Hull's First Fishing Trawlers

Hull's trawling industry started in Victorian times (1837-1901) and actually came about by accident. One day in 1850 a fishing boat sailed out of Scarborough and put out its net in the ocean. But a big storm was brewing and the little boat got caught in the storm was blown off course, and ended up in the River Humber. When the boat came into the dock its nets had been ripped up by the storm, but one part of the netting had remained intact and it was bursting full of fish! Sailors realised they must have been swept over a huge fishing ground somewhere near the river. And they had! There was a big fishing ground about 70 miles from Spurn Point, which became known as the Silver Pits. 

Hull's fishing industry took off and between 1854 and 1887 over a thousand 'Smacks' (a type of fishing boat) were registered at Hull. Many 'Smackmen' from the south east of England came to live and work in Hull.

 

Hull's First Steam Trawler


In 1885 Hull's first steam trawler the Megenta was launched. Although some sailing 'smacks' were built and used for fishing from Hull for a few more years, from 1887 they gradually declined and by 1903 (Edwardian times) only steam trawlers went out from Hull. 

Some fishing boats are called 'trawlers' because they use a 'trawl-net' to catch the fish, see the image on the right. The fish (such as cod and haddock) caught by these boats feed at the bottom of the ocean and are called 'demersal' fish. A trawl net 'trawls' along the bottom of the ocean to catch these fish. 

 

St Andrew's Dock - A Home For Hull's Fishing Fleet  

 

Right from it's opening in 1883, St Andrew's Dock was a busy, bustling place where lots of people worked. As well as the trawlermen who were going out on a fishing trip to the Arctic, or coming in from a fishing trip with their catch, there were lots of other jobs to do and most of them were at St Andrew's Dock or in factories just off it. Work at St Andrew's Dock and in the factories started early and finished late. It was tough and most of it required lots of physical effort, but it was also a fun and friendly place to work. 

Local historian Alec Gill, MBE, says that St Andrew's Dock was a magic place. "The work was hard, the bosses were tough, the deadlines were daily, but people loved it. They called it one big family. They took a pride in the place and their fellow workers." 

 

Bobbers, Sorters, Net-Menders and Gutters!  

 

There were lots of men who worked on the docks unloading fish which had just come in on the trawlers, these were called 'Bobbers'. When the fish was unloaded from the trawlers they were put into baskets onboard the trawler and swung onto the dock-side. The Bobbers were the men who caught the baskets full of fish and tipped them into fish 'kits'. The reason why these men had such a strange name was because lots of these baskets full of fish would be swinging to and fro from the trawlers. The men had to constantly 'bob' out of the way to avoid being knocked over! 

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