A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Posts tagged ‘herring’

A Couple of Days on the West.

The routine is slowly kicking in although the fishing has not happened yet. Wednesday, although a decent day, with a nice ending,


was spent mostly on paper work and was finished off with a shift up the road. Quiet, but not dead. Getting instructions about closing up as that may be more of the theme this year with the Boss taking a little more time out,

Down at the pier most of the day. Took the boat alongside and put ashore the fleet of creels still on board and put some of the new ones on board, fuelled up and hopefully stemmed a bit of a leak on the hydraulic system.


On the way out the companions were off to the east always watching, drifted a little too close for their comfort,


but they stayed around long enough for a couple of snaps.


Put some of the new fleet together and it was back to the mooring. In between all this I took the plunge, not literally, and opened the lid of a disused bait bin that had some herring and some water had got in. If anyone knows what is worse than putrid herring/mackerel I would like to know. Quite literally retching for the first five minutes, but the thin red line kicks and an hour later all done.


It is a never again job, going through quite a few of them just now. Year going well despite the lack of fishing. All proceeding as planned until the glasses get knocked over the side of the pier, luckily close to the top end and the tide going out, unluckily in amongst all the herring gunk. Had the dogs down with me but had to lock them up. They are really weird in that they go for the grottiest muck around, in this case, the putrid herring. Dogs back home and then down the shore after four to rake around amongst the seaweed and the herring. Dead easy when they went over the side as the bubble wrack was floating, different matter guddling about on the ebb tide. £200 is a nice wee driving force and duly recovered them was back up the road to do a shift at the Inn.

Yesterday I made it out at last, making the most of all yesterday’s prep work. Although I did not notice it at the time it was hard work with lots of ups and downs. First fleet I hauled I tagged one of the lost fleets and just buoyed it off and carried on meaning to lift it at the end of the day. The downside hauling another fleet it broke with no buoy on the north end so that is back to two down. Last fleet was a mess and stayed on board to sort out ashore, there must have been lots of pulling and tugging as there is a fair bit of pain today, remnants of the bug as well, I suppose. Still it was enjoyable being out and watching the traffic,






and scenery.


It is the place.

Wiped last night and did not do much other than doze on the couch, heading off to the pub is a distant memory and will become even more so. Left the camera on board so went off down on the bike with the dog family and they loved the run although always get a little anxious when I go out on the dingy.


Nice to see their concerned loyalty waiting on the shore.




On the way back was taken aback by a telling off from a crofter about the dogs not being in control and chasing sheep. Was a little put out as I had made sure they were on the road when the sheep decided to take off, that is when I have to watch Dougal as he sees fun. Sheep run, noticed they are more prone to do this when on the bike and Dougal had nothing to do with it. Ok he was there but what can you do if when he does what he was told and gets knocked for it. Made me think about not jumping to conclusions. I was annoyed with myself when I had the last word, unnecessary but irresistible. When told “It is never the dogs” I could not resist with “Aye, and it’s never the sheep.” True but did not feel clever saying it. Minor and a good game of rugby, before seeing the first half of the more nervous one and off to the Inn. Looking back on the conversations this week have realised that they have been so varied, photography, eastern practices brought by the boat name, Varuna, followed up by a wide-ranging chat about meditation and the like, follow-up from the post about the Saighdear with another story in the chest, land reform thoughts. All this without leaving town, fascinating place to live.

Scalders and Tatties, both Red

Another lovely quiet day for fishing. Went up to Shore Street to pick up my crew for the day but alarms were slept through. No worries though and ended up having a coffee with Chris before heading down to the pier. Stopped for a moment alongside Milton Loch.


Boxes, bait and a couple of creels and off out to the pots, an hour later than usual. The beauty of being self-employed and working on my own is that I only have to discuss with myself when I go out and come in, often a very short discussion. Uneventful with no splicing or cutting to do and quickly through 400 creels to land at the Inn by 4pm. Scalders have arrived in force this year. While writing this I have several nicks and cuts on my hands that are still stinging.


