Beneath this wooden boat, ocean waves rise
And fall, rocking open dory, steady drifting
With sea currents, beyond sight of rustic
Newfoundland landwash fishing stages, past
Austere outports, spruce-clad hills fade in
Foggy distance, eastern in-shore fishery,
Jigging Northern cod.
For brief moments summer lingers, warm
Breeze fades to chilling morning air, Avalon
Waters in September, low-angled sun recedes
To shorter days, firewood split and stacked,
First hard frost makes boat decks slick, long
Weekend of food fishery, tradition of taking
Cod since “The Rock” was pristine new.
Dory drifts in 100 feet of chop, fishers not
Concerned with depth, too deep to anchor,
Currents steer the boat, first silver jig sent
Overboard, line feeding from wooden-frame
Hand reels, one pound of fish-shaped metal
Armed with sharp hooks dives quickly to
Sea bottom on heavy-test monofilament line.
Quick up-and-down arm movements, jigging
Begins, hardy hands and hearts quicken when
First cod flip-flops in the boat, many arm-
Length, they barely fit the box. They bite like
Thirty year ago before 1992 DFO Moratorium,
Dark days neither forgiven nor forgotten
When foreign trawlers fished cod to death.
Aside from knife work gutting and filleting,
Welling ocean presence awakens ancestral
Memories, recollections of first landings on
Pathless, spruce-thick shores, hard labours
Carving out hearth and home, cabins spare
And unadorned, shelter against adversities,
Windblown snow, ruthless winter storms.
Upon headland waters of deep fishing bays,
Amongst icebergs and scattered bergy bits
Run aground on rocky shores, eternal seas and
Transparent skies touch heart and soul, morning
Light illuminates scudding clouds, vaporous
Ships billowing overhead, ever-changing upon
Airy transparent skies.
Rocky cliffs and high-sloped beaches are
Newfoundlander’s dwelling places, families
Waiting on rambling wooden docks, fishing
Life of working men and women taking to
Open dories and cabin cruisers, leaving at
Dawn, dark returning, proud fishers, making
Deep-water bays their home.
For more on jigging Northern cod, click on this YouTube Video.
“Let me fish off Cape St. Mary’s… Yes, boy!
Who can’t drive dere boat an’ fish standin’ nup?”