It’s fair say that I’ve now fished from coast to coast this year – well almost.
While in Chile, I travelled along the coast of the Pacific before fishing several rivers that ran to the sea - this being the “almost” part - and just recently, got in some Cod jigging on Conception Bay North, in Newfoundland.
I fished with good buddy Iggy Hunt - “Papa Joe” to some - and Herbie Parsons, who owned and skippered the boat
If you plan on doing some Cod fishing, there are a lot of rules you best become familiar with, particularly when it comes to when you can fish, and the number you’re allowed to bring in.
And just in case you were inclined to sneak a few extras into your fish tub, there were a couple guys hanging around the wharf in Harbour Grace, that came over to measure your catch once you landed, and while it appeared their only interest was in recording the length, Iggy and Herbie were convinced they were also checking to see that everyone was within their limit.
Now I’m not pretending to even begin to understand how it all works, but apparently it opens for recreational fisherman three or four days each weekend during the month of August, with a limit of five fish per person.
That said, there were several trawlers fishing the same area as us, who got a thorough cussing from Iggy and Herbie every time they passed by, but if the commercial guys were not supposed to be out there, no one from Fisheries and Oceans seemed to give a rats ass.
The boys made it clear that I should not expect any big fish -“big” being a relative term for a rookie like me who had never caught a Cod in his life - because we would be fishing the “second run.”
The first run, which features the really big ones, had been over for some time, because as soon as the Capelin, which is what they feed on, head off for parts unknown, the bigger fish follow suit.
Our first “sure thing” spot produced a big zero, much to Iggy and Herbie’s surprise, and when the second spot didn’t cough up a single fish either, all manner of theories were rolled out that would no doubt explain our lack of success.
First off, having a stranger on board was usually a good omen, which if true, given how strange I clearly am, we should have limited out in the first five minutes.
Next on the list was that we were fishing on the wrong side of the point, because today anyway, the goats were on the other side.
Yes, the goats.
There are goats, horses and cattle that are allowed to roam relatively free on the south eastern tip of the harbour, and the theory is that the best place to fish, is on the side where the goats are grazing – the “killer” goats that is.
Apparently some member, or members of the local Council decided that to avoid goat attacks – which would clearly be bad for the tourist trade - they were going to spend a boatload of money, and fence off the entire area.
Iggy and Herbie had never heard of anyone being attacked by a goat, or any other critter for that matter, and had plenty to say about the Councillor(s) who came up with that bright idea, underscoring the stone cold fact that it really doesn’t matter if you live in Newfoundland or Ontario, the one thing we all have in common are dumb politicians.
We eventually found the goats, but the Cod obviously didn’t give a damn where they were grazing, because we struck out again.
It was around this time that Iggy started to speculate that perhaps he got it wrong when him and Herbie said that having a stranger on board brought good luck, and because these guys take their fishing seriously, I cinched up the straps on my life jacket – just in case.
After a few pointed remarks about the goats, it was time to stop fooling around, and head over to Iggy’s can’t miss spot in Bryant’s Cove, where we would be fishing in exactly 83 feet of water. Not 82, or 82 ¾, or even 83 ¼ mind you, but EXACTLEY 83 feet.
Boy oh boy – some spot that was! I started things off with a snag, while Herbie followed up with two rocks and a couple pieces of kelp, and even though it was Iggy’s “special spot,’ he still hadn’t caught a thing.
Now everyone knows, or should know, it’s much harder to catch and land a rock than it is a fish, never mind two of them on the same trip, because after all, rocks can’t swim and chase down a jig - so they say anyway.
The boat must have drifted off the magic 83 - foot mark, because other than the rocks, which Herbie was rightfully proud of, we came up empty.
Lets just say that Iggy never heard the end of it for the rest of the day, and I imagine Herbie will continue to remind him about the 83-foot rule, and for that matter so will I, for some time to come.
The boys were starting to get really worried about getting skunked, and as they put it, doing nothing more than“hauling water,” (I gave the straps on my life jacket another tug, just to be on the safe side) when Herbie announced that he had one!
The three of us held our breath until we were sure it wasn’t just another rock or piece of kelp, and while not a monster, we finally had one in the tub.
Our boat must have been spot on 83 feet (lol), because we limited out in less than thirty minutes, and while it took Iggy a little while to get going, he started to catch up with Herbie and I, landing two fish on a single pull.
Once we were on fish, I decided that it was time for this “mainlander” to file an official protest.
Iggy had set me up with a rod and reel, and tied on a heavy Cod jig that had a single hook. Him and Herbie on the other hand, were using traditional jigging rigs that you let out, jigged and pulled in by hand, once you hooked onto a fish, or a rock.
I wasn’t paying much attention at first, but after Iggy’s “double header”, I noticed that they had more hooks than a Porcupine has quills on their rigs, but after pointing it and making some appropriate comments, got nothing more than a big grin from the pair of them in return.
Just wait until next time, and btw, I still caught more than Iggy…
Now that we had our limit, the boys took me on a tour of the harbour, with stops at the Blowhole, a cave that but for the high water, we could have boated right into, and the Kyle, an old ship that had run aground in the harbour many years ago, that had once been a “sealer,” and in her last years delivered supplies.
Back at Herbie’s, Iggy sharpened up his knife, and produced a bucket full of fillets in a matter of minutes.
It was a great day all around, including the weather, and I can’t wait to get back into 83 feet of water with my own rig, which you can bet will be festooned with a big old mess of hooks.