Share a day in the life of an up and coming young Newlyn skipper

With a family heavily involved in Newlyn’s fishing industry, it might have been expected for Tom Lambourn, skipper and owner of My Lass PZ 291, to simply follow suit. However, it took a spell away from home for the 27-year-old to realise that fishing was indeed where his heart, and future, belonged.

“I studied chemistry at Cardiff University. During my second year I realised I was much more excited to come home and get fishing, than go back to university. So, after graduating, I decided to go full-time fishing, and I have not looked back.

Tom is keen to promote the industry, and is a member of the Youth Board of the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation – a group of young local fishermen. One of the board’s major objectives was to set up a fishing apprenticeship scheme, which launches later this year. Tom also uses Instagram (@tom_lambourn) to promote fishing – a channel which has opened up other opportunities, including a collaboration with footwear specialist XTRATUF. “They’ve sent me lots of different types of boots, and I think I’ve put them through quite a vigorous test. I then provide feedback and pointers to them.”

“I’ve got a degree in chemistry to fall back on if I ever need it, but I can’t see that happening! I did enjoy chemistry, but not as much as fishing – nowhere near.

“My dad – Sam Lambourn, winner of the 2020 Fishing News Lifetime Achievement Award – has been a fisherman most of his life, and is heavily involved in the industry. My mum has also been a huge part of the industry here in owning, along with her family, W Stevenson & Sons. So fishing has always been in me.”

Now in his fourth year of skippering the 9m My Lass, Tom fishes in the summer mainly for lobster and spider crab. The rest of the year he crews on the 12m catamaran Lyonesse PZ 81, which fishes for Cornish sardines. The Lyonesse is owned by Sam Lambourn and skippered by Will Treneer.

“I fish my own vessel out of the sardine season, predominantly for shellfish, but sometimes I’ll target other species with nets or handlines,” said Tom. “It’s a multipurpose vessel, so I can pick and choose when and what to go for.”

Tom’s catch is sold to local merchants and restaurants – where Cornish lobster quite rightly features heavily on the menu. “There’s a great fish restaurant in Newlyn called Argoe which has a very strong connection with Newlyn harbour – where it is actually situated. Argoe is run with a great understanding of when to serve in-season fish, and how to get the best out of it.”

Provenance and sustainability are important factors for Tom, both in the quality of fish he lands and in the wider perception of the industry. To help portray his methods and good practice within the industry, he regularly posts on Instagram, enabling him to reach an audience that might otherwise not engage with a commercial fisherman.

“I like to use social media to show the sustainable fishing methods I’m involved in and that take place – and showcase them, and fishing, in a positive light.

“And it’s also kind of fun – taking nice photos, creating videos and sharing them. It’s good publicity for fishing.

“Fishing at times is very hard. I work single-handed on my boat, and with two very good mates on the Lyonesse. But whilst we work very hard, it is important to have fun.”

Tom’s use of social media has also opened up other opportunities. “I was contacted via Instagram by footwear specialist XTRATUF, as I had a pair of their boots. They’re a huge brand in America and I bought a pair to try them out over here, and I happened to tag XTRATUF in a post. Somebody saw it, contacted me and it went from there.

“I love seafood,” said Tom. “We eat a lot of it in the house, whether it’s spider crab claws, or sometimes the odd lobster gets brought home and boiled, and the next day you’ve got the best lunchbox in the world with lobster rolls.”

“We’ve had a few photoshoots, and they’ve been out on the boat. It just adds a bit of fun to the job. It’s another element that makes it enjoyable.”

During the summer, Tom’s day begins at around 4.30am. “You could almost say my typical day actually starts the day before. You load up your salt bait, your fuel, and any gear that is needed. That’s all done the day before.

“The next day, I come down to the boat about 4.30am, sometimes earlier – depending on which gear I’m going to haul. It’s nice to be out there hauling just after first light, as you can get the most out of the day.”

Tom fishes around Mount’s Bay, his pots placed in and around rocks on grounds a steam of between half an hour and an hour and a half away.

“Normally, the longer the pots are left to soak, the better the catch – but at the same time you want to turn them over and get fresh bait in them. I usually leave them about three or four days. Sometimes if there’s been bad weather or you can’t get to them for some reason it could end up being five or six days, but I usually try to average four days.” Having hauled the day’s pots, and sorted through the catch before rebaiting and reshooting them, on the steam back to Newlyn he bands up the lobsters.

His catch is either landed straight away or kept in store pots to land another day. “In Newlyn we have pontoons which we moor up to and can access at all times. We are fortunate in Newlyn that we are not governed by a tidal harbour, so can use it at all states of the tide with our small boats.”

Tom’s day usually comes to an end at around 4pm. “I moor up, store the catch – and then get the boat prepped ready to do it all again the next day!”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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