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Gone fishing

Damian Bird documents a day’s cuttlefishing with West Bay skipper Peter Newton and crew Jack Woolmington

Pete 'The Worm' Newton gazes out to sea as he heads out for a day's cuttlefishing

Pete ‘The Worm’ Newton gazes out to sea as he heads out for a day’s cuttlefishing

If you said the word cuttlefish to most people fifteen years ago, before TV chefs made it a metropolitan alternative to squid, the response would no doubt have been in the context of caged budgerigars.

Pete and Jack on deck in West Bay harbour

Pete and Jack on deck in West Bay harbour

Now though, whether for use in cuttlefish bolognaise or cuttlefish and bergamot polenta, the brilliant white flesh is highly prized. But, just as the cuttlefish looks different from most fish, so too is how it is caught.

Pete lifts the line holding the float and cuttlefish cages...

Pete lifts the line holding the float and cuttlefish cages…

...then lets the winch take the strain to lift the cage itself

…then lets the winch take the strain to lift the cage itself

Pete Newton – known locally and affectionately as ‘Pete the Worm’ – and his colleague Jack Woolmington, use sexual allure to catch their cuttlefish, specifically the cuttlefish’s natural sexual allure. They insert one female cuttlefish in the basket and the males from all around get into the basket to mate with her. The cuttlefish pots are laid in strings like lobster pots and re-baited with a female before being returned to the sea bed.

Cuttlefishing, like all sea fishing is  physically demanding, labour-intensive work

Cuttlefishing, like all sea fishing is physically demanding, labour-intensive work

 

 Making sure the catch is well stored on a pitching deck

Making sure the catch is well stored on a pitching deck

 

An unexpected guest in the cuttlefish cage needs dealing with before the cuttlefish can be taken out

An unexpected guest in the cuttlefish cage needs dealing with before the cuttlefish can be taken out

Pete starts in the spring and reckons to take around 17 tonnes of cuttlefish out in a season. ‘He started,’ says Damian, ‘with very little and has worked hard to get what he has. He’s an affable man and appreciates the fishing and wanted initially to be photographed so his friends around the world would understand what it was he did.’

It can be warm work when the sun's out, but bitterly cold when it is not

It can be warm work when the sun’s out, but bitterly cold when it is not

Tom grabs a warming drink and a sit-down

Jack grabs a warming drink and a sit-down

 

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