William’s been a skipper for 30 years and a fisherman for about 40 years. His grandfather and father were both skippers. He has 2 sons and 1 daughter, all of whom have close links to the sea. One of his sons works directly with him on the Caralisa.
Skipper Name: William John MacLean
Name of Boat: Caralisa
Sector: Shellfish & Pelagic
Main Species Caught: Nephrops & Sprats/ Herring
William’s vessel lands Nephrops throughout the spring and summer and in November transitions to a pelagic bat when the sprat shoals appear. When fishing for Nephrops William can be out for as long as 4/5 days depending on how much light there is (you fish for Nephrops during daylight). When fishing for sprats/ herring we usually land daily.
William prefers to fish for Sprats rather than Nephrops as “it’s much more of an active chase, it’s much more of a hunting activity. They have to work hard to navigate the shallower waters and shoot the net carefully to ensure a good haul. With Nephrops there is more luck involved.
That being said, it is more dangerous to fish for pelagic as the weather is rougher in winter, as a fisherman you have to be vigilant, particularly when there is a storm. There is a lot to consider. For example, we will be fishing in calm waters, water so calm it looks like glass. But if we hear the trip back is going to be rough weather we can’t completely fill the boat as the weight of the fish, we’re talking up to 35 tonnes, changes the dynamics of the boat. The boat will sit lower in the water and the waves will come up over the side of the boat – so it is a careful balance to maintain; you have to take enough to make you feel happy.
I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a skipper, it definitely is a way of life. There is a lot of stuff you miss, and it is hard to plan something as the boat could breakdown or the weather could turn and you’ll be delayed. But there is still a good living to be made from it. I take the most pride from my job when I see the young ones on the boat, my sons have been wanting to go out to sea since they were 3 years old.
I love that the sea is so changeable, since you’re working so closely with the elements you really don’t know the challenges that the next day will bring.
Sustainability means everything. Without sustainability there isn’t a future. Generations of my family have fished in the same waters for decades, and we’re fishing for the same species now than we were then. We see incredible wild life 3 times a week, with dolphins, whales and basking sharks. It’s about co-existing and maintaining sustainable practices for generations to come. I’ve had my time at sea, now it’s my son’s turn – we need to keep these teachings, this way of life alive for future generations.