One of the few advantages of wearing glasses you get a bit of protection around the eyes. No wind and rain helps until a creel jumps off the hauler. Again the fishing was pretty scrappy but an unexpected but nice surprise in the last fleet that made it worth going out. Ran out of prawns at lunch time so only just keeping up with demand. It is a wonderful market, one I am fortunate to supply. Had a less tired chat with the Boss today and we reckon another couple of weeks and the back off the season will be broken!!! Reminded me of my Dad saying that once Wednesday was done the back of the fishing week was broken. Not so relevant now with weekend fishing.

 Met a couple  over the weekend who are related/friends to Duncan Macleod from Collieghillie, now in his 90s. I knew the story of the TB outbreak and the devastation that family suffered but went to the graveyard mapping site set up by Gordon at the Heritage Centre. To my shame this is the first time on this site and it’s fascinating, www.clachancemetery.org.uk. I took this info from it about the family. I have a strong connection to the Macleod’s as I lived just up the road in Kyle from Ian Ali Bhig and my Dad used to fish the herring ring net on the Mary Ann up till, I think 1971, when they could not compete with the steamroller of the East coast seine netters. This only led to a fishery closure and we still have not learned the lessons of this yet. 

“Ali Beag’s family was devastated by the Tuberculosis epidemic in 1928/29. The only survivors were Iain and Duncan (Iain Ali Bhig and Dunnchadh Ali Bhig). Duncan said that there were so many coffins in the lair in such a short space of time, his mother’s coffin was laid crossways at the foot of the others in the lair. Ali Beag was a fisherman, and he survived when a boat capsized in Loch Torridon which claimed the life of another Alexander MacLeod. Having heard the name of the deceased, his family thought he was dead until he returned home.”

Ruairidh,son No3, has left for Dundee this morning to sort out a flat for his up coming medical training/career and then is crewing for two weeks on a touristy boat which will include calling in at St Kilda. I am very rarely envious but that is a trip I hope to make one day. There are always compensations and tucking into the first Red Duke of Yorks is certainly one of them.


Academia, Iron Age Housing, Diving and back at the Inn

Sitting here winding down after a stint at the Inn and a couple of packed days. Did not start too well yesterday morning with what seems to be  migraine headache. Bit of a pain in the butt so to speak as I’ve only started getting them last year. Anyway dragged myself up and out with Dougal and Co, fed the hens and did a bit of tidying up for the visitors Andrea and Ruth. Spent a couple of hours chatting about fishing, the relationship between fishermen and the civil service and lots more. Sometimes when you feel that cabin fever is coming on you don’t have to get out but guys visit and give you another burst of enthusiasm. Went up to the Inn where I continued my recovery with a curried parsnip soup, probably the best soup in the world, while Ruth and Andrea tucked into a Seafood platter for two,which included, scallops,prawns, oysters, haddock, herring, and crab. It was ok. The chat is often better in the Inn and really enjoyed Ruth’s company. I have made up a new term which described the conversation as Eastern blue sky thinking. Chat involved yoga, shakti dance, the environmental/economic balance and much more. Alison made it back from Dunkeld and joined in. Turned out Andrea knew Brian who was in building the next stage of the Iron Age House, Sam joined in as well and it was a night of connections.It was a very warm evening in the Inn as Ewen and Mary were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary with their family.

