It was a cold January day in 1909 and it should have been an unlucky day for two reasons. It was the thirteenth day of the month and it was a Sunday. Nevertheless the small herring fleet, with boats from Exmouth, Lympstone and Budleigh Salterton, came home with seventy five thousand herring. Some boats had made such hauls of herring that they could not ship them. Many nets were torn by the sheer weight of the fish. The following Tuesday one Lympstone boat alone shipped thirty thousand fish. A Budleigh boat caught twenty five thousand. “It reminds us of old times in Exmouth” said one of the fishermen.
Crowds of spectators gathered at Exmouth dock to see the mountains of silver fish that had been lifted from the boats. They were sold by the thousand to buyers who packed them into barrels on the spot and sent them by the waggonload to the railway station, thence to London where the commission agents were waiting for them. The fishermen acted as their own auctioneers and took turns at the selling. The earnings were good. The boatowners took their cut of a third and the crew members took their shares of two thirds. There was general rejoicing.
A hundred years on and there is not so much as the smell of a herring in these waters.