Going fishing. Black Rock Picnic Site
The fishermen are actively promoting the fishery as a heritage fishery and tourist attraction in their aim to keep the history and tradition of lave net fishing alive for future generations to enjoy.
The fishing can be watched quite safetly from the Black Rock picnic site near the village of Portskewett, Monmouthshire.
Knitting a net at Black Rock
The actual netting is still knitted in the traditional way using a strip of wood and a needle. In the old days the nets were made of hemp twine and knitted by the Williams family of Sudbrook.
Waiting for a catch
The fishermen fish in two ways, either standing in a low water channel waiting for the fish to swim into the net (this is called cowering) or by the other method of watching for a splash or wake of a fish and then running to intercept the fish before it reaches deep water.
Ready to fish. Rimes locked into the Head Board
The Lave Net Fishermen try to keep the fishery as traditional as possible. The Lave net is still made in the traditional way by means of a "Y" shaped structure consisting of two arms called rimes which are made from locally cut willow that acts as a frame work to the loosely hung net.
The handle is called the rock staff and is made of ash or willow and the arms are hinged to the rock staff and are kept in position while fishing with a wooden spreader called the headboard.
Fishermen with the Lave nets folded up over their shoulders walk out onto the estuary to fish
The fishing takes place on the out going tide. The fishermen walk out into the estuary with nets on shoulders to the traditional fishing grounds with the water up to their waists.
The net is then opened and the rimes are locked into the head board. The net is then lowered into the out going tide which then rushes through the net.
A hand is then placed on the rock staff ready to push down with the other on the head board ready to pull up. With his fingers placed at the bottom meshes of the net the fisherman then waits for the fish to hit the net.
The area of the Severn Estuary off Black Rock has the second highest tidal range in the world. This enables the fishermen at low tide to wade out into the river to fish. The fishermen have their own names for the places they fish eg. The Grandstand, Nesters rock and Lighthouse vear. These places are not mentioned on any map.
Mr Ron Williams of Sudbrook Lave Net Fisherman 1950s
Images: Barry Davis