29 Apr Fishing Practices
Commercial fishing in British Columbia uses a variety of different practices. They include:
Gillnets are rectangular pieces of netting 900-1800 feet long and 50-60 meshes deep. When used on rivers, the only covered 1/3 of the width. The top was floated using cork or wood and lead or stone weighted down the bottom. When on the ocean, and used as drift nets, one end was buoyed and set adrift while the other was held by the boat. The fish would swim through the small diamond shaped mesh and get caught by their gills.
Over time laws and regulations were introduced to the industry. Net and catch size as well as fish species were determined by these laws.
It took special care and knowledge to keep and use gillnets. The fishermen kept and cleaned them in a copper sulphate solution known as “bluestone”. This solution disinfected, cleaned and tinted the 4-8-ply netting to help it weather both the fish and the sea.
Modern innovations for gill-netters include the lightweight nylon nets and power drums to go along with the modern mechanical fishing boats.
Seining uses nets up to 600 feet long staked at the mouth of rivers and streams. The net is floated and weighted down as with gillnets. The boat would stay attached to the net at one end and carry the net around a school of fish, trapping them in between. Brass rings attached to the bottom of the net were pulled up under to trap them within the folds.
Trolling became part of the BC fishing industry near the end of the 19th century. Trolling also know as hand hauling makes up about 15% of the total catch of fish. These independent fishermen are considered the elite of the industry. Their catch will usually get the highest prices as the fish are unblemished by nets or gaff.
In the beginning a hand haulers gear would include the boat, oars, line, wire and weights, hooks, spinners or spoons, a herring rake, a fish knife and possibly some blankets and hard tack. Later fishing rods and reels replaced the hand held line.
Men used their skill and experience to pull in the catch. It took knowing the fish, bait, fishing spot, the right lure, the water and the weather to be successful at trolling.
When this was still done by hand, lead weights held down the lines. Today, cannonball sinkers up to 60lbs determine the angle and the depth of the line. Floats help to keep the numerous lines from tangling.
Today’s boats are bigger, use stainless steel wire, have boat stabilizers and electronic gear to locate fish and aid in navigation.
Trawling consisted of using cone shaped nets that were swept across the ocean floor to catch the low living fish. They consist of flounder, sole, hake, and varieties of cod and halibut. Today halibut is excluded from trawling.
The mouth of the trawl net is help open by long beams, spread 50-100 feet wide that trapped everything it swept over into the narrow “cod end” of the cone net. This ancient form of fishing is very effective and potentially destructive. It was introduced in approximately 1911 and by the 1930’;s concerns were being voiced about its destructive nature. This caused restrictions to be place on trawlers that included catch size, closed areas and closed days.
The trawler crew consisted of3-5 people. The catch was hauled in by hand and the men then set to sorting the species of fish. Now hydraulic power has taken the danger and much of the hard labour out of trawling.
All of the modern inventions to nets, fishing line and mechanical boats have made the commercial fishing industry easier and more profitable for the modern fisherman.
Written by K.E. Harlow