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TITLE
Fishing Methods used in Caithness (2)
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_CAITHNESS_CROFTING_30
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
Alec Thomson
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
41331
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.

'An some days ye get what they call, they get stuck on their lines, or they get a fastener [this term means anything that traps the line on the seabed], or they get stopped - their line catches in the bottom, ye see, an ye've got, sometimes ye've an awfu job fore ye get them jerked oot o the bottom. But if ye break yer line in e bottom ye've got a thing what they call a creep or a board, jist a thing, jist wi fower prongs on it like at ye see [a grapnel, or grappling iron], an e chains, an ye put that over, an ye used to drag it along e seabed a wee bit afore ye broke, ye see, an that takes it up again, ye see, an carry on again an hawl yer lines like that, hawl it right in.

Now when ye get yer lines all in ye have til turn to an redd them all over again. Clean them oot, take e bait off o them, an pit - take all e twists out o them, an redd them down for tomorrow's fishing, ye see? An then pit them by, an pit any hooks at's broken or anything at needs repair, just pit it on, an that's e way ye worked wi yer line fishing.

Ye take, then ye, ye usually - when we would work wi the great lines - ye usually come in. After ye pull oot - hawl e off - we called it hawled off - when ye hawled all your lines, ye're hawled off then - ye come in then, an in my time when I was going, it was Willam Allan the fishcurer - he took the fish from ye, ye see? An ye, ye landed, ye discharged yer catch an while yer - an then ye prepared for the next morning's fishing, ye see? That's when the cod fishing was on.'

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 (2)

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 /> 'An some days ye get what they call, they get stuck on their lines, or they get a fastener [this term means anything that traps the line on the seabed], or they get stopped - their line catches in the bottom, ye see, an ye've got, sometimes ye've an awfu job fore ye get them jerked oot o the bottom. But if ye break yer line in e bottom ye've got a thing what they call a creep or a board, jist a thing, jist wi fower prongs on it like at ye see [a grapnel, or grappling iron], an e chains, an ye put that over, an ye used to drag it along e seabed a wee bit afore ye broke, ye see, an that takes it up again, ye see, an carry on again an hawl yer lines like that, hawl it right in.<br /> <br /> Now when ye get yer lines all in ye have til turn to an redd them all over again. Clean them oot, take e bait off o them, an pit - take all e twists out o them, an redd them down for tomorrow's fishing, ye see? An then pit them by, an pit any hooks at's broken or anything at needs repair, just pit it on, an that's e way ye worked wi yer line fishing. <br /> <br /> Ye take, then ye, ye usually - when we would work wi the great lines - ye usually come in. After ye pull oot - hawl e off - we called it hawled off - when ye hawled all your lines, ye're hawled off then - ye come in then, an in my time when I was going, it was Willam Allan the fishcurer - he took the fish from ye, ye see? An ye, ye landed, ye discharged yer catch an while yer - an then ye prepared for the next morning's fishing, ye see? That's when the cod fishing was on.'<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.