The Magic Pocket

A couple of friends managed to get some herring this weekend. Finally! One got his over on Deer Island and took out 46 tons. I didn’t go watch – in part because it was the middle of the night and I’d be stuck there. Another friend got his here on Sunday so Fish and I parked ourselves nearby yesterday and spent time learning more about the process.

I’m about to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about shutting off.

Imagine a cove and imagine that a bunch of fish decide to go in there to feed or hide from a whale. A fisherman with dibs on that location will have a dory full of twine ready and, when the herring aren’t paying attention, they quickly run the net across the mouth of the cove trapping them inside. It’s more complicated than that and involves tides and winds but I’m already boring you. πŸ™‚

When all the planets align the men attach the pocket. You can see it in the first image – the straight cork lines outside the shutoff forming a rectangle. Somehow, and after multiple explanations it is still a mystery to me, they lower the twine at precisely that location so that the fish have someplace to go when they try to escape the cove.

Another length of fine netting, called the sweep twine, is then attached to the boat and stretched out. In the meantime, outboards are sent into the cove to “drum” the fish. The noise of the motors (and sometimes banging of paddles) herds the herring toward the pocket.

The sweep twine is circled around them and then used to close the gap in the shutoff to form the 4th side of the pocket’s rectangle. Clear as mud right? Just go with it.

I’ll take a break from the technical stuff here to mention that it isn’t just the fishermen paying close attention to the herring in the cove.

Oh there are sometimes spectators on the shore talking amongst themselves about how they would do things differently. The really annoying visitors, however, are the ones eating the trapped herring. There are gulls and eagles and ospreys and, occasionally, sharks. The biggest appetites belong to seals. There were more than a dozen of them in the cove and they are big – up to about 500 pounds. Honestly they look more like walruses. That dark lump in the foreground of the next image is the huge (and ugly) head of one of them.

So, they have the pocket on, they’ve attached the sweep twine to the shutoff, and the fish are sitting there waiting for a pumper boat to come get them. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

On this occasion the fishermen started to lift the back of the pocket (no I don’t understand why everything else doesn’t come with it) in preparation for taking them out and discovered that 95% of the fish were still in the cove. sigh

The process to this point has taken many hours. The tide was about to turn and the fishermen were disgusted and ready to just take up the twine and try again another night. Saner heads prevailed.

Two of them were here at 5:00 this morning to get coffee and they all headed out to detach the sweep twine, reset the pocket, and start again. I wished them luck and told them to let me know how it goes. I’m going to work on the sun porch – at least I don’t have to fend off seals. πŸ™‚


  1. Definitely mud. Here’s what I gleaned: that the fishermen at Campobello didn’t get the fish they expected when they began the last stage of the process. you write: “The tide was about to turn and the fishermen were disgusted and ready to just take up the twine and try again another night. Saner heads prevailed.” what was it the saner heads said? stay and lower the back end? start the entire process over again? never try again ANY night? there’s a lot of mystery between the “disgusted” and “saner”.

    Liked by 1 person

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