Cornish Fishermen - Fishing in Cornwall

File 1950For as long as man could sail or create a vessel that could take float on the water there has been fishing in Cornwall. Many ports line the vast harbor including one of the busiest, Newlyn. But what are these mighty boats that sail on this waters? Why do fishermen make way to the open waters in search of the elusive game? The harbour is host to many a fish festival which drives the love of the job to new heights and understanding. But here we will run down the vessels and the fish they troll after, when and why they fish as well as what it is they do at sea.

The Workhorses of the Seas

Polperro is the current port for 13 boats of commercial grade. Together they give jobs to roughly 30 men to which fishing is as much a livelihood as it is life. It has been this way for generations and will continue along that route for as long as there are fish in the sea.

Trawlers: 40 feet long with a crew of only 2 men. These boats throw their nets to the bottom and then tow (or trawl) it across the bottom of the ocean sea bed. They are used to catch flat fish and mainly work up to 50 miles from the coast. Summer is their season for 2 or 3 days at a shot. During winter they will operate closer to shore.

Scallopers: These boats are 24-34 feet in length with a crew of two men. They work close to shore using metal rakes that pluck up the scallops. They work every day as long as the weather is co-operating.

File 1951Crabbers: These boats are of the same size as netting or scalloping boats with a crew of two men. They throw out “pods” which settle to the sea bed with bait inside. The crabs are attracted to the food and climb inside for the crabbing boat to return later to reel in the pods. They also sometimes use nets, much like the Trawlers.

Netter: These boats are the same size as scallopers with a two man crew which uses nets like a Trawler to catch Monkfish, Rays and others. The nets vary in size depending on the fish being sought. The different seasons yield different species of fish.

When & Why Fish?

Polperro, being a tidal port, means that the vessels that fish here can only leave or return when the tide has reached halfway above the high water level. This time frame lasts for 6 hours out of every 12. The boats are grounded at low levels and have “legs” that support them. There are, however, mooring buoys in the outer areas of the harbor that allow the ships to leave and return at the low periods.

File 1952The Fishing Boats will typically leave for the sea every day unless there is a gale forecast on the horizon. If caught in rough weather they may opt to return to an all-weather port. Tide is a factor in when the boats will fish having only three hours in between high tide. By law the fishing is reduced at night so the majority of fishing is taking place during the daylight hours. The boats have to figure out the best grounds in which to set sail and fish and are usually by word of mouth.

It becomes a task of numbers before setting out. They must calculate the time it will take them to reach their fishing ground taking into account the tides and winds as well as how much daylight is available.

Out At Sea

Once the fishermen are put to sea they begin prepping their gear and commencing with any repairs that may be needed and upon reaching the fishing grounds they will lay out echo location devices so they can find the sea bed to make finding the fish easier.
Once they begin the trip home the fishermen on trawlers and netters will gut and clean the fish as well as box them or pack them in ice if on a trawler. Scallopers will wash and bag the scallops. Crabbers will place thick rubber bands around the crabs claws to keep them from pinching.
Upon returning home the collective catches are taken to market in the harbor. Here it is weighed, iced and put into refrigeration until it is collected for auction.

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