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The Potomac River was another resource of income used by Washington through the labor of the enslaved population of the estate. Fishing was one of the many means by which Mount Vernon earned money. Fisheries were located at different spots on the property along the river.

The fisheries had three main purposes: supplementing the food supplies of the Washington family and guests, providing variety in the meager rations of food provided to the slaves, and providing an additional source of income when sold to merchants and neighbors.

The fishing season was brief and only lasted for a few weeks in April and May. During that time, the plantation’s enslaved workforce toiled day and night to haul in the bounty. Large nets, some as large as 500 feet, were stretched between two boats and tied down with weights to catch the teeming flow of fish, which were salted and immediately packed in barrels. Working in shifts, the Mount Vernon slaves gathered the typical annual catch of over a million herring and tens of thousands of shad.

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