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TITLE
Fishing Methods used in Caithness (5)
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_CAITHNESS_CROFTING_33
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
CAITHNESS
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
Alec Thomson
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
41334
KEYWORDS
audios
fishing industry
fishing
fishing boats
fishing nets
fishermen
fish

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Alec Thomson was a Thurso fishermen. In this audio extract he talks about the fishing off the north coast of Caithness.

'An then when ye're on e Sands, then inside o e Sands again there's a rock - what e call e e rocket ground, it's on e chart written - ye'll see the sea when a storm comes breakan on it, oh ye'll see the sea foamin on top o it wi a storm, ye know? An it comes right in, right til e shore sometimes. Wild, wild place, e rocket ground. Ye've got til be careful of e storms an never try and cross at bank, at rock. There's 8 fathom on it at low water but e linemen usually watch it, the men for cod, the jiggin for cod, ye know, the hand-line men but e great line men didnae bother much wi it.

An then ye can go west end, west til e Sutherlandshire coast, away up off o Strathy Point ere. But, Bighouse Head they called it, it was good for cod, Bighouse Head was great for cod fishing. Sandside Head an Bighouse Head, at was e Sandside Bank, ye know? Ye see, Bighouse Head formed e west part o Sandside. An the hill, the hill, Ben Reay, Ben Reay they call it, the Hill o Reay we called it, ye take at on til a corner o Sandside harbour, an at was e east part o Sandside. Well, that was the whole length o e Sandside Bank from ere til Bighouse Head, ye know? An then there was a mark then for yer distance off, was Scullomie, Hill a Scullomie, come off for e Point o Strathy. When ee got at mark off in Scullomie ye was oot, way oot on a hard bottom ere, ye didna go no further off than at, when ye're lookan for cod, because e seine net'll no travel on e hard bottom, ye see? If ye're lookin, if ye've a seine net, ye'll no go oot past Scullomie because ye're intil e hard bottom. An when ye come intil e hard bottom yer net catches on e bottom, ye see? An yer rock catches, an e net's stuck, an she'll no come up, she'll no travel, ye see? An when your net doesna travel on e bottom ye get no fish, cos yer net's no movan. An when ye pull up yer net she's all torn an ripped up, an ye have got til turn to an repair her, ye see? That's the skills when ye're workan wi e seine net, especially e seine net. Ye've got til know the seabed for pinchin all at rocks, ye know? Keep inside them. Oh there's some men very clever at at, you know?'

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 (5)

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 audio extract he talks about the fishing off the north coast of Caithness.<br /> <br /> 'An then when ye're on e Sands, then inside o e Sands again there's a rock - what e call e e rocket ground, it's on e chart written - ye'll see the sea when a storm comes breakan on it, oh ye'll see the sea foamin on top o it wi a storm, ye know? An it comes right in, right til e shore sometimes. Wild, wild place, e rocket ground. Ye've got til be careful of e storms an never try and cross at bank, at rock. There's 8 fathom on it at low water but e linemen usually watch it, the men for cod, the jiggin for cod, ye know, the hand-line men but e great line men didnae bother much wi it. <br /> <br /> An then ye can go west end, west til e Sutherlandshire coast, away up off o Strathy Point ere. But, Bighouse Head they called it, it was good for cod, Bighouse Head was great for cod fishing. Sandside Head an Bighouse Head, at was e Sandside Bank, ye know? Ye see, Bighouse Head formed e west part o Sandside. An the hill, the hill, Ben Reay, Ben Reay they call it, the Hill o Reay we called it, ye take at on til a corner o Sandside harbour, an at was e east part o Sandside. Well, that was the whole length o e Sandside Bank from ere til Bighouse Head, ye know? An then there was a mark then for yer distance off, was Scullomie, Hill a Scullomie, come off for e Point o Strathy. When ee got at mark off in Scullomie ye was oot, way oot on a hard bottom ere, ye didna go no further off than at, when ye're lookan for cod, because e seine net'll no travel on e hard bottom, ye see? If ye're lookin, if ye've a seine net, ye'll no go oot past Scullomie because ye're intil e hard bottom. An when ye come intil e hard bottom yer net catches on e bottom, ye see? An yer rock catches, an e net's stuck, an she'll no come up, she'll no travel, ye see? An when your net doesna travel on e bottom ye get no fish, cos yer net's no movan. An when ye pull up yer net she's all torn an ripped up, an ye have got til turn to an repair her, ye see? That's the skills when ye're workan wi e seine net, especially e seine net. Ye've got til know the seabed for pinchin all at rocks, ye know? Keep inside them. Oh there's some men very clever at at, you know?'<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.