Return to the Home Page

The Invention of the Cod Trap



In 1871, while working on Bonne Espérance Island, William Henry Whiteley invented the cod trap – a device which came to be recognized as the most labour and cost efficient method ever designed for cod fishing.  This stationary, untended trap was created as an alternative to the traditional cod seine, which required a crew of fishermen and several boats to constantly set and haul it.

The design of the cod trap has often been referred to as a room made of netting– with four walls, a door and a floor.  Codfish enter the trap through a doorway in the front wall, guided by a “leader,” or a long wall of netting that extends from the doorway.  The traps are set in areas where fish swim along the shore or rock shoals, whereby they encounter the leader, are diverted, and then turn seaward and follow the leader into the trap.


The cod trap invention became so successful and effective that Whiteley’s original design continued     to be used without change for a full century, completely revolutionizing the cod fishing industry.