' In 1851 there was a most extraordinary catch at St Ives - one net alone was supposed to contain 16,5000,000 - 5,500 hogsheads, weighing 1100 tons The probable value was 11,000 l, reckoning them at the usual price of 2l. per hogshead before deducting expense of curing.
The seasons, of course, vary considerably. Though a larger number than usual was not taken last year, 1860, yet it was the most profitable season the fishermen have known : the boats of Newlyn and Mouse-hole realised on an average not less than 200L each —which to 100 boats would give a total of 20,OOOL This success was chiefly owing to the advantages derived by direct communication by railway with London.
The fishery business is managed somewhat in the following manner: — One man builds a boat at his own cost, and perhaps provides a portion of the net —the crew also contribute so many pieces of net each, at least, all that can afford to do so, some give their labour only. The proceeds of the catch are divided according to the value of the share each one has in the affair—so that crews are not hired and paid for their labour, but every one depends on the drawing of the nets. A net for one of the largest boats consists of fifty pieces, and stretches to the length of a mile and a half.
The regular fishery for pilchards begins towards the latter end of summer*, and is continued till late in autumn on the southern coast. These fish are very rarely seen during the winter and early spring; they are then in deep water on the south-western parts of Cornwall and the entrance to the English Channel, and to the south and west of the Scilly Islands. At this time they swim deep, rising in accordance with the calmness of the weather. Their course is generally in a westerly direction; if the weather continues fine for some days they are occasionally found to approach the shore in sandy situations, as at Mount's Bay, Lamorna Cove, and Whitsand Bay; but they rarely at this time congregate in large masses, and frequently a few stragglers only are to be seen. Late in the spring and during the early part of summer they are sometimes found in small shoals, but without any definite course. Wfien the other fisheries have failed, advantage is taken of this their early appearance, and the boats go in pursuit of them. But even when they are not seen, if the nets are " shot" off the sandy inlets about sunset, many will be frequently taken ; and what seems strange is, that they are then all meshed on the shore side; but if taken in the morning, on the outside of the net. From this it appears that they approach the shore during the day and return to deeper water towards evening. These diurnal migrations occur when the fish are supposed not to have arrived on our shores. As summer advances, the stragglers associate into small companies; these again unite into larger ones called " shirmers " or " breaking-schulls," and finally into those large autumnal shoals which are the objects of the fishery. In the early spring they can hardly be said to be gregarious, for they move independently of each other in a very irregular manner. When they begin to congregate they rise to the surface, and though they move about without any apparent order, yet their general course is in a westerly direction; this is ascertained..... '
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