Although this had been read as an instance of pastoral exaggeration, Amy Tigner offers an explanation based on common husbandry practices of the period. One husbandry manual from the early seventeenth century describes a method of fishing that involves the use of fish food to cause the fish to swarm and leap (113). A net can then be placed by the swarming fish, and they will leap into it. This document suggests that Penshurst’s fish are not offering their own flesh for consumption by the Sidney family and their guests, but are unwittingly jumping into a net during a feeding frenzy.
Tigner, Amy. “The Ecology of Eating in Jonson’s ‘To Penshurst’”Ecological Approaches to Early Modern English Texts: A Field Guide to Reading and Teaching. Bruckner, Lynne, Edward J. Geisweidt, and Jennifer Munroe, eds. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015. Web.