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Go to Mousehole Pilchard fishing history
Salt, sea and sail Festival. 14-16 July 2006
Web site: http://www.seasalts.co.uk/
Mousehole has been a fishing port from ancient times and fishing and fishermen were always inseparable from village life. As early as 1302, French and Spanish merchants regularly loaded cured fish and pilchard oil from the tiny granite pier.
This photo shows a typical Mount's Bay Lugger common in the 19th century and in use up until the 1920's. Around 50' in length they could carry a lot of sail and make very fast passages either to distant grounds or back home to catch the market. For more stunning photos, please look at this site: Mounts Bay Sail Archives. Only a few boats today remain to remind us of the dozens of Mount's Bay fishing vessels that once sailed out to net pilchards, mackerel and herring and to work baited long lines for cod, ling, ray and conger.
For fishermen today there is the chance of Pollack, Mackeral or Wrasse (or even a Mullet or Bass) off the end of the quay or from the rocks. Excellent mackerel, bream, pollack, conger, whiting, bass close to harbour according to season. Sheltered from west. Rock fishing in rough weather. Bell Rock between Newlyn and Mousehole has produced record catches. Between Mousehole and Lamorna, Penza Point, Kemyell Point and Carn Dhu are marks. Best grounds: Longships and Runnel Stone. Good results with sharks. Newlyn with its fishing fleet and fish market is also of interest, as are the shellfish tanks for the Crabs, Lobsters and Crayfish.
Charter boat: Talisman, contact S Farley, tel: 01736 731895 or 731154.
Ronnie Dunn operates the 'Penzance Viking' and the 'Mermaid' from Penzance tel: 01736 368565.
Rock and Beach Angling: Tom Arnull tel: 01736 756162
Boscathnoe Reservoir Penzance. Coarse Fishing. Phone for permit. Tel: (01837) 871565.
Fishing in the Penzance Area Details of local lakes
Drift Reservoir, Penzance. Rainbow and Wild Brown. Stocked monthly with fish averaging between 1 and 3 lbs. Fishery records: 8lb 3oz Rainbow, 9lb 11oz wild Brown.
Mounts Bay Angling Society Junior Section Join for £4.00, they hold monthly competitions, some at Mousehole.
Sea cruises from Penzance, including the the Lamorna Cove Cruise which leaves at 3pm most days and takes you down the bay to Mousehole & St Clement's Isle passing caves, coves and smuggler's haunts into the beautiful Lamorna Cove. Also charter and sea trips.
Mounts Bay Angling by local fisherman David Cains: "The end of either pier is good at Mousehole, but you definitely do not need to cast very far. Normal paternoster without float will catch but I have had most success smack on the bottom with a ledger. The best time to get here is just before the tide starts to go under the gate. You will catch the flounders on their way into the harbour. It should fish quite well for about an hour or two but then it will be worth casting further into the harbour. Return to the gate area two hours before low water to try to get them on the way out again. Small harbour rag is the best bait here but it is possible to catch them on lug as well. The best time of year to fish at Mousehole is after the gate has been closed for the winter." Also try nearby Lamorna, look at David's site.
Cornish sea fishing
West Cornwall Fishing
Fishing and Angling in Cornwall: Page on Rivers, Lakes, Bait, Tackle.
Tide Predictions Newlyn, from the Admiralty. Great site.
Inshore Waters Forecast from the Met Office.
Jim's Discount Tackle, 59, Causewayhead, Penzance tel: 01736 360160
The Quay Shop, 18, Quay St, Penzance tel: 01736 363397
West Cornwall Angling, 1, Alexandra Rd Penzance tel: 01736 362363
Caddy's Central Stores, Newlyn Bridge, Newlyn, Penzance tel: 01736 362431
Newtown Angling Centre, Newtown, Germoe, Penzance tel: 01736 763721
Film: Field of Fish, narrated by the leader of a fishing club, now a grown man looking back on late 1950's life in the village of Mousehole.
Marine sightings in Cornwall from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Ocean Sunfish, Bottlenose Dolphin, Rhizostoma Octopus, Leatherback Turtle and Basking Sharks!
The Longshoremans Marks, by P. Cowls first appeared in the magazine of the Old Cornwall Society in the 1930's and gives an insight into the secrets kept by local fishermen that were handed down from generation to generation. From the local family, the Vingoes web site.
Buying fish: Cornish Fish Direct supplies fresh Cornish fish from Newlyn, individually prepared, portioned, and delivered direct to customers homes. Seafayre Cuisine is a local family-run business with over twenty years experience selling fish selected and bought personally at the auction at Newlyn Fish Market.
Wild Cornwall, the newsletter of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, offers this article on fishing methods used in Cornwall.
