Fishing from Salcombe


From : Geoff Foale

Fishing from Salcombe over the past 50 years

Photo 01 shows the past 50 years in one image. The little dark blue boat would be typical of pre war boats in this area. These boats would have hand hauled up to 100 single crabpots made from willow. Similar sized boats have continued to be used to catch lobsters and bass. Originally, these little boats would have been propelled by a small petrol engine such as a Brit or Kelvin which would have been less than 10 hp and cost around £100 in the 1930s (more than 2 years average wages).

By the mid 1970s the Frances (FY238) was the largest fishing boat in Salcombe and worked further offshore hauling 300 pots with 3 crew. By now, the pots were constructed from wire or steel frames covered with synthetic netting and hauled with a mechanical capstan adapted from a vehicle rear axle.

Shortly afterwards, some fishermen bought larger ex French boats, similar to the Pen Glas (SE34).

Then came a few "super crabbers" like the Emma Jane (SE 101) which can work up to 2,000 pots, produced from plastic or steel frames covered with netting.

Smaller boats still use wooden store boxes to keep their catch alive until it is sent to market; although some processing factories will take hen crabs daily, directly from the boats. The bigger boats have water tanks underneath the decks for storing the catch.

Those large lorries transport crabs to France, Spain or Portugal.

Photo 02. There is a restricted small boat fishery for scallops in Salcombe Harbour during the winter. Although this photo was taken in 2003 everything is virtually the same as 50 years ago; or even earlier.

Photo 03 shows 2 fishermen packing crabs into old tea chests for transport to Billingsgate, London. During the 1960 to 1980 period a lorry collected crabs from Salcombe weekly. Alternatively, they could be sent from Totnes on the railway.

Photo 04 shows crabs being landed at Salcombe. Before the Fish quay was built, fishermen had to use dinghies to transport the catch from their deep water moorings to the shore. Landings were mostly made either at Whitestrand or the Thorning Street steps.

Photo 05 shows the French crabbing fleet from Morlaix at anchor near Blackstone Rock, Salcombe. For many years, until the mid 1970s these boats would fish some distance south of Salcombe during the autumn but moor here overnight.

Photo 06 is the Kenavo which was the first of several French boats to be purchased by Salcombe fishermen. This boat also fished the west coast of Scotland and near the Channel Islands.

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Fishing from Salcombe


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Photo 07 is a typical sales note for a week's catch from a 10 metre boat during June 1976.

Photo 08 demonstrates the improvements in electronic technology. The lower unit is the Decca Mk 21 (which is approximately a 1 foot cube in size. The clock like dials could be used to very accurately plot a boat's position. This model which was considerably smaller than previous versions cost around £20 a week to rent during the 1970s. This high rental meant that only the larger boats could afford them.

During the early 1980s a much smaller digital system appeared (the upper unit) and although the cost was still high (nearly £2000 to purchase outright) these units were quickly adopted by most vessels including many of the smaller boats.

Photo 09 demonstrates that fishing for lobsters close to the shore was a risky business. This boat (Bolt Head Queen) was lucky and refloated on the next tide.

Photo 10 shows a very large catch of Grey Mullet which was taken at South Sands in the mid 1960s using a seine net. This was a winter fishery by the small boat bass fishermen.

Photo 11 is a good sized Salcombe cock Crab.

Photo 12 is a typical day at the Salcombe Fish Quay during the winter, with vessels of various sizes unloading their catch.

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