Bike fishing: a Dutch occupation you never knew existed

Bike riding, bike commuting, bike delivering, bike…fishing?

It’s no news that the Netherlands is a bike country. It is one of the main forms of transport and virtually every household owns at least one bike — but usually more like 10.

People go to work, carry their groceries, bike with their children, move furniture and basically live with their bike, all while (mostly) abiding by an unspoken list of do’s and don’ts while cycling.

Enter: water 💧

On the other hand, the Netherlands is also a country where water is part of life and there are hundreds of canals all over the country.

So with this many bikes and this many canals around them, ever wondered “what happens to the bikes once they end up in the water?”

photo-of-bike-laying-underwater-waiting-for-bike-fisherman
Under the sea, under the sea. 🎶 Image: Depositphotos

Well, that’s why there is such a thing as bike fishing! If you are clueless about what we’re talking about, here is all you need to know about this pretty awesome job.

Bike fishing: what the heck is it?

It’s not fishing while riding a bicycle (although we wouldn’t put that past those Dutchies). Instead, bike fishing is the process of literally fishing for bicycles.

The rough number of bikes in Amsterdam is a whopping 881,000 (you heard that right) and each year Amsterdam’s water authority fishes between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles from the canals.

Why are there bikes in the canals, anyway?

Well, mostly drunk people to be honest. Visit any major Dutch city late on a Saturday night and you may get to witness the incredibly annoying drunkards throwing bikes in canals.

Of course, it’s not just beer that leads to this event. Often weather (like that crazy wind and rain) also forces bikes sliding into canals. It’s one reason why you probably shouldn’t swim in most Dutch canals.

biking through Rain netherlands
Bikes must brave the weather even while we’re cosy indoors. Image: Pixabay

Introducing…bike fishermen!

So as a result, the profession of “bike fisherman” was born. Their job is to keep the canals clean and safe for the boats.

The job consists of going through the canals with a pretty awesome looking boat with its own hydraulic claw, connected to a crane that sits on the front of the boat, looking for bikes!

Once they pull the bikes from the water, they end up at a recycling center to be turned into beer cans — and the cycle of drunk bike throwing continues.

See it in action

Did you know that “bike fisherman” is a job? More importantly, have you ever seen one in action? Share with us in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2018, and was fully updated in April 2022 for your reading pleasure. 

Feature Image:DutchReview
Ceren Spuyman
Ceren Spuyman
Born and raised in Istanbul, Ceren moved when she decided to follow her own Dutchie. Being restless by nature, she is now busy with everything Dutch by majoring in Dutch Studies at Leiden University while living in Delft. Her hobbies are petting as many cats as possible.

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