During a typical fishing operation, a boat was loaded with a seine and its corks and lead weights. At each end of the seine was a hauling line. One hauling line was made secure to a tree or deadman (wooden pilings driven into the earth) on shore. The boat, powered by two men on oars, was rowed out in a semi-circular path and the seine was let out over the stem. The lead weights took one edge to the bottom; the corks kept the other edge at the surface. The boat, after putting out the net brought the other hauling line back to shore near the fishery and the people started hauling in on the lines to bring the seine to shore. As the seine came close to shore, in shallow water, the people would go into the water to help support the top of the seine to contain the fish. The herring were removed from the net by hand into bushel baskets.

Washington was insistent on using "small inch mesh" for the seines. With standard mesh, the fish swam into the seine, becoming trapped when their heads passed through and became stuck in the mesh. Removing them from this gillnetting condition was time consuming and damaged the fish and the seines.

Herring form in schools, like a large ball of fish. If the seine had small inch mesh in the middle two-thirds, the herring would be trapped, not gillnetted. Other larger fish could move to the outer areas of the seine and escape through the larger mesh in the wings.

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