Trawling was the method of fishing which the Murrisk fishermen practised for so many years. By ‘trawling’ is meant dragging a conical shaped net bag along the seabed. The mouth of the bag is kept open by two vertical boards which due to the pressure of water on their surface as they move along, are kept wide apart. The type of net used in this type of fishing was called an ‘Otter Trawl’.
The average wage earned by a crew member ranged between £5 and £10 per week. Wages were paid on a share basis and their earnings were entirely dependant on the weeks catch. Success depended upon both the skipper and the weather. The fish were then transported by horse and cart to the railway station in Westport for transport to the Dublin fish markets, in a time when there was huge unemployment and immigration.
The fishing industry was a major boost for the Murrisk area. Apart from the thirty five to forty five employed, it also created employment for the fish box makers, the Bord Iascaigh representatives and a number of small fishermen whose horse’s and carts were used to transport the fish to Westport.
There was an Oyster Farm at Cahernaran, Murrisk, which belonged at that time to John Garvey, landlord of the Murrisk area. It was leased to shareholders. Some of the former generation of the present Campbell and Groden families worked on this farm in the 1850’s.
About a dozen or more small boats were engaged in dredging the oysters from the seabed, which were then put into barrels and sold to Scottish buyers. These buyers transported the barrels to Scotland and France in large sailing ships which were known as ‘Luggars’. The ships anchored at the nearby anchorage at Bertra and the barrels were then transported from the storage ponds at Cahernaran island to the ships in what were known locally as ‘Row Boats’. In the seventies and eighties, oyster fishing again took place in these same oyster beds and they continue to be fished in a controlled way.
One historian states that the last boat of oysters bound for Scotland was shipwrecked and the hull can be seen near Inisheeny at low tide.