Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dumping Day and Another Ocean Connection

Yesterday was "Dumping Day" or the first day of the most lucrative lobster fishing district in the world. District 34; where I grew up. I've written about lobster fishing and it's sustainability before, needless to say that it has it's concerns just like others, but comparatively is quite easy on the eco-system and ocean inhabitants.

My father is a lobster fisherman captain and my brother is his first mate or in French "Begout". Every year from September to the end of November my father and brother begin preparing their fishing gear for the long and arduous fishing season. Hours are spent outside coiling rope, stacking "pots" (aka traps), painting buoys...

 This Year's boats ready for Dumping Day last Sunday

Every year from the last Monday of November until the end of May the men (and a few women) work hard and long hours to bring in money for their families. These boats and fishing outfits aren't the smaller versions you see in Maine or PEI or even Cape Breton, but huge million dollar boats and thousands of dollars spent in metal traps and rope.

My father went fishing with his father and invested in his first boat shortly after I was born. Hence the name "Lady Lisa", a relatively small white boat. I was so proud to have his ship, his livelihood, named after me! I remember dark winter evenings and my mom calling on the VHS set "Lady Lisa, Lady Lisa are you on there?", pre-cell phone era and checking on their position and when they'd be home for supper. 

Dad would come home bringing lobster for us to race along the floor and smelling like stinky bait and "money" as he always said. Up at 3am and on the ocean until they were home at 6pm they worked long and hard days and loved every moment. Each Christmas we'd have creamed lobsters for lunch and if people are interested I can post the recipe- so yummy! Dumping Day was always an "inservice" day for the high schools (grades 9-12) as so many young boys went fishing with their dads that day.

Fishermen are a superstitious lot, perhaps because they have so little control over the ocean... My father refuses to book plane flights on the 13th (actually demanded my mother change their flight once) and was upset that I was trying on wedding dresses on Friday the 13th ("as long as you don't buy any..."). They traditionally NEVER fished on Sundays, but recently with the decrease in price even the "old school" fishermen are going out on Sundays. They refer to their boats as "she" and "her" and know the meaning of weather patterns and the tides. My father watches the Boston weather channels (along with the marine forecast and local gov't land weather) in order to determine which patterns will be coming up in the next few days.

I grew up always conscious of the weather and the ocean.

Not long after my brother began fishing they bought a new boat. Sadly, the "Lady Lisa" name was sold along with the boat and dad named his new ship as "Misty Rocker". Another small boat as he was an "inshore" fisherman (vs "offshore" that could take an entire day of steaming to reach their fishing area), keeping his pots a few hours' steam from shore.

My dad's boat this year- the green one on the far right

You'd think that fishermen would love the water... and most certainly the majority who go do love their work on the ocean, but most fear the water and have no idea how to swim. My mother had to teach dad how to swim and many of his friends continue to be afraid of the water to this day. For my father and brother, both are prone to sea sickness. For the first few weeks of fishing my brother would be vomiting over the side of the boat while simultaneously hauling up traps. It took two whole weeks before it subsided. I am so proud of my hard working and brave father and brother.

Although men are often lost, I only truly knew what this meant right after I graduated from highschool. A guy I went to school with was pulled overboard. While most fishermen have floatersuits (insulated suits that keep you afloat) most simply wear their oil clothes while working. A wrong step in a bunch of coiled rope being pulled off the end of the boat by moving traps and he was gone. They searched the ocean for a week and found nothing at all. 

The tides and currents are so strong and within seconds the body succumbs to hypothermia in the freezing winter waters. He was 21 years old and engaged. I have no idea how my mother doesn't worry each day they leave and anxiously wait for their safe return. My brother once told me that swordfishing (something they do in the summer months) was actually very much like the "Perfect Storm" movie... waves higher than the top of the boat.

Although I know an awful lot of District 34 lobster fishing (trawls vs single pot lines, offshore vs inshore lobsters, which kinds of bait work best) I had never actually witnessed first hand how to haul a pot. A few years ago in February my brother, on a snowy day, agreed to take myself and a few friends out close to shore to bring up a few traps. We filmed it and by the end I was green due to the little bitty wind that was blowing.

Although I don't have that video- here's a fantastic collage of videos and clips, with some fantastic music (lol) basically summarizing the Nova Scotian experience. You'll notice none of them are wearing floatersuits...

A large proportion of the world's market lobsters are fished in District 34... much more than even Maine. I'm hoping this year will be easier on my family and prices will improve. If you live in the Halifax area, keep an eye out for local fishermen selling their lobsters in parking lots etc. If they're there it's because times are rough, and buying fresh local lobster directly from the fishermen is a much better way to support an important industry than buying from Sobeys. 

And if you're from away and see some "fresh" lobster, know that my father, my uncles, my friends have braved the tumultuous winter oceans for hours on end in freezing snowy weather for such a yummy meal.
Andrew and I fishing mackerel off dad's boat during the August fog

Many Blessings to my father and brother this fishing season!

article and photos copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com


  1. What a great post - really interesting! My grandad was in the Merchant Navy most of his life and they were a supersitious lot also!

    Blessings to your dad and brother in this lobster fishing season.

  2. Cool post! Where have you been, I've missed you and your blog!!

    Much Love and a lucrative lobster season!



  3. Very awesome! I love learning about new things like this. I just read "Snow Falling on Cedars" by American writer David Guterson - it has lots of fishing in it (although not lobster) and is a beautiful story if you're looking for something like that : )

    Many blessings from Central IL to the hardworking folks in your family!

  4. this is really interesting, thank you for sharing such an important part of your life.


  5. What a beautifully written and poignant post-so heartfelt.
    I enjoyed reading every moment of it ,thanks!
    PS still loving my Moksha Yoga;)
    esp now it's gettin colder....

  6. There is something magical and mystical about fishermen and the ocean. Especially in the northeast. Have you ever seen or read The Shipping News? One of my favorite stories.

    And I can't imagine the bravery of the people who go out there!

  7. I read "The Perfect Storm" in college. Right after, I was standing in my 9th-floor dorm study lounge, peering out the window at the ground below and realizing that the 100-foot waves Sebastian Junger described were taller than my dorm-room floor. Freaked me out completely.

  8. Ah I love fishing mackerel : I used to go to Gasp├ęsie just for the thrill of eating my fish directly from the water.;)
    Thanks for dropping on my blog : you would like the weather : first seasonal storm this morning !


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