Today went up with Dougal, his Mam and Gran to the roundhouse where the roof timbers were going up.Although the weather was pretty dreich everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.After getting the dogs home it was off to do my prawn dive. Probably broke every rule in the book but after a longer than expected look I eventually came across them all neatly tied together with just a few on the outside of the boxes ending up as gourmet food for the crabs and dog whelks. a bit of manoeuvering with dingy and they were tied back onto the Varuna minus predators. There is always a silver lining in Applecross and as I was looking for the prawns I came across a few scallops which will be tea on monday.Watched a cracking game of rugby with an extremely tense ending but good that Scotland were not playing. And then it was off to the pub and although it was not busy very enjoyable. There is a M.O.D. trail on just now involving surface and submarine activity on the Range and the hotel is booked up with the guys running the trials. Getting to know some of them and the banter was good. A few locals came out later and the Jaeger bombers were in evidence. My oldest, Kenny arrived back from his two and a half months in South Africa with his girlfriend Jill. Good to see them back looking fit and healthy. I never really know what the boys get up to or where they are but they always seem to turn up now and again and it’s always good to see them. I like Kahlil Gibran’s description of your relationship with your kids in The Prophet. You are the bow and they are the arrows and you fire them off into the world. That way they live their own lives and not yours. Enough of the philosophy and off to bed ready for another shift tomorrow.

Fishing…missed opportunity?

The list on Tuesday’s post is on hold until tomorrow. The weather is really bright just now but is tempered by a west to southwesterly gale. Good  walking day, an occupation essential for a bit of clarity of thought and conversation and there are certainly lots of these. Yesterday I was through in Inverness meeting with fishermen involved with formulating a management plan to try to improve the inshore fisheries of our coast. There were very few positives to take away. Marine Scotland,the government agency responsible for fisheries have decided to terminate the contracts of our local coordinators in the belief that their job was done once they had presented our plan for approval. Every one else round the table was under the impression that we were just starting to sort out the mess our waters are in. I have a fairly pessimistic view of our local stocks and is based on having a historic view of what preceded our fishery. Mentioned it before but one of the best books I have read about the current state of our seas is written by Calum Roberts and he explains in simple layman’s language the term a ‘degraded environmental baseline.’ This put simply means that a young guy coming into a fishery makes £700 a week thinks everything is ok, but when you talk to the previous generation they will say what it used to be like, and even their experiences would be enhanced further by fore fathers. What generations of fishermen have done  in a very short space of time is fished down through the various stocks. That has resulted in the absence of a local herring fishery, a haddock, cod, whiting fishery and we are now catching crab, prawn and lobster which are bottom feeders,beautiful eating, but the end of the sea food chain. It makes you think that I have spoken recently to an Applecross worthy who climbed up  the hill above the Bay and in 1948 counted 53 basking sharks in the bay. The level of life in the Inner Sound must have been awesome using the true meaning of the word. If I see one in a year I consider myself fortunate. When we sit round a table squabbling and having national government support with drawn from your positive proposals I always think on what it used to be and we should be embarrassed about the way we have gone about things regarding the sea. A little mini rant I know but it is frustrating when you believe everyone can be better off if the fisheries were managed properly. What industry ashore is it accepted that you destroy the future of that industry? That is what is being done by fishermen when they land berried prawns. I won’t even think about trawling today.

It was suggested several times throughout the meeting yesterday that one of the problems we are up against is the loss of power of the centre, in our case the civil service in Edinburgh. They seem to have realised that they have given a voice to the people who matter and who have a much more practical view on how their industry works, far more than a desk bound civil servant who lives 300 miles way. Does this threaten their jobs, which is managing the fishery? This got me thinking about the problems we are encountering on land as well and there are similarities, instead of distant civil servants we have to deal with distant owners and however well-meaning both can be, the distance seems to a crucial factor in their lack of knowledge in how certain lifestyle works that is alien to their day-to-day existence. Decisions are taken at the centre that have no effect at the source but impact on the daily lives of those living in the remote areas. To be fair, in as much as I can, I think it must be very hard for those people in power and control to give any of that up I think we have to question that authority if it does not deliver.

However, always to finish on a positive note I am off to take Dougal and family back out, feed them and the hens and plant shallots and onions before going off to work at the Inn. Life goes on, Alison having headed of to Dunkeld to take part in a housing conference. We do laugh at the well-meant tourist question, But what do you do in the winter?

The Isa under repair

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