People have always gone out into the archipelago to fish. Fishing has either been a part of the household, mixed with other pursuits to make ends meet, or the main income.



Distant Water Fishing

For several centuries, fishermen from the outlying areas also came to the Ångermanland archipelago. Distant water fisherman dealt in fish. They fished for herring and sold them. Only the citizens of the cities had the right to trade. The distant water fishermen were often citizens from central Swedish cities. Most came from Gävle, which is why today we often call them Gävle fishermen. The heyday of distant water fishing was during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the spring, the fishers packed their boats and sailed to the fishing village to stay until the autumn darkness began to fall. Then, they returned to their hometowns with the cargo full of fish. For the fish to last over the summer, it was salted or fermented. The fermented fish is known as surströmming, or fermented Baltic herring.


The whole family came along on the journey north. They packed everything they could possibly need to survive the summer, including goats. Goats are hardy animals that could handle the lean pasture on the islands and gave milk and cheese to their owners. The larger boat for the trip to the fishing village was usually owned jointly by a couple of fishermen. Some left the boat over the summer while others engaged in freight and trade travel and had customers around the entirety of the Bothnian and Baltic Seas.


During the 19th century, there was a change on the islands. The number of distant water fishermen decreased and more farmers from the local area who fished in the summer populated the fishing villages. Gradually, more and more people settled on the islands. Those who settled on the islands came mainly from the coastal parishes of the mainland and they were fairly poor. They moved to the islands in the hope of making things a little better for themselves.

Fishing Villages

There were several fishing villages around the archipelago: places that, especially during the summer, were settlements for fishing families. Places with a protected location and a good natural harbour where it was possible to anchor boats and, at the same time, enough space for buildings, fish and net handling, and preferably the possibility to have a small cultivation area. The fishing villages were typically compact settlements. Along the harbour, the boathouses sat wall to wall and above the small houses stood the drying racks for fishing nets. A fishing net drying rack is a stand on which the nets are hung to clean and dry them. The buildings were characterised by the practical needs of fishing.