Bryher's Amanda Pender describes a traditional Scillonian Easter activity for all the family!
‘Spratting’ is simply great fun! It’s a family affair with usually three generations of Penders (and my husband who simply puts up with us) telling each other they’re doing it wrong but getting stuck in anyway. The Sprat Net – an heirloom in itself – usually comes out at special occasions, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, or quite simply when the tide is low and someone has the bright idea to get wet and cold (usually) in the pursuit of tiny shiny fish that we call sprats but are more commonly known as whitebait.
This Easter Sunday was no exception, with seven of us turning up on Bryher shore to shoot and then haul the net. This involves putting the net in the back of the ‘punt’, rowing out from the shore in a large semicircle with the net shooting out the stern, before turning back into the beach. The net is then hauled in by pulling both ends at the same time so that anything in its path is scooped up into the bag of the net. On Sunday, after three shots on Bryher which resulted in the grand total of nothing, we headed to Farm Beach on Tresco, just below the Flying Boat Club.
From the start we were into the fish; we had seven: enough to feed the cat. However, the second shot proved far more successful, covering the bottom of the orange five-stone fish basket. By this time our antics had attracted a crowd of interested spectators, some of whom took the opportunity to help with subsequent hauls and the sorting of the fish from the seaweed. As a family who has done this many many times, it was lovely to see the number of children (and adults!) who were enthralled with the whole process, the net, the fish and the sheer excitement of the hunt. One little girl, Daisy was a natural, at one point going out in the punt to help shoot the net; even drawing a smile from Shamus, who at the age of 15 usually only expresses himself with grunts.
At the end of the fourth shot we had over three stone of sprats, more than enough to feed everyone who took part, including the visitors who helped out and who took a bag full home with them. Hell Bay Hotel and the Ruin also received a share and I wonder how many people dined that evening on whitebait hand-caught by others enjoying their Easter break on Scilly.