The Friday market in Arnhem has many types of fish for sale. The Dutch nation like their fish and I was in a way, not surprised to see these smoked eels for sale.
Eels are the third most nutritious fish, 1st are Herrings, 2nd Mackerel, and then Eels.
I was rather amazed though to see what they were priced at !. € 19.50 at that time equal to around £15 per pound weight.
It made me think of getting out my old eel sprear again and going out onto the moor. However
when viewing it I realised it was way past its sell-by date. There was no way that it could be fastened onto a 10 foot long withey pole. a few strokes with it and it would have collapsed from old age.
That is if I hadn't collapsed first ! !
It is now strictly illegal to use an eel spear. The same with clotting for eels. Clotting is only allowed by licence in a few villages down by King's Sedgemoor,on the Somerset levels. Yet they will let almost anyone have a licence for catching elvers as they make their way up the Severn Estuary.
Spearing was decided to be cruel to the eel
because it was squeezed between the blades of the spear. You will see on the lowest picture the notches in the blades in the white lined section.
They have almost rusted away but when the spear was first made it held an eel firmly when the spear was pushed into the mud at the bottom of a rhine or river. Then it was raised a little and moved across the bottom for about the width of the spear and it was plunged into the mud again.
When you felt it strike an eel you pulled it out and put the eel into a sack. Half a dozen eels simmered, then the flesh stripped off from the back bone and mixed with a little stuffing and baked, made a very satisfactory dish.
I have in my time made many visits to the moor fields in spite of the law. A dish of eels was a welcome meal in the days of tight food rationing during the war years and also for a couple of years afterwards.
In the same way in the 1930's, a couple of chaps out on a sultry night's clotting, could get enough eels to feed both families.