The Last Fisherman

The Last Fisherman


Der Elbfischer

Lothar Buckow is one of the last remaining fishermen who can live from their profession in the estuary of the river Elbe between Hamburg and Glückstadt.

Even though the water quality hasn’t been as good in decades as it is today, fishing for eel and smelt is becoming increasingly dangerous. The current and tide rises in power and strength every time the Elbe gets a new cavity or deeper waterway for the ever rising traffic of big container ships. Being on a cutter or small boat, securing the fish traps and nets while a 100.000 ton cargo vessel passes by – that is about a 100.000 tons of water being displaced. A dangerous endeavor.

But Lothar knows the water and the surrounding environment, these are his elements and fishing is his craft. Since more than 20 years he puts on his oil dungarees and gets on the water, just in time to cast the nets and fish traps during low tide and secure the catch a few hours later when the water rises. Every day, no matter what weather condition, with his workaday life being dictated by ebb and flow.

He bet all odds becoming a fisherman after being diagnosed with a muscular atrophy.

His hands show strength along with a tenderness for his handicraft.

Coming from a fishery family, Lothar is proud to work environmentally friendly. And he had the right touch when he made the business decision in the early 1990s to start fishing smelt between October and March and eel during the summer months. He distributes his catch to more than 50 restaurants and to the famous Hamburger Fischmarkt and he runs a fish restaurant and shop in Jork with his wife, Rita, who also frequently helps him on the cutter during the smelt season in winter.

Spending a few hours on the boat, watching Lothar working with his hands and listen to what he had to say, gave me a new perspective and appreciation on small things in life that might disappear in the vortex of our hectic life in the big city, where everything is available in an abundance at all times.