Important though the beam-trawl may be, there is another mode of deep-sea fishing which deserves to be well known by us in Australia, and which undoubtedly must come into general use before we can make any pretensions with regard to our fisheries. I refer to that by means of drift-nets. As the trawl is absolutely necessary, on the one hand, for capturing fish which frequent the bottom, so, on the other, the drift-net is essential for those whose resort is the upper portion of the sea. It is by this method alone that fish like the herring, the mackerel, and the pilchard - which may be termed surface fish - are caught in great quantities for food supply.
Now, in Australia, we have vast shoals of migratory fish visiting the coast at different periods of the year. During the winter season enormous numbers of herrings come to these shores, and are permitted to depart without any effort being made to capture them. Attention has been repeatedly called to this strange neglect in our fisheries, for this herring is plentiful and is considered to surpass the famous Scottish herring itself in flavour. The mackerel, too, is to be met with annually, generally about midwinter, in immense shoals, passing near the coast upwards in a northerly direction. The sea mullet also makes its appearance towards the end of the summer months, usually from April to June, at the very time when it is in splendid condition and full of roe. It is always observed to be proceeding towards the north in successive shoals and in great numbers Many consider its richness and delicacy of flavour to be unequalled. The drift-net system of fishing would be well adapted for it - if the meshes were larger than those for the herring - as when fully grown it is nearly two feet in length. And lastly, it will only be necessary to speak of the "maray," which is practically the English pilchard. As with the fish just mentioned, it is met with about midwinter, passing up north in countless numbers, sometimes covering miles of sea.
As the name implies, drift-nets are not worked from the shore, but they are "shot," as the saying is, in the open sea, and allowed to drift in whatever direction the tide may take them. Each drift-net will measure about 180 feet in length by about 30 feet in depth. They are secured to one another at the ends to form a long single line, perhaps two miles in length. By means of floats the nets hang perpendicularly in the water, thus forming a long wall against which the fish "strike," and get enmeshed by being caught in the gill opening. The nets are kept on the stretch by being "shot" in the face of the wind, and the vessel from which they are paid out, being to leeward of them, drifts more rapidly than they do, and consequently keeps them well extended.
My object, however, is not so much to enter into the details of these different methods of deep-sea fishing as to indicate their value and necessity, if we are to have any fisheries worth speaking of. I shall, therefore, do no more than briefly mention a few other modes of fish capture. Thus, at the mouth of the Thames, thousands of tons of sprats are caught every winter by means of the large bag net, known as the stow net. In shape it is like an enormous funnel, 30 feet high, 20 feet wide, and nearly 180 feet in length. By means of this contrivance the yield of sprats is so great that there is often some little difficulty in disposing of the catch. The renowned whitebait, too, which are believed to be young herrings, are caught by means of a similar, though much smaller, net.
Besides these and various other forms of net fishing, there are the methods in which the long line is employed. For the capture of the cod, both in Newfoundland and in the North Sea, what is called the bultow is used. This is a long line many hundreds of feet in length, and at every twelfth foot shorter and smaller cords called " snoods " are fastened. These "snoods " are about 6 feet long, and have the hooks attached to their free ends. The bultow is "shot" across the tide to prevent entanglement of the hooks, and is laid in the afternoon. At daybreak, when the lines are hauled in, as many as 400 of the large cod sometimes result from the catch.
There are various other appliances used for fish capture in different parts of the world, such as the purse-seine net, the trammel net, the otter-trawl net, etc.; and, as I have already pointed out, the most scathing satire on our fisheries is to find all these necessary means for catching fish regarded as curiosities. When they are no longer con-sidered so, it will be a fortunate time for Australia.