Returned from Newfoundland

I am back from my trip to Newfoundland, Canada. The trip was good. There were no weddings to attend this year (which is the reason for my previous trips) but it was the official coming home year for Daniel’s Harbor which is where my fiance is from and many of her family members still live. Three days of events were planned and an auditorium was built by local volunteers to host the bands and local talent. There was a BBQ, a poker tournament, face-painting for the kids and a few skits to entertain people during the day but the main attractions were the dances held in the late evenings at the auditorium. There was a five dollar cover charge and drink tickets were sold for beer and Bacardi Breezers. Needless to say everyone had a great time mingling, dancing and seeing old friends.

I also spent a lot of time salmon fishing on Portland Creek during the evenings. Unfortunately, the salmon fishing was slow and I only caught one salmon this trip. I tried every fly I had in my fly box and ended up empty handed most days. The salmon run is bad all over and the salmon just seem to be passing through and not hold up in the pools like usual. I am not sure if they are just late in showing up or if they have changed their behavior. I am not too disappointed though…the worst day fishing is still better than the best day at work. I enjoy just being on the river.

My fiance’s father, Dan, is a commercial fisherman. He fishes atlantic cod, lobster, and crab. It’s currently cod season and I decided to take some time and learn a bit about the commercial fishing trade by accompanying him on the fishing boat.

My first trip out began at 4:45 a.m. I met Dan over at his house to hitch a ride with him down to the boat. He supplied me with some rain gear, rubber boots, cotton gloves and a cup of tea. We quickly drank our tea and headed down to the docks, or “the beach” as they refer to it. We arrived at the boat a little past 5 a.m. and when Jason, my fiance’s brother, arrived he untied the boat and we headed out. The lines were not set out very far so it did not take long to steam out to the buoy locations.

Dan drove the boat, Jason pulled up the lines, and I took a crash course in how to gut 1200 lbs of cod fish and later learned how to cut out the tongues (cod tongues are a delicacy similar to calamari, but not quite). I quickly realized that I have been sitting behind a desk for way too long! My hands fatigued quickly to the point where I could barely maintain a grip on the fish as I held them overboard to gut them. I dropped a couple overboard but was able to retrieve them before they drifted out of reach below the surface of the water. While pulling up the lines a couple of these ugly buggers were on the line. Its known as the Atlantic wolffish and it is a mean looking son of a gun!

Cod fishing is a dirty job, and I was covered in fish guts from head to toe. Standing in a shallow pool of crimson-tinted water, blood and guts, I joked to them about sending up Mike Rowe from the TV show Dirty Jobs.

After returning to the harbor, offloading the catch and selling it to the purchaser it was time to rebait the troll lines. Dan purchased about 8 boxes of frozen herring and we headed up to his shed and began cutting bait and rebaiting. This is a laborious process which is hell on the back and shoulders. I started out cutting bait and filled up three 5-gallon buckets full of herring. Then Jason set me up with a troll line bucket (basically a 30 gallon trash can) to bait. Each bucket contains a line, or rope, with 200 hooks attached at set intervals along the length of the line.

The process begins by dumping out the coiled rope and begin baiting each hook, and re-coiling back into the bucket. It’s extremely important to coil the line and baited hooks back into the bucket so that they do not get tangled as they are pulled out later when they reset the troll lines in the water. Needless to say this is not a speedy process and it takes several hours for 2-3 people to bait 10 buckets of troll lines containing 2000 hooks. I was not the fastest baiter but Jason did say I had the neatest coil he has ever seen.

After all the troll lines are baited it’s time reset them in the water. I never went out with them when they did this. I was simply too beat and smelly to care at this point. However, it doesn’t take them long to drop them back in the water, about an hour, and it might have been neat just to see how they go about selecting the spot to fish. Instead, I chose to head back to the house and call it a day. Needless to say when I returned from the beach I wreaked of fish guts, bait, sweat, and sea water. I was badly in need of a shower, food, and a nap.

I hopped in the shower, and cleaned up the best I could but the smell of the bait sticks around for a day or two. Later that evening, after lunch and a nap, I was bellied up to the bar for a much needed beer when a friend of mine said “Who smells like fish?”. I had to own up, but atleast I had an excuse.

I went out on the boat a couple of times. The experience was good and I don’t envy fishermen no matter how much I am fascinated with the TV show “The Deadliest Catch”. Now, there’s no confusing the Bering Sea with the Gulf of St. Lawrence but this was dirty, smelly, laborious work which made me appreciate my desk job even more.

The flight back was long. We missed our plane from Montreal to San Francisco so we were re-routed from Montreal to Vancouver, then to San Francisco. On top of that the flight from Vancouver to San Francisco was delayed by an hour. This all added up to an additional 4 hours of travel time on top of an already really long trip. But we got back safely and that’s all that really matters.