It may be presumed, though the chronology and evolution of sea-fishing as a sport form no part of the scope of these remarks, that sea-fishing from boats came before sea-fishing from the shore. I neither expect this guess to pass without challenge, nor do I purpose setting forth at length the numerous arguments-based chiefly, I may say, on observations made at first hand in various parts of the Mediterranean and in the East, where sea-fish were caught and sold ages before Deal galley punts or St. Ives' luggers were hauled up on the shingle or run into harbour Under reefed sails, according to their several requirements. The arts of boatbuilding having come comparatively late to the assistance of early man, it might perhaps at first sight look as if he had fished from the shore long before he had fished from a boat of any description. This may, it is true, apply to lake and river fishing, where, more, particularly in the latter case, bank-fishing is, and always will be, the more popular style with the vast majority. In the sea, however, and more particularly in those Eastern seas dotted with islands, and consequently affording choice of calm lee water, where, moreover, the only fishes to be caught as a rule immediately within the surf are of the shark family, it seems to me that shore-fishing came second. The point is of historic interest rather than practical importance, and need not here be laboured, but I suggest it, for the benefit of those sportsmen who seek new subjects of discussion for winter evenings, as an improvement on the well-thumbed briefs and time-worn pleadings in the matter of Mrs. Adder and Offspring, Upstream v. Downstream Fishing, and Velveteens v. Fox, and others.
Fishing from boats includes a great variety of methods, differing according to whether the boat is at rest or in motion. And here let it be said- again in the interest of the sea-sick, for whom I have a real affection-that it is only when the boat is anchored in a choppy sea that they need really be afraid of what they regard as disgracing themselves. (Personally, I do not see where the disgrace comes in, for sea-sickness in a person who cannot help being sea-sick is surely no more heinous than blindness or deafness in those so disqualified.) Mackerel fishing under sail, even in a sea tipped with " white horses" and suggesting a horrible dinouemcnt, need have no terrors for them.
Let us take this same mackerel fishing first, since it is for several reasons among the most popular forms of the sport. For such general favour there are many reasons not difficult to seek. The immunity from mat de mer is one. The ease with which, when in biting mood, the gaily-coloured, sporting mackerel are caught even by those who have never fished before, not a dozen in an outing, but thirty or forty dozen on good days, and the welcome addition which they make to the table, particularly when other fish is dear and not invariably fresh, all help towards an explanation of why mackerel fishing takes precedence with the multitude of summer seaside visitors over every other kind of sea-fishing. For myself, let me confess it, mackerel fishing, at anyrate in this way, has no charms. I am not sea-sick; I like a fish in proportion as it is difficult to catch; and I very rarely eat a fish that I have killed, chiefly because the only half-dozen sea-fish really worth cooking well are not, as a rule, cooked well in this country, and, moreover, they do not in any case fall a victim to my hook more than once in ten years.
Still, these notes are intended for the benefit of the many, and let me therefore endeavour to give some wrinkles to those who would catch mackerel during July and August, when those fish are playing at the surface of summer seas and taking almost any and every bait offered at the end of a line.
The general principle of this style of mackerel fishing is to tempt the predatory shoals with moving baits. Fishes, like men, often prize that which they are about to lose, and our own misspent lives would doubtless yield, on investigation, many a counterpart of the callous mackerel awakened to a very frenzy by the sight of a glittering object wrested from its reach. Had the silvery inch of mackerel skin-the finest bait for these cannibals of the surface waters-lain at rest close to its pointed snout, no self-respecting mackerel would give it a second thought, and there it might lie till it sank deep enough to be swallowed by some small whiting or chad. The man who first discovered the secret of success with a moving bait would have been a genius, only there was obviously no such person, the art having been learnt in course of time in various northern lands. Movement belongs to the north; the south is happier at rest, and we do not find much of this use of moving baits in southern or eastern lands. The Hindoo catches his tank fish by hitching the line around his toe and going to sleep till awakened by the snatch of a rohu; the Italian and Spaniard stand motionless on the rocks, or doze in their boats, yet rarely do they dream of moving their baits to and fro to incite the fish to a keener attack. Those more energetic forms of fishing, casting the fly and working the spoon or phantom, are of the north. They have found their way to the broad lakes and swift snow rivers that hide the great trout of New Zealand, a land of adoption that makes giants of a dwarf stock, but they were taken thither by the northerner.
Mackerel fishing with a moving bait may be practised from a sailing-boat or from one propelled more slowly by oars only. The former method is not only the more enjoyable, but also means taking about fifty fish to every one accounted for when the boat is rowed. The rowing-boat has only one advantage, and that is cheapness. It is very cheap. Its cheapest form is where the fisherman takes an unpaid friend to do the rowing-there are always friends with a passion for violent exercise in a temperature of 100°-and pays about ninepence an hour for the use of the boat. Even if his hour yields him only half-a-dozen mackerel, the fish and amusement together cannot be called dear at the price. A hired oarsman of the locality may increase the price of the boat by as much again in fashionable resorts, but the extra pay will not be thrown away if the man knows his work, for he will quickly find the mackerel and, once having found them, will so manoeuvre his boat as to keep up with them, thus doubling or trebling the catch.