Monday, September 12, 2011

Stone Plummets or stone fishing weights

“Stone plummets are thought to be the equivalent of modern day fishing weights. They were used during the Late Archaic period between 6,000 and 3,500 years ago…”

“Contrary to articles published about stone fishing weights, I doubt that these were used to weight the bottom of the haul seines. These “sinkers” were too valuable to waste on a seine when it could tear or break at any instant. The time required to equip a seine would be extensive, and currents and tides could destroy the trap during a heavy and sudden storm. It appears they were used in the hand line cod fishing off Black Point, Niantic, according to some oral history accounts of shell fishermen there. I propose that weight was added by using quahog clamshells, holed and then strung on a vine or rope. When incorporated into a haul seine, the shells could clink along the bottom adding more background noise to scare fish further into the trap; simple and quick, yet very similar to the rubber disc sweeps on modern trawls. …(Timothy Visel - Evidence of Native American Brush Fish Weirs In South Cove, Old Saybrook, CT )”

Oyster shell with hole collected 08/23/2011 from “Chaffinch Island in Guilford, which today contains a stonewall that resembles a vee trap (ibid).” Visel also writes that a habitat association exists between flounder and oysters and the presence of a device that traps fish on the ebbing tide.

"Unfortunately, little remains of these weirs today. The netting would quickly rot and marine worms could destroy a four-inch hickory pole in one summer. What remain are the stones, walls and enclosures that survived in protected areas along Connecticut’s coast.

Almost every feature of brush fykes and even the larger full tide traps used stones to help anchor the trap or its leader. They could be dragged to the shore and raft deployed to set them in place. I do not feel they were carried into place; having built fish pools for trout walking on soft mucky bottom, carrying rocks is less than rewarding under such conditions. Considering the amount of stones often used, it could represent decades of building or re-building. The leader would be placed first and rocks dumped on either side. If this were the case, leaders would need to move as driving stakes through last year’s stone piles would not work that well. At low tide, these submersed stonewalls would function more as a fence or barrier, assisting the final capture of fish on the ebbing tide...Several references shed information on the type of materials used to construct these weirs. The primary materials were stone and wood, secondary vines and rocks and twines mesh. Therefore, only stones remain today as evidence of these early fisheries. Chaffinch Island, a public park in Guilford, CT, shares a similar feature – a stonefish weir from a headland. Here a similar bowl coastal feature directed fish much in the same way. In South Cove, in Old Saybrook, at the northeast corner of this bowl, a pronounced stonewall protrudes to create a Vtrap. The amount of stones used was tremendous, and some assemblage is clearly visible on satellite imaging in the areas of the headland..."

"At the lowest tide, the rocks could be exposed and function like a stonewall fence, which basically it was." ~ Tim Visel

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