Gill netting and trammel netting are a static method, meaning that the fishing gear is placed and the fish then come to it, instead of pursuing a catch as a trawler does. Netting is carried out by a fleet of specialised fishing vessel operating mainly from Newlyn, and fishing over a wide area from deep South of Ireland to out into the English Channel and beyond. The nets themselves are made from fine monofilaments, rigged to a buoyant upper line and a weighted lower line, and are placed in a tier of several joined nets stretched along the seabed to form a netting wall, held in place with an anchor at each end.
The fishing skipper’s skill lies in judging the state of the tide, moon, weather and other factors to predict where a particular species of fish is likely to be abundant. Migrating fish are caught in the meshes of the net, and tare then retrieved from the netting as it is hauled back on to the fishing vessel. The fishing gear is generally only in the water for a short time, and when fishing is good this can sometimes be as little as a few hours.
Netting is a highly selective method, and selecting a large mesh size allows smaller fish to swim through the netting and escape, so that catches of juvenile or undersized fish on a netting vessels are a rarity. Netting also has the advantage that as a static method, the fuel requirement is low compared to active fishing methods.
The fleet of netters fishing around the South-West of England have built up a strong reputation for landing high-quality catches, focusing primarily on hake, pollock, monkfish and turbot. Catches are handled with great care on board, with fish careful placed on boxes and iced before being stored in the fishroom. Particular care is taken with the very delicate hake, and landing fish in prime condition after only a few days at sea is vital for fetching good prices at auction.
The nets used for this method of fishing are mostly produced in the Far East and rigged locally to each skipper’s preferred requirements. After a few months of use, the netting in the fishing gear needs to be replaced and is in demand for recycling, while the buoyant and weighted ropes can be re-used a number of times.