How they got the good new herring from somewhere off the coast of Scotland to wealthy Dutch burghers fresh from a hard day of being painted by Rembrandt
The ventjager (sale hunter) was a relatively small, fast sailing boat, which was used in the supply of the Dutch herring busses, which could be fishing off the coast of Scotland or England for three months or so.
It’s key function in Dutch herring culture involved being with the fishing fleet when the first maatjes of the season were caught, on 24th June. Virgin herrings, just mature and about to spawn, the maatjes herrings are the aficionados choice across Northern Europe, but they lay at the heart of a Dutch food cult.
The ventjagers would race back to their home ports with this first catch, using all their sailing expertise to get their barrels to the market first. The winners could sell at a price far higher than was fetched by later arrivals – and out of all proportion to that fetched later in the season.