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TITLE
Fishing Methods used in Caithness (4]
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_CAITHNESS_CROFTING_32
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
Alec Thomson
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
41333
KEYWORDS
audios
fishing industry
fishing
fishing boats
fishing nets
fishermen
fish

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Alec Thomson was a Thurso fishermen. In this extract he talks about halibut fishing.

'The halibut is e main, was the most dear, expensive fish, ye know, in at days. Ye got more for halibut. If ye got two halibut or three halibut ye got as much for that as ye get a shot o, shot o cod, ye know? But the prices rose an fell, ye see, according to the weather. In some o the east winds, an storms on e east coast, ye got good prices for cod, in at days too, an we used til make a - no, we never made a fortune but we made a living oot o it, ye know? An we got twa, three halibut, an oh when ye got halibut, ye wis a big fisher then. If ye got 10 or 12 halibut at was a good shot for ye.

Oh, an Dunnet Head is very good ere, too. Doon on is side o Dunnet Head intae Clardon Head an stackin wi your, wi your dahn ere at Clardon Head, an shottan em right towards the mansion doon at Dwarwick Head doon ere. Ye go in a certain distance where ye take e hill, comes in on e point, an at was e edge o the ground. Once ye get at hill that e edge ye got. Ye got right along e edge o the ground, try an get em on the edge, between the sanded bottom an e hard, ye know, e fish usually lies on e edge o the sand. Get them down ere. An ye all try - that's what they call Whitefield, an many's a good fishing came oot o there.

An then there's a sanded bank - outside of Whitefield - there's another big sanded patch what they called the Sands, an there's 17 fathom o watter on it. An this is a great place for gettin that halibut an querns, what they call querns [turbot], ye know a roon fish jist like a big flatfish, but it's a quern they call im. An they used til get halibut on e Sands an all, it was all sand ye see? That was a good stretch o ground, the Sands; ye can go from Dunnet Head near up til, very near up past Clardon Head ere, it's all clean bottom.'

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 (4]

CAITHNESS

1980s

audios; fishing industry; fishing; fishing boats; fishing nets; fishermen; fish

Highland Libraries

Caithness Recordings: Fishing

Alec Thomson was a Thurso fishermen. In this extract he talks about halibut fishing.<br /> <br /> 'The halibut is e main, was the most dear, expensive fish, ye know, in at days. Ye got more for halibut. If ye got two halibut or three halibut ye got as much for that as ye get a shot o, shot o cod, ye know? But the prices rose an fell, ye see, according to the weather. In some o the east winds, an storms on e east coast, ye got good prices for cod, in at days too, an we used til make a - no, we never made a fortune but we made a living oot o it, ye know? An we got twa, three halibut, an oh when ye got halibut, ye wis a big fisher then. If ye got 10 or 12 halibut at was a good shot for ye. <br /> <br /> Oh, an Dunnet Head is very good ere, too. Doon on is side o Dunnet Head intae Clardon Head an stackin wi your, wi your dahn ere at Clardon Head, an shottan em right towards the mansion doon at Dwarwick Head doon ere. Ye go in a certain distance where ye take e hill, comes in on e point, an at was e edge o the ground. Once ye get at hill that e edge ye got. Ye got right along e edge o the ground, try an get em on the edge, between the sanded bottom an e hard, ye know, e fish usually lies on e edge o the sand. Get them down ere. An ye all try - that's what they call Whitefield, an many's a good fishing came oot o there. <br /> <br /> An then there's a sanded bank - outside of Whitefield - there's another big sanded patch what they called the Sands, an there's 17 fathom o watter on it. An this is a great place for gettin that halibut an querns, what they call querns [turbot], ye know a roon fish jist like a big flatfish, but it's a quern they call im. An they used til get halibut on e Sands an all, it was all sand ye see? That was a good stretch o ground, the Sands; ye can go from Dunnet Head near up til, very near up past Clardon Head ere, it's all clean bottom.'<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.