We catch up with Padstow Skipper Simon Porter

A couple of days on land gave us the chance to catch up with Skipper Simon Porter from Padstow gill-netter PW3 – Karen of Ladram. Simon has been a friend of Henk's for years, Karen of Ladram's Skipper for three and a half years and fisherman all his life. But most importantly, Simon is our Kelly's father and he brings us Hake and Turbot from the southwest approaches... He's one of our Padstow Boys.

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it’s not a job to me or any fisherman, it’s a way of life.

Simon, how long have been Karen of Ladram’s skipper? I’ve been fishing all me life, but I’ve had the Karen now for three and a half years and I’ve had boats before that.

How would you describe her? She’s a 20m gill netter. Does she have a particular character? You all think your boat’s are something special!

What’s the best thing about being skipper? Best thing for any fisherman is coming home. Then when we’ve been home for a day or two we all like to get back out there but the best part of a trip is definitely coming home! Especially if you have a load of fish. 

Let’s not muck about, isn't fishing dangerous? It can be.

So why do you do it? I knew when I was four or five years old what I wanted to do! But it’s not a job to me or any fisherman, it’s a way of life. You don’t catch fish because of the money, you catch fish because you like doing it. And people appreciate that.

Is it in your family then? Yeah tis, both sides. 

Do people just think fish appears on their plate without knowing what’s gone into bringing it to shore? A lot of people don’t realise for sure. We fish about three weeks of a month. And in three weeks they might get 2 or 3 nights off, they may not get any nights off. We land the fish, turn around and go straight back out, continuously for 3 weeks. It’s not brilliant for some guys but they’ll always get a wage. 

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We’re not that naive to think that we can work a small mesh and catch all the fish in the sea

Where do you fish? The west approaches, we don’t go much east. We go into the channel a bit, maybe as far east as if you drew a line south of Plymouth. Normally we’re away to the west, the wild west! 

What do you catch? We carry two sorts of nets on our boats which we use all year round. Hake nets, mostly for Hake but we catch some mixed white fish as well. And we have big mesh gear – our trammels – for Monk and Turbot. We work them both all year round. But some trips are just Hake nets. This time of year we’re working both nets together. Hake nets is five inch mesh and the Monk nets are eleven and a quarter inch.

Does the season make a difference? We catch Hake 12 months of the year and Monk 12 months of the year. Turbot is only 3 months of the year. It’s the Turbot season at the minute, it’s only three months of the year. It starts about April and will finish in July.

Is there much pressure on you to use bigger meshes from a sustainability point of view? There’s no pressure, we do it ourselves. We’re not that naive to think that we can work a small mesh and catch all the fish in the sea and that’ll keep happening forever. We chose ourselves as skippers to go bigger. Because you value the fish stocks out there? That’s right! It’s our job it’s our garden and we’ve got to look after it. We don’t even catch small fish through our mesh size. Everything we catch we land and it’s sold, no waste at all.

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Everything we catch we land and it's sold, no waste at all.

So how did you meet Henk? I first met him when he was working down the Golden Lion years ago. My son’s a chef and he was friendly with him. Then when he was at Kingsley Village me and my wife used to go and have lunch there and he’d come out with platefuls of this and that.

How would you describe him? I know he’s a very good chef! 

What fish does Henk have? He has a lot of hake, he has had turbot and that but mostly hake.

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Trevisker's Kitchen 'Karen of Ladrem' Hake goujons

Henk tells me your daughter is one of his waitresses. That’s right yes, and one of my crew as well!

You proud that she’s serving people your fish? Definitely! It’s a talking point isn’t it. She went to sea with me back in the winter for a trip. That’s a big story as well! How did she take that? She done very well, 200 mile off in gales and wind!

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She done very well, 200 mile off in gales and wind!

Our Kelly at sea on the Karen of Ladram

And is she proud to serve here dad’s fish? Yeah, for sure. She’s always liked fish, she used to work in a fish shop. I saw Henk’s video of her filleting a turbot. Yeah that was up his place. When she worked at Rick Stein’s she worked in the fish shop and she’d fillet a lot of fish. 

What would you say to encourage more people to eat fish? It’s good for you isn’t it, keeps you going! The way we fish is a good sustainable way of fishing. We catch a lot of hake which is MSC accredited, it makes a big difference. 

Finally, do you have a favourite fish to eat, or are you sick of the sight of it? I like all fish but me favourite’s probably haddock. Have you a favourite place you like to eat it? Ha ha, Trevisker's! Ha! That’s the right answer!

Thank you, Simon.


You can keep up with Simon's adventures on Instagram and ask for his Hake when you come and visit! 

Photo credits Simon Porter and Jeremy Shepherd.