Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Ruins of a Sweep Net Salmon Fishery

Another unexpected gem discovered on our daily exercise is the remains of a Sweep Net Fishery station. The site, nestled at the mouth of the River Naver, boasts an ice house, a ruined dwelling, and a storehouse. The structures date from around 1811, coinciding with the Clearances, though salmon fishing here has been documented since 1746 and likely occurred in prehistory.

A fishing crew consisted of five men. Two manned the oars of the coble, one ensured the net ran smoothly from the stern, another secured the net’s end onshore, and the ‘spyman’ watched the river for approaching fish. His task was to judge the precise moment when to shoot the net across the water.

Fishing ceased in 1992 for conservation purposes. Thirty years prior, the crew captured 979 salmon in a single day. On another occasion, 334 fish were taken in one sweep.

Each winter, ice was hacked from a nearby loch in winter and stockpiled to transport the ‘king of fish’ fresh to Billingsgate by road and rail. Before the railway, the day’s catch would have been washed, gutted, and cooked in the ‘boil house’, then salted and packed in wooden barrels or large tins for a journey, often by sea, to markets as distant as Paris and Vienna.


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