Fishing existed in Hel 2500 years BC. For the inhabitants of the peninsula in those times, fishing and sealing were their basic occupationa and the way of living and gathering food for their families. According to the Kashubians, during certain holidays there was an obligation of fasting and abstinence, during which only bread, vegetables and fish were allowed.
Maszoperia in Hel
The fishermen went to the sea or to the bay in rowing boats, which only allowed a limited range of fishing. The development of boat construction techniques in numerous boatbuilding workshops resulted in the creation of “pomeranki”, the boats that allowed further expeditions. A large number of sailors, located on a small coastal area, began to form maszoperias, associations of fishermen working in the same boat, led by the shipper. Trap net teams, the divers, went together to fish for cod, salmon or eel, and then divided the catch among themselves according to their shares in the maszoperia.
The fishing teams exchanged their fishing areas once a year. Each member of the maszoperia (maszop) guarded his team against possible fraud by the buyers, whichis why nobody really knew who belonged to which maszoperia and where they were located. The shipper’s post was inherited and passed from father to son. Among the shippers duties was not only dividing the profits, but also taking care of the widows and orphans who had lost their loved ones to the sea, and of the old fishermen, who were no longer able to work.
Several times a year, the maszoperias met in the shipper’s house (chëcza), for celebrations related to the sea. In the Feast of the Three Kings there was an event called “maszopsko”, during which there was the sewing of the fishnets (zszywiny niewodu). This event aimed to conclude the past year and officially commence a new fishing season. During the maszopsko, there was the consecration of the fishnets made by the maszops in their huts during the harsh winter.
The maszops eagerly awaited St. Gregory’s Day (12 March), as it was the official commencement of the salmon fishing season. At the sunrise, on the sea shore, the fishnets were consecrated. The first blessed fishnet was thrown by the shipper with maszops. The captain not only took care over the quality of the sewing and the size of the nets, but he also guarded his maszoperia against witchcraft, which is why he interwove red ribbons onto each of the four corners of the web. At that moment, the period of intensive work in the sea began.