Every morning at 09.00h and every evening at 17.00h, every day of the week, we can see Gustav (not his real name) out in his small motor boat passing on the water through that gap in the trees, (see above photo) to tend his fishing nets. You cannot see him just now but he was there this morning…
Gustav is 72 years old and sits with his dog, a short-leg wiry-hair dachshund, in his wide 5 meter long TERHI glass-fibre boat that has an old 20hp Mercury motor. The boat is well used and splattered with fish blood and scales. The waves of the sea that splash over the sides are the natural washing system employed to clean the boat. Fishermen have little inclination to keep things spotless on board!
Gustav has been doing this all his life – as a younger man he used a bigger boat with long 500 meter nylon lines with hundreds of hooks, or and heavy nets for catching salmon and sprats. The salmon nets have large 3 cm to 4 cm eyes while the sprat nets are much finer. Both the nets and the lines are kept in his boat shed built on racks in the rafters over the water, forgotten just now but ready for use if he decides to sell them.
Now Gustav is a pensioner, but he still goes out each day to tend his nets. There are several of them in different parts of the sea around the island where he lives. The nets have a very fine mesh for catching flounders, pikeperch, pike and perch. They are 20 meters long and float just under the water with two white floats at each end with a small label showing that he is licensed to fish.
He approaches the nets downwind and lifts one end with a plastic ladle and skilfully raises the net into his boat without letting the entangled fish fall back into the water. He generally catches between nothing and up to a few fish in each net depending on the weather.
When he gets back to his quay, he drops the fish into an old wooden box that floats in the sea to keep the fish ready for his next meal. The box is covered in green sea weed and is held in place by a thick sisal rope tied to the side of the quay. This is a good solution because there is no guarantee that there will be any fish in his net tomorrow or the day after…
The morning and evening fishing round takes around 30 minutes each time summer, autumn, winter and spring. Naturally, in winter and spring when the sea is iced over he uses his ski-do on the ice!
In summer, the sea water is warm and the waves are low, but for most of the year the water is cold and the wind and waves are not that friendly. Sitting in such a small boat with your dog every day is hard and demanding physical work. His hands are hardened from the work, and his fingers are as thick as bananas from being doused in cold water year after year. You cannot wear gloves when fishing.
Gustav is a heavy set man who must weigh some 90 kilos. Getting in and out of the boat is well practiced but quite an impressive acrobatic performance for a man of his age and build. It would suit well for Circus de Soleil…
We love watching Gustav filet the fish. We often sit on the smooth granite rock next to his boat house when he catches a fish or two from the floating wooden box using an old landing net with a long handle. He then bashes the slithering fish on the head, carefully lays the dead fish on a slab of wood to filet it with a few deft strokes with his sharp knife. The head and fish bones are quickly removed and thrown over to the waiting gulls whom flutter above the shallow water on the stoney beach. They swiftly plunge down and hungrily swallow the whole head screaming with delight. Gustav has even given names to each gull!
The filets are then soaked and washed in sea water and placed in a small plastic bag ready for the kitchen… while filleting the fish Gustav has told us another story about his life on the sea in Swedish, his mother tongue… he is a great neighbour!