Our forefathers went fishing on sail boats. Back then the primary type of fishing was skipjack tuna fisheries. The way they work and responsibilities were divided on the boats, there was no necessity to have a huge crew onboard the vessels.
There was just 5 major chores and responsibilities onboard the vessels. This includes bait chumming, steering the vessel, manually spraying water to hook, and catching tuna with pole and line.
Only around 6 crew members are required onboard to complete these tasks. This means there would be one crew to chum bait, a crew to steer the vessel, 2 crew with pole and line, and 2 to manually spray water to hook.
So back then it was possible to go fishing on a small vessel with just a 6 member crew. And even if many went on fishing trips only two would be allowed to be involved in catching fish.
This has changed significantly now. The number of crew has increased significantly while vessels have been modernized a lot in recent days.