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with a sharp knife, and then lay it on a board to dry; when it may be cut, either with a sharp knife or pair of scissors, into pieces in the shape of a small fish, about two inches in length, and a quarter in breadth. After being dried it becomes so tough, that you cannot get even the point of the hook through it without making an incision with the point of a sharp knife. I have tried white leather; which will not answer the purpose, as it soon becomes dark-coloured in the salt water; whereas the gurnet skin becomes more white by use.
When engaged in this sport, be sure to have plenty of ballast in your boat, rather too much than too little; as you are always liable to a sudden breeze in a sea-water loch, no matter how fine the day may be, and without this precaution you may be upset in a moment, with the sun shining upon you at the time.
THE DEEP-SEA TRAWL.
This net cannot be used without the aid of a large sailing-boat or yacht. When well managed, and on a good bottom, where there are plenty of flat-fish, it is most serviceable and productive. It is a long net, made in the shape of a purse, wide at one end, and becoming gradually less till it reaches the other; it is fastened at the wide end to a strong hoop or frame of iron, rather in the shape of a semicircle. The flat part being towards the bottom, is thus dragged by a vessel in sail, to which it is fastened by strong ropes, taking turbot, soles, and all flat-fish. No net pays fishermen better than this, for the time, trouble, and expense. To those who live in the vicinity of a good sea-water loch, and who have a yacht, or can command the use of a good sailing boat of sufficient strength, no net can be more serviceable.
Before using the net, you ought to make yourself thoroughly acquainted with the nature of the loch, and ascertain where the sand banks are, and other good bottoms resorted to by flat-fish; otherwise you may not only be defeated in your operations, but seriously damage your net, should you unadvisedly trawl on a rocky, uneven bottom; and in all these sea-water lochs there is great variety, not only as to the depth of the water, but as to the nature of the bottom. Correct information on these points can generally be obtained from some fishermen residing on the coast. If this cannot be had, the sound must be resorted to; but, as a general rule, where the shore is flat the water is shallow, and where high and mountainous, deep, the depth increasing in proportion to the altitude.
A trawling net of this description is sometimes used for oysters (and this is called dredging), and occasionally with success; but not always, as this mode of taking them is attended with great risk to the net, although a dredging net is made of strong materials, oysters being rarely to be found in large quantities on any bottoms but those which are rugged, rocky, and uneven, where they adhere very firmly, and offer very considerable resistance; so that even the iron frame. in these localities is not invariably a sufficient protection to the net, as the latter is frequently torn, and the former bent or broken, when brought into collision with the rugged points of rocks, although your boat may be sailing at a moderate pace.
These observations apply only to the lochs in Scotland; in many of which, particularly those in the western part of it, oysters are very abundant, and of excellent quality, the larger ones being of the best flavour; but as they are frequently to be found near the shore in shallow as well as in deep water, they are in the latter places very easily secured, especially at low tide, without the trouble of dredging; so much so, that at that time I have seen large quantities taken out merely by the hand by men, women, and children, scarcely knee-deep. From the deeper water they are raised by a small net enclosed in an iron
frame fixed to the end of a long, light pole; so light, that one man can easily manage it from a boat, an anchor being thrown out to keep it steady.
The iron which encloses the net is made semicircular, with one side flat; so as to enable the fishermen to detach oysters from the rocks as well as to raise them from sandy bottoms; on which places I have also seen them in tolerable quantities: but the majority are generally to be found on rocks; and some so tightly adhesive, that you cannot possibly detach them, except they are in such shallow water as will enable you to come into close quarters with them.
For this sort of fishing it is necessary that the day be fine and clear, and perfectly calm; if there be the slightest ripple on the surface, or clouds moving about, it will be impossible to operate successfully. Oysters have so slight a power of locomotion, that a bed may be easily made by laying them down on any suitable sea-r coast which can be protected. Their movement is confined exclusively to the impulse, or jerk, which they give themselves by the opening and shutting of their shells, so that there can be no apprehension of losing them if they remain unmolested.
On rocky ground covered with sea-weed, I have frequently found them in considerable numbers; and if it happens that any rivulet, or stream of fresh water, empties itself immediately where there is a bed of oysters, the flavour of the latter is considered to be greatly improved by this circumstance. They cast their spawn in May. This appears like drops of wax or grease^ adhering to any rock, stone, or hard substance on which it may fall. Shells supervene in a few days; but the oyster is of slow growth, not reaching maturity under three years.
The large rock oyster is undeniably, for curries, stewing, and for vol-au-vents, better than the lobster; inasmuch as it is quite as delicious, and much more wholesome.
Oysters are out of season during the summer months,.t. e., from the end of April till August or September; being thin, and of bad flavour. Oysters invariably rest and adhere to the bottom on which they are found by the convex shell, the flat one being uppermost; by which means the liquid which they imbibe is retained in the cup of the lower shell. In the Milton and Colchester oysters the cup of the lower shell is very small, but in the rock oysters it is deep and capacious.
The oyster, I believe, never quits, changes, or renews its domicile of shell; but the lobster is said to cast its external covering every year, the new tenement in its growth gradually forcing off the old one; but the animal being in a defenceless condition for a few days, is said by fisher