In modern times it has come to mean a range of types of wicker baskets used by anglers or commercial fishermen to hold fish or other prey. The word is also found in agriculture and for some domestic baskets.
In the North Sea herring industry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the creel was a basket used to measure the volume of a catch. The standard measure were creel, which were made in officially approved volumes of one half and one quarter cran (another unit for measuring fresh herring).
An angler's creel is designed to function as an evaporative cooler when lined with moss and dipped into the creek in order to keep the catch chilled. Caught fish are inserted through a slot in the top which is held in place by a small leather strap.
Creels are also the high sides added to a towed trailer. This makes the trailer more suitable for carrying loose material, such as turf etc.
According to the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, the origin of the word is uncertain, but the Middle English Dictionary asserts that it derives from Old French "grëil, gräil, grëille, gräille a grill (from L[atin] cratīcula)".
Creels in Scotland
The word creel is also used in Scotland (chiefly in the north) to refer to a device used to catch lobsters and other crustaceans. Made of woven netting (similar to that used in traditional fishing net) over a frame of plastic tubing and a slatted wooden base, this type of creel is analogous in function to a lobster pot. Several creels put out on one line can be referred to as a "leader".
Angler with creel
Statue of a fishwife carrying a creel and basket
Commercial creels used to catch lobsters
Stack of commercial prawn creels
Fishing boat "shooting" a line of creels
- Woven Communities, Basketmaking Communities in Scotland, 2017 University of St Andrews and Scottish Basketmakers' Circle.Retrieved 2017-04-13.
- "Basket types". Woven Communities (Basketmaking Communities in Scotland). Retrieved 2017-04-13.
- Granger, CS (2009) Fishing Kits and Equipment Page 94–95. BiblioBazaar, LLC. ISBN 978-1-113-43786-0
- "creel, n.1.", Oxford English Dictionary Online, 1st edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1893), accessed 7 May 2023.
- Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, 12 vols (Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931–2002), s.v. crele, n.
- Middle English Dictionary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1952–2001), s.v. crẹ̄l n.