Fresh Water Clam Fishing in Germany 1783

Historical account of fresh water clam fishing in Germany as recorded by Schroeter in 1783 in his Einleitung concerning the pearl fisheries in Celle in Lower Saxony, Germany.

On the pearl mussels from Celle, I wish to repeat some of Her Taube's remarks. They are found in streams, but none are found in streams with rapid flowing water, and a hard, sandy or stony bed. In such streams, which in spring and autumn have rapid flowing water, and in the summer are mainly dry, one may seek pearl mussels in vain. the most pleasant time to fish for them is when the winter has lost some of its coldness, and is bearable to the pearl fisher.

The pearl fishers can be seen, with a bottle hanging around their neck and carrying a stick, which is strong enough to support them, lest they fall. They fish in still water, against the stream and generally in bright sunshine.

The fishers believed that a mussel possessing pearls does not change its habitat and if a mussel is found which is not easily removed from the stream bed and possesses unusual features, such as a hollow, a furrow, a broad stripe of another color, unnatural crookedness of both shells, or an unusual rounding, then the fishers believe it could contain a pearl. Whether it is ripe or not cannot be ascertained from external peculiarities. It is discerned from the known folds and lines on the shell, which the animal lays yearly.

The pearl is separate from the flesh of the animal and must therefore grow with the shell. Seldom, however, is such a pearl usable. The unripe pearls are found to the left of the hinge, toward the broadest end. They sit under the skin of the so-called "beard" of the mussel.

Often, the pearl is found at the other end, sitting between the inner skins. Occasionally, two or more are found in one shell, although they are seldom all ripe and fine; very ofter they are all dull and useless.

A pearl of 18 grammes, of fine form and ripeness is very rare in these waters and would be a great treasure.

Read Schroeter's theory of how pearls are made after his account of fresh water clam fishing in Germany.

Linneaus' account of fresh water clam fishing in Lapland.

Source: The Scottish Pearl in its World Context by Fred Woodward


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