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Kadi Mae Enterprises
Lobster Fishing

 

 

We fish lobster during the months of May and June (May 1st to June 30th)… that is the lobster fishing season for this area of Nova Scotia (Zone 5A).

 

Each winter there is much preparation work under way for the upcoming fishing season. This work consists primarily of lots of paperwork, building new traps, fixing gear, evaluating and changing trap (called lobster pots‘ by some) designs, ordering new equipment and tools… constantly trying to improve fishing methods.

 

As spring approaches a new fishing season gets closer and the work pace increases. The boats are prepared, engines tested and maintained, old traps inspected for holes (caused by sun damage or pesky squirrels who like chewing the mesh over the winter) then they are fixed and put into staging areas. Once piled in the staging area, rope lines and buoys are attached to the traps (lobster fishermen will deploy single traps or a ‘dump’ of multiple traps all attached to a single continuous rope with a buoy on each end. License tags are then attached to all the traps (these are Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans {DFO} tags that are legally required to be on each and every trap… huge fines are levied against untagged/illegal traps). The lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada is one of the most heavily regulated fisheries in the world. We fishermen are actively involved in the regulation of our fishery, it is extremely important to us and our communities, and we understand the need for conservation for the preservation of future lobster stocks.

 

When the season finally arrives, we are prepared and ready to launch our lobster traps. We may do so on the last day of April (weather and ice conditions permitting). We call this “Set Day”! On this day we load the boat with our traps and steam out to our fishing grounds to set them (put them into the water). We are allowed to begin fishing lobster the next day (i.e. removing lobster from the traps) and we may continue to fish until the last day of June which we call “landing day” when we land our traps. We are allowed to set 300 traps in our fishing area, thus usually means that we must make 2 trips on set day to get all our traps into the water (our boat just isn’t big enough to handle all of the traps in one load). Set day is one of the most dangerous times of the lobster season. Usually it is the first working day for the lobster boats (and crew) in the water since the previous year and the most taxing because of the heavy load and the miles of rope coiled on the deck. Heavy seas can/has swamped vessels in the past, so all attention and nerves are on ‘red alert’. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the captain cannot see the crew while the ‘setting’ is taking place due to the enormous load of traps obstructing his view of the stern. As more and more traps are positioned and dumped into the ocean the work area becomes less and less cramped and somewhat easier to work with. The greatest danger at any time (but especially during set day) is the ropes! If while throwing a dump off (a series of traps all strung on the same line/rope) the captain or the helper’s foot becomes entangled in the rope, they can be pulled overboard and beneath the water. So while the dumps are being ‘dumped’, extra care is required due to this threat.

 

After leaving the traps in the water overnight the fisherman arrives (usually early the next morning) to pull in the traps (hopefully loaded with lobster). The captain must steam to his fishing grounds and begins by pulling along side of the first buoy and snagging it with the gaff (stick with a hook on the end). The buoy is pulled aboard and the all the traps on that rope are pulled up from the ocean bottom. Most fishermen nowadays employ a hydraulic hauler which enables the fishermen to feed the rope onto the hauler cylinder which spins the rope and pulls the traps to the surface. When the trap breaks the surface of the water it is hauled aboard and slid up the washboard until all traps for the entire ‘dump’ are sitting on the washboard (side of the boat). Then all lobsters are removed from the traps, checked for spawn (females carry their eggs under their tails… all female spawn lobster are put back for conservation measures) measured with a special lobster gage (if a lobster is too small {it’s back is under a certain length} it is also put back in the water) and then banded (rubber bands are put on the lobster’s pinchers to keep them from injuring each other thus decreasing the amount of handling and improving the quality of the lobster by ensuring it’s survival). All other creatures that have made their way into the traps must now exit the trap and be put back into the water… such as; rock eels, rock crab, jellyfish, starfish, scalpin, cod, flounder, perch… and whatever other specie of bottom-dweller that found it’s way into the trap for a ‘free meal’. The traps are then baited/rebaited (usually by sliding herring, mackerel, flounder, or gaspereaux onto the bait spindle/spike inside of the trap). The traps are inspected for holes or damage, and verified that tags are still attached, and the rope is in good condition.

 

Because the tides and winds will move the boat while all of this work is being done, the captain must now relocate the site or find a new site to drop off this ‘dump’. Once the captain finds the site the helper begins to dump each trap off. The first trap is pushed into the water as the boat steams along. The attached rope whips off the boat and just before it becomes tight, the next trap is pushed. The helper must be very wary of the rope as the traps are being dumped. Finally the last trap for the ‘dump’ is pushed overboard and then the buoy attached to that trap is thrown over. This process is repeated over and over again until all the ‘dumps’ have been checked. It usually takes between 4 - 6 hours of actual fishing time, depending on circumstances, size of the catch, and weather conditions.

 

We then ensure that our lobsters are okay and fill our fish boxes full of sea water for them to have a good dunk. Next we do a wash down and clean the boat, scrubbing the deck, washboards, hauler, fish boxes, our oil-gear, etc. It is now time to head for shore. After we steam for awhile we discard any old bait… which the seagulls are only to happy to assist dispatching for us. We pull into the wharf and (if we are lucky and we don’t have to wait too long) the buyer’s cube-van is waiting to weigh and transport our catch to the lobster pound.

 

We lift our trays of lobster into the shore where the buyer’s agent (the “Smackman“) weighs and records the catch. For our market purposes there are two different grades of lobster; market and canners. The canner lobster traditionally was purchased and cooked, shelled and canned… hence the name. Canners are smaller grade lobster… over the legal size limit but smaller than the market lobsters. The market lobster generally went directly to retail sale through the lobster pound, markets, supermarkets, restaurants and individual sale. The size of a lobster is determined by taking a specially devised lobster gauge and measuring the lobster’s back, from the eye socket straight back to the ridge of the back (just before the tail). The canners and market lobsters are separated and put into different trays while at sea. After having weighed and recorded the catch the purchasing agent leaves the wharf and takes the catch to the lobster pound. The lobster pound is the “buyer’s” holding and storage facility where they keep the lobster alive in tanks of water pumped into their facility from the sea. The ‘buyer’ is basically the middleman who buys the lobster from the fishermen and then resells them at a markup to whomever they can.

 

Some years we have good catches, some years we don’t… we are at the mercy of the sea and the market. Things have changed a lot in the ensuing years in the lobster fishery… new technologies, new markets, new methods of distribution. It is our hope that the fishery regulates itself and that climate change and pollution can be affected… that through proper regulation and enforcement we will have a fishery in the years ahead to pass down to our children.


 

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