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TITLE
Fishing Methods used in Caithness (1)
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_CAITHNESS_CROFTING_29
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
Alec Thomson
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
41330
KEYWORDS
crofting
crofters
crofter
croft
crofts
audios

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Alec Thomson was a Thurso fishermen. In this extract he gives detailed descriptions of the different kinds of fishing methods used locally up until the 1960s.

'Interviewer: First o all, can ye tell us e difference between line fishing an net fishing, seine-net fishing?

Mr T: Ah yes. Well, the line fishing, ye see, the old, the line fishing's an old method o fishing, an e seine net fishing is altogether, is more modern. But, eh, the line fishing is jist; it's five - what they call strings, ye know - five hanks o line. Eh, Ah think ye'd sixty fathom on each hank, ye know, an they were all joined, five hanks, an they were all joined together, an that makes one line. Ye see, this - we call it strings, five strings, ye always buy yer lines in strings [?]. Well, five strings. Now, there's aboot - if ye're working the great lines, there's three fathom between each hook, ye know, an there's aboot twenty hooks on each string, an on e whole line is aboot a hundred hooks, ye know?

Now - an between each hook there's three fathom, this is for e big cod fishing or e halibut fishing, skate fishing, [?] an the three fathom each measured off like that, ye see, three fathom, when it - turn another hook on. Now, when ye shot yer lines, the first thing that we'll dee is get yer bait cut - all e herring - it was usually herring bait they cut for fishing. Get yer bait cut, an then when ye come on the grounds, when ye come on the fishing grounds the - ye've got special grounds for c- but it's at certain time o year the cod comes onto a certain kind o ground, sandy ground, the soil bottom, for spending their roes an that [spawning], ye know?

Well, when ye come on the ground, the first thing ye do is let go yer dahn; it's a marker. Some calls it a marker, an some calls it as their end, an some calls it their dahn, the fishermen calls it e dahn. It's just yer long pole like at wi a weight on the end of it, an a buoy tied in the middle of it, an a light at e top, ye see? When it when it goes intil the watter the dahn goes upright like at, ye see? An then there's three buoys attached tae it, ye see? Ye, ye drop that over the side an that's yer marker an then after ye get your marker up, ye mark e land [?] ye jist say, that's so-an-so, on the Point o Hoy on a certain bearing, an then a hill some other way til e east'ard or anything like that, on that point, ye see? A cross bearing like that. An that's yer mark for yer aim. An according to the tide then - before e tide, ye fire away yer lines like that, an there's an anchor on e end o the, o yer line, pit an anchor on it.

An then whenever your anchor goes til e bottom, ye start firing off like that, ye see, an when ye're thowing oot yer line there's two men, one on each side o e basket, baitin the hooks, ye know, an a manjack shotin e line oot like at. An ye go on along like at til ye shot the whole shank oot, twenty lines maybe, right doon on, on e track, an then ye put yer anchor in again an another dahn goes in. That's two ends ye hiv now, in case ye break that end ye go to e other end, ye see? An you leave them, say about maybe a couple o hours, or if e tide's strong ye let them lie out, the tide runs off a bit, ye get e tide - slack tide, ye see, an then you start pullin them up. An eh, ye start hallin in yer lines then an if there's a good fishing on ye'll get a cod on every other hook, ye know?

There's one man pulling e line in, another fellow at is back - coiling e line at is back like at, an puttin in e basket, ye see? An then when e fish comes up there's a stap, e staps is on e deck, an ye don't lift e fish in by is - ye jist put a, a clip [clep, or gaff - a pole with a hook on the end] in e fish like at, an lift them in over, ye see? An then ye've got an iron in yer hand like that, an ye pit it doon e cod's throat, open is mouth up, an ye shove this iron down, an it catches e hook; there's a sneck in e, in e, in e iron, ye see? Ye jist give it a shove like at, an e hook comes out, an ye jist throw them off, throw them down like that, ye see, an pit them down below. An ye jist keep hallin on like at now til ye get them, til ye get yer lines all in. It's a whole day's job, ye know, hallin all at lines.'

The simplest kind was line fishing, using long lines with baited hooks to catch cod, ling, haddock and other white fish, and flatfish such as the turbot and halibut. There were two basic types of line fishing - sma'lines used inshore for smaller white fish, and the great lines used in deeper water for larger fish. Lines were often extremely long. The fathom was used as a measure of length, officially equal to six feet but usually the arm span of the fisherman making up the line. Line fishing was very labour intensive and could involve the whole family, with women and children working to gather bait and prepare the gear on shore before the fisherman even put to sea. Herring was often used as bait but in some villages it was customary to gather mussels for this purpose.

In the 1920s seine-net fishing was introduced in the Moray Firth and became the standard method of catching white fish and flatfish along the east coast of Scotland. Wick acquired a large seine-net fleet, with a smaller fleet operating from Thurso. The technique involved shooting and hauling a long net to enclose fish in the water. An important part of the equipment was the dahn or dan-buoy, a pole that floated vertically to indicate the position of one end of the net or, in line fishing, the position of the furthest end of the line.

Fishermen used landmarks such as headlands or prominent buildings to establish their position at sea, essential for locating the best fishing grounds or banks. These marks were also called meezes. Fishermen had their favourite grounds and usually gave them names.

