Damian Bird documents a day’s cuttlefishing with West Bay skipper Peter Newton and crew Jack Woolmington
Published in August ’16
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.
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 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.
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.’