The RNLI is manned by volunteers who risk their lives to save others. It is funded solely byvoluntary contributions. Visit their site where you will find details of how you can help, with links to the latest news of boats in action right now. Details of the local Penlee Lifeboat Station.
Mousehole Pilchard fishing history
Fairmaids at Mousehole
Until the 1930's when the pilchard deserted our coast for other climes, during September and October pilchard-seining took place. The pilchards first made their appearance off Newquay off the North Coast, then gradually travelled down all round the coast to Mounts Bay and on to Mousehole. When news came that the pilchards had passed Newquay, the huers at Mullion on the Lizard were on the watch from the cliffs. Bonfires were lighted to signal to the Western Shore for boats to come for fish, and as soon as the blaze was seen the cry went up, Hevva! Fire in Mullion!
Plouncy, boys! Plouncy !
The signal was given to the crew of the seine-boat, a long open rowing-boat with a great hump of net in the centre. Beside her were the tuck-boat and cock-boat. The millions of pilchards dancing and leaping out of the blue water and lashing it to fury created a great commotion in the sea. The men encircled the school with the heavy seine and drew the ends securely together. To keep the fish in the enclosure the boys in the cock-boats frantically splash with their oars, and plunge big round stones slung on ropes up and down in the water to the cry of Plouncy, boys! Plouncy !
Meanwhile the encircling net is drawn closer and closer, and those in the tuck-boat dip up basketful after basketful of silvery fish into the waiting huggers. This "tucking the seine" could take days sometimes depending on just how many fish were in the net. Crews, on hearing the familiar cry of Hevva !", had emptied their boats of nets to fetch the precious load. With their gunwale deep down in the water, they returned home across the bay.
Eager hands await this rich harvest. The precious burden was carried by men, women and children up the slip-ways and tiny streets into the pilchard cellars. One might see three persons carrying two baskets of fish between them, and children following, picking up what fell out of the baskets. The cellar were usually stone-paved courts with lofts, or the dwelling-house, over the top supported by tall granite pillars. The covered portion was closely paved with very small oval stones in cambered strips, with divisions for drainage made with long narrow pieces of wood. The rest was open to the sky. About four or five feet above the pavement, and at intervals along the walls, were square apertures to accommodate the ends of long beams, or pressing-poles.
When the pilchards reached their destination the whole cellar was illuminated by candles, and everyone was busy till far into the night. As soon as day-light appeared, men and women were again in the cellars to start the curing of the fish. Bulking was the first process. This meant the forming of huge piles of pilchards on the small paving stones, in alternate layers of fish and salt, the outer row showing all the fishes heads. These bulks were allowed to remain three weeks before the fish were considered cured and fit to break out. Now the salted pilchards, known as fairmaids, were washed in a kieve, or huge wooden tray having a grating in the bottom through which the fish scales could drop. From this the pilchards were lifted on a big griddle into a wooden stand, having a barred bottom, on high legs. This stand containing the fish was carried by two men to the women already waiting to pack the fairmaids, into hogsheads, numbers of which were standing in readiness against the walls, under the apertures.
Photo by Jeremy Hilder, from the Pilchard Works at Newlyn
Each woman placed as many fish as she could on her open palm in the shape of a fan and placed them in the hogshead, head to cask, until the circle was complete. The centre, called the rose, was filled in alternately head and tail, this being repeated until the cask was full. A heavy wooden cover called a buckler, was next placed on top, with blocks on its inner side for leverage. A long pressing-pole, inserted in the aperture above and projecting some distance beyond the cask, was weighted at the end by means of a big, rounded pressing-stone hung by its hook on a rope sling, and so the fish were pressed for 2 or 3 hours. At the end of this time the cask needed a refill. Twenty four hours later a further repacking was necessary, and at the end of two days the final back-laying was done. - This time all the backs of the fish were uppermost. Two thousand fairmaids were now in each hogshead, and the whole had a last pressing before the cooper came to head in the cask. Buyers agents next came to examine the fish, which were weighed, and, if approved, passed and stamped with the purchasers name. They were then despatched to their destination, very often Italy, first in schooners and then later in steamships.
Everything from the pilchard was valuable, nothing was lost. The oil obtained through pressing was sold for refining. Drugs, the scum, were sold for lubricating engine-wheels. The salt, used in preserving the fish, was sought after by the farmers for manuring their land.
The Cornish Fishing Industry
Information about Pilchard fishing came from this page
You can see this process in action, view the lovely museum and buy the outcome for your tea by visiting the Pilchard Works at Newlyn telephone: 01736332112
Left showsTerry at the Pilchard Works at Newlyn. Photo by Jeremy Hilder. Photos by Jeremy Hilder for "Country Living" Magazine Feb 2000.