GALWAY FISHERIES

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

A valuable source of employment to this county is its fisheries, which, however, notwithstanding the abundance of fish on its coasts, have heretofore scarcely sufficed to supply the home demand, owing to the want of skill and systematic industry among the fishermen. The fishery for the basking shark, commonly called the sun-fish, commences in April, and continues for about six weeks: a single fish produces from four to twelve barrels, each of 30 gallons, of oil; but the boats engaged are few, and too small to venture into deep water, yet even under this defective system the fishery produces oil of the value of several thousand pounds annually.

The cod and ling fishery commences in February, when these fish approach the shore from the great bank that lies seven or eight leagues from the land; the quantity of ling exceeds that of cod, in the proportion of five to one. The herring fishery commences at a later period than formerly, and is said to be less productive: the season now begins in February or March, and during its continuance all other fishing is nearly abandoned. When it commences at Galway, almost the entire of the male population of the neighbouring villages flock to the shore to assist, and have a certain share of the profits. Five thousand herrings are reckoned a middling night's capture for one boat: all that are taken are sold to supply the home demand, which is so far from being satisfied that many cargoes are brought from the north-west coast. Sometimes several men join in a boat and nets for this fishery, many of whom are tradesmen in different branches, who at this period abandon their usual occupations.

The bay of Galway abounds with every kind of fish, including shell-fish, and the white fishery might consequently be made of considerable value. There are about 500 fishing-boats belonging to the bay, besides 200 or 250 belonging to the Claddagh village, near the town. Lobsters are generally in great abundance; on some parts of the coast they are put into holes in the rocks that are covered at half ebb, and fed to a large size with fish and other food.

At the falls of Ballinahinch, between the lake of that name and the bay of Roundstone, is a very valuable salmon fishery, being the most profitable in Ireland, except those of Ballina and Coleraine: there is another at Galway, between Lough Corrib and the sea, and a third at the head of the Killery; and there is in Lough Corrib abundance of trout, especially the much-esteemed gillaroo trout. Oysters of superior quality abound on the coast of Connemara, and all round the bay of Galway, and are in season nearly the whole year. Pearls of great beauty, but not very large, have been taken from the pearl muscles in several rivers, particularly near Oughterard.

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