskets can be up to 7’ long with an opening at the mouth about 20” and a 4” opening through the inner funnel basket.

The fish are removed from the trap by separating a portion of the inner and outer basket. Once the fish are removed, the baskets are again tied together, and the trap is re-set.