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Fishing Methods used in Caithness (1)

CAITHNESS

1980s

crofting; crofters; crofter; croft; crofts; audios

Highland Libraries

Caithness Recordings: Fishing

Alec Thomson was a Thurso fishermen. In this extract he gives detailed descriptions of the different kinds of fishing methods used locally up until the 1960s.<br /> <br /> 'Interviewer: First o all, can ye tell us e difference between line fishing an net fishing, seine-net fishing?<br /> <br /> Mr T: Ah yes. Well, the line fishing, ye see, the old, the line fishing's an old method o fishing, an e seine net fishing is altogether, is more modern. But, eh, the line fishing is jist; it's five - what they call strings, ye know - five hanks o line. Eh, Ah think ye'd sixty fathom on each hank, ye know, an they were all joined, five hanks, an they were all joined together, an that makes one line. Ye see, this - we call it strings, five strings, ye always buy yer lines in strings [?]. Well, five strings. Now, there's aboot - if ye're working the great lines, there's three fathom between each hook, ye know, an there's aboot twenty hooks on each string, an on e whole line is aboot a hundred hooks, ye know? <br /> <br /> Now - an between each hook there's three fathom, this is for e big cod fishing or e halibut fishing, skate fishing, [?] an the three fathom each measured off like that, ye see, three fathom, when it - turn another hook on. Now, when ye shot yer lines, the first thing that we'll dee is get yer bait cut - all e herring - it was usually herring bait they cut for fishing. Get yer bait cut, an then when ye come on the grounds, when ye come on the fishing grounds the - ye've got special grounds for c- but it's at certain time o year the cod comes onto a certain kind o ground, sandy ground, the soil bottom, for spending their roes an that [spawning], ye know? <br /> <br /> Well, when ye come on the ground, the first thing ye do is let go yer dahn; it's a marker. Some calls it a marker, an some calls it as their end, an some calls it their dahn, the fishermen calls it e dahn. It's just yer long pole like at wi a weight on the end of it, an a buoy tied in the middle of it, an a light at e top, ye see? When it when it goes intil the watter the dahn goes upright like at, ye see? An then there's three buoys attached tae it, ye see? Ye, ye drop that over the side an that's yer marker an then after ye get your marker up, ye mark e land [?] ye jist say, that's so-an-so, on the Point o Hoy on a certain bearing, an then a hill some other way til e east'ard or anything like that, on that point, ye see? A cross bearing like that. An that's yer mark for yer aim. An according to the tide then - before e tide, ye fire away yer lines like that, an there's an anchor on e end o the, o yer line, pit an anchor on it. <br /> <br /> An then whenever your anchor goes til e bottom, ye start firing off like that, ye see, an when ye're thowing oot yer line there's two men, one on each side o e basket, baitin the hooks, ye know, an a manjack shotin e line oot like at. An ye go on along like at til ye shot the whole shank oot, twenty lines maybe, right doon on, on e track, an then ye put yer anchor in again an another dahn goes in. That's two ends ye hiv now, in case ye break that end ye go to e other end, ye see? An you leave them, say about maybe a couple o hours, or if e tide's strong ye let them lie out, the tide runs off a bit, ye get e tide - slack tide, ye see, an then you start pullin them up. An eh, ye start hallin in yer lines then an if there's a good fishing on ye'll get a cod on every other hook, ye know? <br /> <br /> There's one man pulling e line in, another fellow at is back - coiling e line at is back like at, an puttin in e basket, ye see? An then when e fish comes up there's a stap, e staps is on e deck, an ye don't lift e fish in by is - ye jist put a, a clip [clep, or gaff - a pole with a hook on the end] in e fish like at, an lift them in over, ye see? An then ye've got an iron in yer hand like that, an ye pit it doon e cod's throat, open is mouth up, an ye shove this iron down, an it catches e hook; there's a sneck in e, in e, in e iron, ye see? Ye jist give it a shove like at, an e hook comes out, an ye jist throw them off, throw them down like that, ye see, an pit them down below. An ye jist keep hallin on like at now til ye get them, til ye get yer lines all in. It's a whole day's job, ye know, hallin all at lines.'<br /> <br /> The simplest kind was line fishing, using long lines with baited hooks to catch cod, ling, haddock and other white fish, and flatfish such as the turbot and halibut. There were two basic types of line fishing - sma'lines used inshore for smaller white fish, and the great lines used in deeper water for larger fish. Lines were often extremely long. The fathom was used as a measure of length, officially equal to six feet but usually the arm span of the fisherman making up the line. Line fishing was very labour intensive and could involve the whole family, with women and children working to gather bait and prepare the gear on shore before the fisherman even put to sea. Herring was often used as bait but in some villages it was customary to gather mussels for this purpose.<br /> <br /> In the 1920s seine-net fishing was introduced in the Moray Firth and became the standard method of catching white fish and flatfish along the east coast of Scotland. Wick acquired a large seine-net fleet, with a smaller fleet operating from Thurso. The technique involved shooting and hauling a long net to enclose fish in the water. An important part of the equipment was the dahn or dan-buoy, a pole that floated vertically to indicate the position of one end of the net or, in line fishing, the position of the furthest end of the line.<br /> <br /> Fishermen used landmarks such as headlands or prominent buildings to establish their position at sea, essential for locating the best fishing grounds or banks. These marks were also called meezes. Fishermen had their favourite grounds and usually gave them names.