Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Herring observations

The Herring run is still ongoing after three solid days. Last night, having been woken by a wifely elbow in the ribs (She stayed sound asleep, I had to get up), I took a look out of my kitchen window to see all the boats working out there, lighting the channel up like a string of fairy lights.

One of the things I'd never noticed before was the 'feeder' boats that each of the larger boats carried with them. These are rectangular shallow draught boats around thirty feet long with outboards, unpainted alloy hulls and a curious rotating dual paddle arrangement running over half the length of the boat itself. The first paddle runs longditudinally down the boat two broad blades either side of a central shaft and set so the shaft's centre is level with the boats gunnels. The second paddle has broader blades and sits parallel to the first above the centre line of the keel. Under the blades is a section of the hull partitioned off from the bows and stern. A gill net is looped out of the water over the bows and laid over the paddles, then the paddles are started up and they rotate, pulling the boat sideways along the gill net and flipping the fish into the partitioned centre section.

From my vantage point I have seen the centre sections of these craft at least knee deep in silver fish bodies. There are something like twenty plus of these little craft packed into an area a kilometre and a half long and three or four hundred metres wide, chugging back and forth to their mother ships. Happy ribald shouts at the underwater bonanza being exchanged between boat crews, singing and laughing.

It's chilly, and having done a bit of sea fishing know how cold and miserable it can be in the current choppy conditions. Yet a lot of these guys sound quite happy. Must be something in the water, the Herring for one.