In the late 1700's a new village at
Kintra on the north west tip of the Ross of Mull was constructed by the
5th Duke of Argyll to promote the fishing industry, and who tried
to provide an income for himself and his tenants through fishing.
Fishing communities at Creich and Catchean nearby to Kintra were also
In the mid to late 1800s bad management, transport
difficulties and the distance to the markets meant the scheme failed. The
nearby Tormore and Deargphort quarries then provided employment for the
village people. When the quarries closed families emigrated and some
were evicted. In the 1920's only 2 people lived at Kintra. The village is
now repopulated with a few local families.
Kintra is very picturesque and is
worth a visit.
Salmon stations using nets was
another seasonal fishing activity carried out around the Ross of Mull
coastline employing a number of seasonal workers in the summer months.
In the 1990s for a variety of reasons the stocks decreased and at the
same time the market was depressed with the arrival of cheaper fish
farmed salmon making the traditional fisheries uneconomical. Sadly there
are no working stations now.
The now accepted farmed salmon is an
entirely different product to the wild salmon - most folks who have tasted both
would prefer the wild species on their dinner plate! The main fishing on the Ross of Mull
now is commercial shell fishing with baited traps (creels) for
lobsters (homarus gamarus), edible brown crabs (cancer pagurus),
(Norwegian Lobster) and velvet swimming crab (necora puber).
However, before the late 1960s shell
fishing with creels was generally carried out on a seasonal or part time
basis allied to crofting, farming or another shore based job. Small
boats today still operate this way.
In these days generally only
lobsters were caught in season around the coast and then transported
“dry” to Oban or Mallaig, very often by the fishermen themselves on
their own vessels. Eventually some of the lobsters would land in
Billingsgate with the fishermen often standing the loss of the deaths
before arrival at market.
The creels used then were generally
made by the local fishermen. Fish box wood formed the base, hazel wood
formed the frame, which was then covered with knitted, tarred twine. The
creel was weighted with a flat stone.
It was baited with small fish caught
with hand lines. The boats used were small open day
boats with oars or small inboard engines and the creels were mostly hand
In the early 1970s a few local
inshore shell fishermen went fulltime and larger 40 foot Lobster and crabbing vessels were
built to exploit not only lobster but deeper water crab fisheries in
summer and winter, creating an all year round fishing activity. These
boats employ up to 4 or 5 men most of the year, and the boats work 7 days a
In the 1980s small inshore boats
also expanded a new velvet crab fishery for markets in Spain and France.
These boats had a fast outboard engine and a petrol creel hauler
allowing the fisherman to haul many creels in a day dramatically
improving efficiency. A further labour saving and safety measure method
recently employed is a self shooting table, where the crew are not
involved with throwing the creels into the water, this is done
automatically and the fisherman's feet and legs are kept away from the
To allow the transport of “live”
shell fish, “vivier” lorries were introduced. These are specially adapted
container lorries where lobsters, crabs, velvet crabs, and Norwegian
lobsters or prawns are kept alive by passing oxygen through holding
tanks of water keeping the catch alive during transportation all the way
back to France and Spain. Early on Monday mornings at Fionnphort and
Bunessan piers there is great activity when the catch is landed and
loaded into the lorries. It is well worth a look!
From August to November, edible brown
crab is landed by the larger vessels at Fionnphort in the evening on a
daily basis and is transported to processing plants on the mainland by a
Around 10 fishing vessels directly
and indirectly employ about 20 people including ancillary
services out of a working population of approximately 100. These include 40 ft vessels
working up to 40 miles offshore in the summer months for crab and
lobster, to 19ft single manned day boats working velvet crabs and
lobster around the shoreline. Also medium sized vessels fish in the
sea lochs in the deeper water for Norwegian lobster locally known as
prawn, and is a high value catch. One vessel dredges for scallops which
highly sought commodity.
crab is bought by a local buyer who transports the produce across
Scotland to the east coast to the crab factories where it is processed
and sold in tins. It is from the local fishermen pier at Fionnphort
where John used to fish for crab and lobster that we now make our own
purchases for the seafood platters that we serve at Seaview.
A local family business supports the industry
manufacturing modern steel creels to the fisherman's particular design
which, also creates some employment ashore.
Fishing used to be a vital mainstay of the
Ross of Mull economy, however in recent years the challenges of
maintaining a sustainable industry are beginning to take its toll. There
are fewer boats fishing out of Fionnphort and Bunessan than there were
ten years ago in 2000. It has become harder to earn a full time living
from fishing and there are less young people wanting to try fishing and
so less people seeking employment.
There is a photograph in the Argyll Arms Hotel, Bunessan
showing a local youth proudly holding up a salmon of over 10lbs which he had
caught in Loch Assapol.
The fresh-faced youth is a man now, the fish having been
caught in 1979 and, while fish such as that in the photograph have not been seen
in many a year, there is still much sport to be had in Loch Assapol. The loch
teems with wild, hard-fighting brown trout and there are sea trout and the
occasional salmon to be had throughout the season.
Loch Assapol (see map on right) is situated
near the village of Bunessan in the south west of the Isle of Mull. The Bunessan
River, little more than a burn in places, links the loch to the sea loch, Loch na Lathaich, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond, a distance of just over a mile. When spring
tides and heavy rains combine to give a spate, it is a short and relatively easy
sprint for the sea trout and salmon.
In recent years a weir has been
built at Loch Assapol by West of Scotland Water to allow the loch to be used as
the main water source for the Ross of Mull and Iona. This has raised the level
of water in the loch and eroded some surrounding banks. A benefit of this though
is that it seems to have offered more feeding for fish and the average size and
weight of the wild brown trout have undoubtedly increased. Many local anglers
report catching fished stuffed with earthworms obviously washed off the
surrounding bank side.
All legal methods of fishing are
allowed on Loch Assapol although The Ross of Mull Angling Association would
encourage fly fishing. The Association encourages conservation, particularly
with the fragile stocks of salmon and sea trout. Healthy hen fish, both salmon
and sea trout, are vital to future stocks. It is hoped that the visiting angler
will exercise restraint in the numbers of such fish killed.
All of the traditional wet flies
will take fish on Loch Assapol. Particular favourites are: Butcher, Peter Ross,
Teal Blue and Silver or Alexandra on the point; Invicta, Mallard and Oaret,
Silver March Brown, or Wickham's Fancy on the middle dropper; and Loch Ordie,
Zulu, Claret and Bumble, Black and Peacock Spider or Soldier Palmer on the bob,
fished traditional loch style in teams of three. The Loch Ordie on the bob,
dribbled through the surface of the water on the retrieve, can be particularly
successful for brown trout. Many of these can be purchased from
local shops: Fingal' s Cave in Bunessan and Fingal's Arts and Crafts in
Fionnphort. Dry flies, when fish are taking
insects from the surface, are also worth a go as is dapping when there is a good
Permits for Loch Assapol can be
obtained from the Argyll Arms Hotel in Bunessan. Permits are £10 per day for
fishing from the bank. Members of the local Association will be happy to advise you on
the possibility of having the use of a boat on the loch as well as on fishing Assapol in general. Members of the Association will also be able to advise
you on fishing other lochs, such as Loch Poit-na-h~i, and rivers in the Ross.
(The secretary's telephone number is 01681 700437). The Ross of Mull Angling
Association was established with the aim of promoting
the sport of fishing, and fly fishing in particular, in the Ross of Mull.
The Ross of Mull Angling
Association welcomes you and wishes you "tight lines."
© 2000 - 2013