American and Newfoundland roe is but little more than half that of Norwegian. In 1900 the best American roe was selling at $8.60 a barrel and in the previous year at only $4.60.
The sardine fishermen use peanut meal or flour to mix with the roe, it being much cheaper. Floating lightly and being quite conspicuous, it attracts the attention of the sardines, which readily devour it.
In the Mediterranean sardines are caught during every month of the year. On the west coast, however, the fishing season opens in February and continues to November, rarely extending into December. Fishing in the canning districts is continued as late as practicable, usually as long as the fish remain in abundance, as their condition at that time is good.
The sardine fishery is emphatically a shore fishery, and most of it is done within a very short distance of the home ports. This permits the use of smaller and less expensive boats than would otherwise be required, and insures the landing of the fish a short time after capture. The early fishing for the sardines de derive is mostly within 1 or 2 miles of the shore and rarely beyond 5 or 6 miles. In the summer and fall fishing with bait, the boats may go 10 miles to sea, but the largest part of the catch is taken within 3 or 4 miles of shore, and a very considerable proportion close inshore in the bays.
The fishing in the early part of the season—that is, in March, April and May—is done mostly with old nets and is conducted only at night. While the boats are lying near by and the men sleeping, the nets are allowed to drift. No bait is used. The fish thus caught are not fat and are not used for canning, but are salted or sold for immediate consumption. The regular fishing is carried on only by day. The boats start for the fishing-grounds early in the morning (2 to 4 o'clock), so as to be there when day breaks. They may also have to leave earlier if the tide would otherwise beach them. The best fishing is in the early morning, and the boats are often back to port by 9 or 10 o'clock with full fares.
When a boat arrives on the fishing-grounds, a net is shot and slowly towed by means of a short line attached to the cork line and fastened in the stem of the boat. In summer fishing, when sardines are abundant, the fishermen often let one net go adrift when it is full of fish, trusting to pick it up later, and put out another net. Indeed, a boat may have fish in three nets at one time, though this is rarely the case.
Bait is always used in the day fishing, being necessary in order to attract the fish to the vicinity of the boats and into the nets. The casting of the bait, on the proper use of which a great deal of the success of fishing depends, is always done by the master or 'patron,' who stands in the stern of the boat on a little platform and uses the flour and roe