By: Charles R. (Bob) Hitz Blog # 37 Jan. 2, 2016
It’s been over fifty-five years since I first observed the setting and retrieval of a trawl on the Cobb, and I still remember the excitement when the skipper gave the command to retrieve it. I had been waiting for an hour to see what would be brought up in the net, if anything.
I mentioned in my posting on “Setting The Trawl” that I’d found a number of color slides of that process, which brought back memories of the 1960’s and Lee Alverson’s lecture in 1958 about a major change in the distance water trawl fleets with the introduction of stern trawling, which had been going on for years along the Pacific coast.
The Cobb slowed down once the skipper gave his command, the winches were engaged and the trawl cables retrieved and wound onto the trawl drums. The winch operator used the level wind to make sure the wraps were laid evenly. Once the trawl doors could be seen, the winch operators would bring each door up to the trawl stanchion as far as it would go and stop.
The next procedure is just the reverse of what occurred in setting. The chain hanging loosely from the stanchion is hooked onto the door. Trawl doors are then let out until the jam link encounters the figure 8, the strain of the net is taken by the stanchion and the main cable becomes slack. The G-hook is disconnected from the flat link, freeing the doors from the main trawl cable. Then the trawl bridle is pulled in through the block by the idler connecting the trawl cable with the bridle, until the wings of the net reach the stern of the vessel.
The trawl is long, divided into three parts the wings, the intermediate and the sausage shaped cod end. When the wings reach the stern, one on each side, they are attached to the single by a lifting bridle and raised up as far as it can go to the block at the end of the boom as the vessel is turned to starboard and then put into reverse, bringing the net to the starboard side. The net is then lowered and the intermediate part of the net falls over the rail as the wings are let down on the after deck and reconfigured for setting. The intermediate part of the net is held in place as it is folded over the rail, so that the lifting bridle can be disconnected and the single wrapped around the middle of the net and then pulled up. The sausage cod end is raised until the very end with the catch is brought inboard over the checker and the puckering string is pulled, letting the catch fall into the checker.
If the weight is greater than the single can handle, the double is used and if the catch is too large to be lifted, the splitting strap is used by hooking it with the single and as the single is pulled up, the cable encircling the cod end through rings tightens, forcing the catch to split. Part of the catch slides to the closed end and the rest slides back into the sausage of the cod end alongside the vessel. The end is lifted out of the water and released into the checker. The puckering string is retied, the bag put back into the water and the process is repeated until the entire catch is removed from the net. The biologist records the estimated weigh of the entire catch and it is sorted by species.
That procedure, used by Pacific coast stern trawlers, differs from that of the European stern trawlers which Lee observed on his trip to Europe in 1958. Since those ships were much larger, the method the Europeans had developed was to drag the entire net with its catch in the cod end up a stern ramp to a deck above and then dump the catch through a hatch in the after part of the ship into the factory below just as they had done with whales, when they would drag a whole carcass up the ramp to be butchered on the upper deck.
In October, 1957 when Lee Alverson was a fishery biologist with the State of Washington, he made a trip to Hamburg, Germany and presented a paper at a meeting of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The paper, Trends in Trawling Methods and Gear on the West Coast of the United States was published by FAO in 1959 (1). He describes his experience of this trip in his autobiography (2) and this was the same trip during which he observed the Soviet stern trawler that he lectured about at the College of Fisheries in 1959. After viewing them he said “The Russian vessel was so big it looked like a cruise boat or small whaler. The vessels dwarfed anything that existed in the Pacific Northwest; I was almost embarrassed to give my talk on small West Coast stern trawlers.” His article described the net reel that was introduced to the Pacific Coast trawl fleet in 1952. One was installed on the Cobb and another on the Commando in about 1962. A pair of V-doors were also purchased by each at about the same time.
The net reel is made much more efficient by disconnecting the trawl bridles aft of the doors and transferring them to the drum where the bridles, along with the majority of the trawl net are wound onto the reel. The cod end is lifted with the single and brought around the stern to the starboard side where the catch is lifted aboard. Then the net is rolled up onto the reel, ready to be set again. Using the net reel along with the V-doors which are much more stable, reducing the chance of a collapsed door or crossed doors during a tow, makes trawling safer.
- Alverson, D. L., 1959, Trends in Trawling Methods and Gear on the West Coast of the United States. Modern Fishing Gear of the World. Fishing New (Books) Ltd. 1959 pages 317-320.
- Alverson, Dr. Dayton L. PHD, Race to The Sea, The Autobiography of a Marine Biologist, 2008 iUniverse, Inc. New York, Bloomington 553 pages, (Trip to Europe pages 308 to 321).