Katwijks Museum

The Katwijk Museum

Development of fishing boats

In 1850 the ‘haringkaakverbod’ law was repealed. The fisher-folk were then allowed to preserve the freshly caught herring by removing almost all of the innards except the pancreas (that is called kaken) and then pickling it in weak brine in a barrel. The fish have to be kept at least 3 weeks in brine to kill all the parasitic worms and their cysts. In this way the fish can be preserved without using a lot of (then) expensive salt.

Commercial fishing slowly began to develop in the villages along the coast of Holland (the so called Zijde, meaning the villages of Katwijk, Scheveningen, Noordwijk and Egmond). The fleet grew from about 30 boats in 1850 to around 70 in 1900. Fishing for herring played an increasingly important role. The boats fished with herring-nets as far north as the Shetland Islands. The unwieldy flat-bottoms were phased out and replaced by a new sort of fishing boat - the drifter - from 1895 to 1915. The drifter, a boat with a keel and much better sailing characteristics, could only dock in a harbour. Thus the replacement of the flat bottoms in, for example, Scheveningen was expediated when a harbour was built there in 1904. But in spite of the lack of a harbour, the flat bottoms were also replaced in the same period in Katwijk. The Katwijkers used primarily the harbours of IJmuiden, Vlaardingen and Maassluis. The barrels of fish came back to Katwijk on inland canal boats, the crew returned by train, lorry or bus. By 1916 the fleet of Katwijk had expanded to about 130 vessels.

The Fishing Industry and Katwijk

For centuries fishing in the North Sea has been an important source of livelihood for Katwijk aan Zee. It is known that Katwijkers chose to go ‘down to the sea to fish’ from the early middle ages. As there was no harbour, the fishermen used flat-bottom boats that could be launched and recovered over the beach with draft horses. At first they used small fishing-smacks (Visserspinck), from which the larger Bomschuit was developed around 1830. As fishing was not always lucrative enough, the community also engaged in shipping cargo, or in smuggling.

The Katwijk Museum


The period between the two world-wars was difficult for the fishing industry. A number of shipping firms went bankrupt in the crisis years and a lot of ships were laid up. At the same time the businesses that did survive invested in motors for their drifters. The sailors were thus less dependent on the winds. Part of the idle, laid up, fleet was sold off to captains who wanted to start for themselves: the origin of the so called owner-captains. The rest of the boats disappeared to Scandinavia to be used there as cargo vessels.

After the 2nd world-war

Part of the fleet was confiscated by the Germans during the war. After the liberation some of these vessels were found again and the first years after the war were boom-years. By modernizing the fleet and fish processing, increasing numbers of herring were caught by the motor trawlers that appeared after 1955. Herring-net fishing gradually died out, also because of a dearth of crews for the old fashioned boats. Round 1965 this form of fishing had more or less vanished. This meant that it’s allied industries such as the transport of barrels via inland canal-boats, and its use of the fishing-net drying and repair-yards also ceased.

No own harbour in Katwijk for the fishing-boats

The number of ship-owners also grew rapidly after 1950: anybody who dared could get started for himself. The Katwijk fleet grew to about 180 boats around 1965. And that was without their own local harbour! Building one was often discussed, even leading in 1950 to a delegation to The Hague, to lobby the then Prime Minister Drees. They failed. The harbour of IJmuiden became the home base for the fishermen of Katwijk. In 1963 once again they tried to lobby for an own harbour, but again without success, town.

And although the number of boats drastically decreased after 1970, Katwijk was still seen as an important fishing town. When the IJmuiden Fishing Harbour Consortium was privatized, the municipality of Katwijk invested in her new Sea Harbour Company - an indication that IJmuiden would be the home harbour of the Katwijk fleet for years to come.

Nowadays, a part of the population is still engaged in and dependant on the fishing industry. And although the fleet has shrunk to about 10 modern ships, the resurgence of the fishing-school shows that the blood of the fisherman still flows within the veins of Katwijk and that the town can still deliver trained fishermen.

The Katwijk Museum

The Katwijk Museum
The Katwijk Museum