Vintage Films Of Commercial Fishing

Let’s take a trip back to the “good old days” of iron men and wooden ships. When I was young my heroes (besides Ray Bourque) were the fishermen I knew, especially those of my grandfather and great-grandfather’s generations. My late papa, Sammy Demetri used to work those grueling 10 day trips for redfish, having to sleep next to a 450hp diesel engine. Those guys were as tough as iron and worked in conditions that would put the fear of God into anyone. Yet many of these men of iron had big hearts and guys like my grandpa “Bikie” Scola are still some of the nicest and happiest guys around.

Bikie in fish hold
Grandpa “Bikie” Scola down in the fish hold of F/V St. Peter with a basket of ling.

In ports like Gloucester, there will always be nostalgia for the bygone years of fishing. In a way, it’s a tradition as old as fishing: Looking back on the days when fishing was better. For those who share in this feeling, there are all sorts of great old fishing videos showing up online recently, here are a few that you may enjoy. If you know of any that you would like to share, mention it in the comments.

Here is a piece of a documentary showing the crew of the schooner Adventure dory trawling. The last of her breed, she fished like this until 1953. This one means a lot to me since I was involved with the vessel when she first returned to Gloucester. Listen to old highliner Leo Hynes narrate a typical day and realize what it took to catch fish:

Vessels like Adventure became obsolete thanks to arrival of otter trawling, or dragging, which arrived from England and uses engine power and dragnets to catch fish. By the 1920’s it was taking over from dory trawling and became the dominant form of commercial fishing on both sides of the North Atlantic. Here is a really well-done informational video about the 1940’s English trawling fleet.

Around the time of the otter trawl, sea scallops began being harvested using  similar methods but utilizing the scallop dredge. It was scalloping that helped transition New Bedford, Massachusetts from whaling into America’s scallop port. Here is a classic promotional video for New Bedford’s famous sea scallops: The Pearl of The Atlantic – 1963



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