From the book North Sea fishers and Fighters - by Walter Wood 1911
Sailing cod smacks worked on three different grounds according to the season of the year. These seasons and places were:
1. October to Christmas, on the Great Fisher Bank and Dogger Bank. A cod smacks fishing outfit was: 16 dozen lines, each 30 fathoms long(two of these lines, equalling 60 fathoms, were called a 'piece'); 6000 hooks and snoods. A snood was 2.5 feet long. Fifty two hooks were put on a 'piece' of line, the distance between them being 8 feet 6 inches; or if 12 feet apart, 32 hooks. A dozen large anchors were carried, as well as 12 small anchors, 12 buoys with staff and flag, and 12 buoy ropes; 16 trays, 16 tray lashings; 60 whelk nets, each holding a 'wash'; 1 sweeping in and 1 sweeping out net; 2 tomahawks, 2 prickers.
2. Christmas to April, alongshore. The same number of lines was needed for the alongshore fishing as for the Dogger, except that a small anchor with a buoy was placed between each shank to keep the lines on the bottom.
3. April to September, Iceland and Faroe banks. For hand lining in the Iceland or Faroe fishing the outfit needed included 4 dozen lines, each 35 fathoms long, wound on reels or frames, 3 dozen cod leads, 300 to 400 hooks of various sizes, 9 splitting, 2 heading, and 6 gutting, knives, half a dozen small brushes for cleaning fish, 3 files for sharpening hooks, a sharpening stone, a dozen tomboys, a dozen reels, and 3 cod prickers. These are the details given by O.T. Olsen.
Many special committees have been appointed by Parliament to go into the whole question of deep sea fishing, and these inquiries have put on record a vast amount of evidence with regard to deep sea fisheries, particularly those of the North Sea. Nothing can be more astonishing than the difference in the points of view expressed by men whose lives had been spent in that particular industry. One smackman, for instance, would declare positively that the use of the trawl would inevitably result in the utter depletion of fishing grounds; while another witness, with equal honesty, would express the conviction that the trawl could do no harm whatever, and that to fish the sea bare was an impossibility.
When the trawl was first introduced it was bitterly condemned by the old time fishermen who had depended on the line and the old fashioned nets, and whose methods differed but slightly from the systems pursued in the time of Peter, the patron saint of fishermen. The first Parliamentary Commission had before it a number of fishermen whose work had been carried out entirely on the Dogger and other North Sea banks. One of them, who was avowedly hostile to the beam trawl, said he was certain that, thirty years previously, double the quantity of fish could be obtained that was available at the time he spoke, but that gradually the supply had fallen away. He predicted that, someday, if trawling were allowed, England would cry out for want of fish. He said that when he was a young man there were nine of them in the family, and for twopence his wife could buy enough haddock to give them a dinner; but at the time he spoke the same quantity could not be bought for less than ninepence or tenpence.
Another witness said that the trawlers not only swept away the lines, but also destroyed the fish, and the only remedy was that trawl fishing should be abolished. He added that, although ten years previously he usede to take sixty or seventy codfish a day, still, at the time he gave evidence, when trawling had been in existence for about 6 years, he could not take one. A South Shields fisherman stated that the number of trawling vessels on the Dogger Bank had increased ten per cent, during the year, and yet the smacksmen were getting about a quarter less fish, and some of them scarcely made a living. A smack would sometimes catch five tons of fish a day; but the average was a ton and a half. He declared that the fish caught in the trawl were not fit for the market, as the insides were broken and the galls burst and ran through them. Much evidence of the same sort was given, some of the witnesses declaring that not only was the fish diminishing in quantity, but also deteriorating in size.
According to the custom of all commissions and inquiries, evidence in direct opposition to that which had been tendered was given, for experienced fishermen declared that trawling did not damage the industry, and that in it was the only real hope for the fishing of the future. Some of the witnesses gave valuable information relating to the fishing during the early part of last century.One of them, who had fifty years experience, said that when he first went to sea the boats were about one third their present size. In 1812 every boat brought in more white fish than they could carry. A boat's crew was not so well off at the time he spoke as thirty years previously. In one year, about 1825, he made £126, but a few years back he earned only £78. For the last five years his average for the white fishing was about £50, and an additional £50 might be made from the herring fishing. The cost of a line boat with fittings was about £40, but a herring boat with nets cost less than £100. He calculated that a young man ought to earn £100 a year. A full third of that amount would be necessary to maintain the boat and tackle. The boats lasted about fourteen years.
In the old trawling days poetical, romantic, and sentimental names were freely chosen for the smacks, and some of these are still borne by craft that sail lazily from quiet ports in the summertime, or go to sea in a freshening breeze, solely for single boating. There is still something of romance and poetry in such a vessel as the Tranquility, as she tumbles over the blue waters, Dogger bound, from an old world Yorkshire harbour, with the smoke curling from her galley, and her crew in brown jumpers that match the deep tan of the sails. There are the Wayside Flower, Star of Hope, Eye of Providence, Good Design, Piety, Brotherly Love, the Radiant, and the Venture, to keep the Tranquility company[note these are all Scarborough boats]; while from other North Sea ports there still venture forth, dependent on their canvas, the Early Blossom, the True Vine, Lily of the Valley, Happy Return, Emmanuel, Boy Ben - one of a large family of "Boys" - Purple Heather, I'll Try, Rose of Devon, Fear Not, Forward, Intrepid , Thrift, Strive, and Perserverance; and the Fame and Glory. All the human virtues, and a few of the frailties, have been and are represented by the names of sailing craft, and many a fragrant title or doublename has been the product of some loving meeting by the North Sea shore. The lovers have departed, but their craft remain.
Equally appropriate to the days of steam are many of the names which are borne on the bows and sterns of steamboats. Her romance has disappeared before the hard graft of Steam, and in some instances the vessels are actually numbered consecutively from One - and she and Nine, Ten, Twenty Two, Twenty Seven, and other arithmetical craft trawl the North Sea waters as industriously, and doubtless as proifitably, as the Gleaner, the Zealot, the Breadwinner, the Bounteous Sea, and the Brighter Hope.
With so many fleets working the North Sea grounds, there is obviously a wide field of choice in the selection of names for vessels, and many fads and fancies are gratified in christening the craft, while, at the same time, there are numerous opportunities of paying tributes to departed smackowners by keeping their names green, to living pioneers of trawling, and to public men. Illustrious naval and military officers, unknown to themselves, have provided names for North Sea craft, and General de Wet, an enterprising motor boat, probably harries fish as persistently as her namesake troubled British soldiers in South Africa.
In one respect there has been little change compared with the days of sail, and that is in the use of fishing numbers and letters. The smacks carried these on the bows and sails; the steamboats have them painted on each side of the bow and quarter and on the funnel, and give also the name and port on the stern.