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Horsehair Tipping Lines

Before the 1880s, the usual method of catching white fish such as cod, haddock and saithe, involved using a long line with hooks placed along its length. It was very labour-intensive but resulted in a high volume catch. 

Small line fishing was a family affair with women and children responsible for preparing the equipment. The line, which could be up to a mile in length, had shorter pieces of line attached along its length, made of horsehair called ‘tipping’ which were baited with fish or shellfish.

The local fishermen know where the best mussel beds were located along the coast and would harvest them for use as bait. The photograph shows a local family group sitting outside their house baiting the line.

In recent years falling fish stocks has caused the fishing industry to decline in the smaller communities. However, fishermen all around the coast have diversified into catching shellfish, particularly prawns, once seen as worthless, and numbers of small boats are increasing.