1879Gillnetting became a common fishing practice.Economy and Industry, Maritime & Fishing Industry

Mending gill nets at Lafond’s Wharf in Harbor Cove, c. 1930s. Adolph Kupsinel, Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Photo 22213
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Gillnet fishing was widely practiced by fishermen from Norway and Newfoundland but had not found favor locally until Professor Spencer Fullerton Baird, Director of the U.S. Fish Commission, promoted an experiment when the “winter school” of codfish arrived in the fall of 1878. The Commission’s quarters on Fort Wharf secured a set of Norwegian nets that were deployed in Ipswich Bay that proved to be too fragile for the size of the cod but promised to be a cost-effective alternative to trawl fishing. The nets languished for two years until a scarcity of bait in the fall of 1880 encouraged Capt. George H. Martin of the Northern Eagle to try again, using both the original nets and another set of stronger nets. The catch over three nights of gill netting landed twice the fare of trawl fishermen in the same waters. The new fishing method would dominate the inshore fishery.

Proctor Brothers. The Fishermen’s Own Book : Comprising the List of Men and Vessels Lost from the Port of Gloucester, Mass., from 1874 to April 1, 1882, and a Table of Losses from 1830, Together with Valuable Statistics of the Fisheries, Also Notable Fares, Narrow Escapes, Startling Adventures, Fishermen’s off-Hand Sketches, Ballads, Descriptions of Fishing Trips and Other Interesting Facts and Incidents Connected with This Branch of the Maritime Industry. Proctor Brothers, 1882. 1800s | The Gloucester Adventure. https://schooner-adventure.org/history/gloucester-fishing-industry/1800s/.
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