I have found reference to the earliest commercial deep-sea fishing being done in the North Sea (Dogger Bank), and Newfoundland (Grand Banks).

According to Wikipedia:HerringBuss, the herring buss type of fishing vessel was operating in the North Sea from c. 1415, using drifting gill nets to catch herring (Clupea harengus, Clupea pallasii? and bycatch).

I can't find information on the depths these species typically live at (other than near the surface), which would hopefully give some clue as to fishing depth, but this does not mean they were fished up from their entire vertical range.

I also found from Wikipedia:Dogger(boat) that the dogger fishing vessel class operated in the North Sea using rods and lines from c. 1300s (long lines?) and trawls from c. 1600, fishing for cod (Gadus morhua and bycatch). These fish live from the surface to 300m, (but, as previously stated, this does not mean they were fished in their entire vertical range).

I also know from Wikipedia:HistoryOfNewfoundlandAndLabrador that the Basque, English and French were fishing off the Grand Banks c. 1500 (and possibly well before in the case of the Basque) for cod, but I cannot find any information on vessel type, technology or depth. I assume they used the same vessels and techniques as in the North Sea despite the depth difference?

Also from Wikipedia:HistoryOfFishing, (c. 1600s?) bautae and wherry fishing vessels were fishing in both Europe and North America, but I can't find information on what they were fishing for or with what techniques until the following century.

EDIT: According to Wikipedia:Doggers, Doggers could anchor in water up to 18m deep. I don't know if that means these vessels could only fish when stationary. The Dogger bank is, of course, very shallow.

The Grand Banks are a lot deeper at 55m to 180m. This adds a greater potential maximum depth than Dogger Bank.

Also, again according to Wikipedia, the muletta was another early type of trawler, presumably from the same time period as the dogger? It used "large nets".

  • 3
    Just to avoid ambiguity: deep here means fishing in deep seas, i.e., far from the shore, rather than the depth at which the fish lives.
    – Roger V.
    Dec 4, 2023 at 16:03
  • @MCW I have added links. Dec 4, 2023 at 16:40
  • @RogerV. I was under the impression it meant fishing in areas where the depth is considered "deep", ergo usually far from the shoreline by some arbitrary amount, but to a depth of some other arbitrary amount. Dec 4, 2023 at 16:43
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    Deep sea is a term. Nowadays deep sea fishing indeed refers to fishing at significant depths. But as recently as the XIX-th century it meant simply trawling: The great trawling fleet that built up at Brixham, earned the village the title of 'Mother of Deep-Sea Fisheries'. It is deeper than a river or an average lake...
    – Roger V.
    Dec 4, 2023 at 17:20
  • 1
    @BrianZ I had a look, it certainly is very informative and will probably allow me to answer my own question! Great! Thank you! Dec 4, 2023 at 19:07


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