Towards the middle of April jobs around the property could simply wait because it was time to grab the camera and head for some of the nearby fishing communities.
Why? Because it was getting close to the first of May and activities were bustling around every wharf on the west side of Cape Breton. The lobster season was about to open in a couple of weeks. Traps were being repaired, shanties were being tidied up, bait was checked on, and last minute paint jobs were a daily occurrence.
The boats in Grand Etang harbour were always appealing to photograph. Wait a minute, I just spotted two fishermen working on their longliner that was up on the shore near the harbour. Clarence Leblanc and Keith Aucoin were putting the finishing paint touches to their Cape Island longliner. Although the boat was not a new one, it sure looked good with its fresh coat of paint. After lobster fishing season was over they would be doing some mackerel fishing.
Cape Island longliners and their close relatives, the Northumberland Strait boats have been the workhorses of the inshore fishery for decades. They were first designed on Cape Sable Island to replace older vessels. They can be found in every harbour throughout Atlantic Canada. Their high bows, long and broad open work space make them ideal for most types of inshore fishing.
The Northumberland boat is slightly different in that the bow of the boat is slightly flared and quite stable in choppy water conditions. Most longliners being built today have fiberglass hulls but there are still a few boats of wooden construction still plying the water of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Nowadays most fishermen bring their boats ashore and some even bring to their own homes for winter storage.
Mackerel seems to be the preferred bait by the lobster fishermen. After the lobster season is over, many will continue on fishing mackerel for the next season’s bait. Mackerel are a pelagic fish, that is they congregate in large schools in the upper portions of the ocean’s waters. Throughout Atlantic Canada fishermen catch in the neighbourhood of 22,000 tonnes of mackerel annually, the most of which goes for bait.
The success of our inshore fishery depends on environmental conditions, good vessels and equipment, and the wise use of the fish resources. One has to be impressed by the dedication of the fishermen to their vessels and equipment, as well as to their decision to make a living from a dangerous occupation.