Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pound Nets

Once again this appears blurry on my screen. If y'all don't hear from me after this, it's because I've thrown my computer in the creek.

In order to put the ugliness of yesterday aside, I am veering off the topic of my diary and focusing more on the bigger--albeit blurry-- picture. You can rest assured I will be returning to the diary, but only after I dig into the deep, dark recesses of my brain for the best stories to accompany that diary stuff. That could take a while.

Recently I traveled to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to drop my son off at camp, and I snapped a few pictures including the (blurry) one above of the bay and a pound net. The Eastern Shore probably merits a post in and of itself, but today I want to focus on pound nets.

My one Mathews reader will know what a pound net is, but I must confess I was not entirely clear myself even though I've seen and heard of them all my life. Be advised that "not entirely clear" is standard fare for me. On practically every topic.

Before I go into that, let's take a quiz to see how much you know about pound nets.

A pound net is:

1. A weight loss tool that "scoops" those pounds away!

2. A measure of weight, as in, "I could eat 52 pound nets' worth of hummus, but that isn't such a good idea. Or is it?"

3. A device used to keep pesky sisters in check. I've ordered two, one for each sister.

4. A centuries-old method of harvesting fish that is still used on the Chesapeake Bay, including the Eastern Shore and Mathews.

Time's up.

Pound nets have been used for a long time and are not unlike methods used by the Indians to trap fish. I read somewhere they were introduced to the bay around 1858, but don't quote me on that. Or any other topic.

The purpose of the pound net is to guide shore-dwelling fish into a trap. Poles, with mesh nets suspended from them, are stuck in the mud. There are three major sections: a long straight net that leads the fish off shore towards the center portion, which is shaped like a heart. The heart funnels the fish into the crib, which in this instance does not mean a baby bed or a house, but rather is the final holding pen until the fisherman comes calling.

Pound nets are not to be confused with gill nets, which are used in deeper water, without poles, and work their magic by trapping the fish by the gills when they attempt to swim through.

Gill nets are also known as The Equivalent of Torture as far as I'm concerned, because my father used to set them. Having no sons, the oldest daughter (me) had to go out with him to set and later check them.

Here's what that entails:

1. A very long ride through choppy water in a boat that is too small for a father, a child and 450 pounds of stinky--very stinky--fish-smelling nets.

2. Manual labor. One person drives the boat (I seem to recall my father doing a lot of that, sitting in his chair and supervising the labor portion of the project) and the other person drops the net over. And does everything else.

3. Another very long boat ride through choppy water to go home and wait for the fish to get trapped.

4. Another long boat ride out to check the nets.

5. Hoisting the now-slimy net filled with wriggling fish, who are also slimy. Fish are casually tossed into the boat, which is way too small for all this commotion. Fish are flapping all over the place, gasping for breath. As am I.

6. Child closes eyes and dreams of a place far, far away.

7. Another long boat ride home.

8. Helping unload the fish and running as fast as possible to avoid having to help with the cleaning of said fish.

9. A great explanation as to why I do my level best to avoid eating croaker or spot, which are the two fish we caught in the Piankatank River using gill nets.

Yes, please do not confuse gill nets with pound nets.

And don't confuse this with anything other than a firm resolve on my part never to fish a gill net again.


foolery said...

I've always seen photos with those wonderful poles stuck into the sand, but didn't have the intellectual curiosity of a hotdog to wonder what they might be.

Now I am superior to a hotdog, at last. Thanks, CBW!

Bear Naked said...

"1. A weight loss tool that "scoops" those pounds away!"

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were such a thing.

I have at least 25 pounds that needs to be scooped away.

Anonymous said...

Yes cbw girl,
I do know about pound nets and gill nets. I haven't experinced them like you. MY son, when he was younger, used to fish pound nets with his uncle. He used to love it. It is kinda of a guy thing, I think.
You are so lucky to be so experienced in so many areas. You know alot about many things. Makes for a well-rounded induvidual. I guess that is why you blog so well.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

cats - Thanks. You're mistaken though, I know very little about a lot of things and that makes me dangerous. Much of what I spew forth here is based on distant memories, some of which are fact and some of which are downright incorrect. For example, after I put this up, I realized there's probably no way in heck a spot would ever get caught in a gill net. At least I don't think so, they're so small. But I know we did catch (with fishing poles) croaker and spot in the same vicinity we set the gill nets, so there in lies the confusion.

Anonymous said...

Pound nets have taken away recreational fishing! No more surf casting. There are too many on the shore and not regulated. We use to have great summer fun with the kids fishing in front of our property and now the state has allowed that to be taken away from us. Dead fish float to the shore because the nets are not cleaned out. Northampton county doesn't do anything to control the problem. Spending all this money on tourism and recreation to promote the county and you can't fish from the shore. Its wrong to allow this to continue.