I wish I could say I was looking forward to my deep-sea ocean adventure off historic Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
I wish I could say I didn’t roll over in the RV that morning and debate sending my husband. I wish I could say I was psyched to be fishing. But that would not be true.
I was, to be truthful, totally ambivalent to be steaming out aboard Lunenburg Ocean Adventures—even though the day dawned bright. The sun made the red wooden warehouses of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and the Cape Island boats and tall ships tied up at the wharf in this UNESCO world heritage town positively sparkle.
No, I was not looking forward to it at all, until I heard the cry from down the boat, “Who’s got one?”
Holy… It’s me.
The Cod Will Love You
I’m on a Cape Island commercial lobster fishing boat, three kilometres out in the deep, deep North Atlantic, at Dummy’s Shoal, where the world’s largest bluefish tuna was caught, Captain Bill Flower says, and I’ve got a bite.
Cod, it seems, don’t care if you’re the clumsiest, clunkiest fisherman of the seven aboard or that you’re standing nonchalantly on deck, still trying to figure out the rod in your hand after you’ve dropped your mackerel-baited line 40 feet into the briny depths.
No, they stay on your line, after what seems to take five long, hard, stomach-clenching minutes to reel in, where you pause several times to adjust your grip. They stay on, letting you gasp in amazement when you finally see their large, translucent brown body shimmering against the Coke-bottle green of the murky depths.
“I pride myself on catching fish,” Flower tells me later as we chat by the cabin off the Cape Islander VI.
If fish aren’t biting, he goes to where they are. Case in point: we’ve already made three stops on our half-day morning expedition. (“Let’s reel up guys, let’s try for some big stuff,” he says.)
He doesn’t set anchor. We drift. And the fishermen aboard are reminded to let their lines out every so often. Depths change as we drift. You don’t catch fish unless your line is on the bottom.
Experience Commercial Fishing Up-close
Flower is a commercial lobster fisherman during the winter months, as well as a diver, and a marine co-ordinator in the film industry.
Come tourist season, he converts his boat and runs Lunenburg Ocean Adventures, which offers shark fishing, shark cage diving, and diving, as well as two deep sea fishing exhibitions a day, 12 passengers a trip.
“We self-limit for comfort,” says Flower.
At $50 a head, passengers need only pack a spirit of adventure for the half-day cruises that go out at 8 a.m. from Railway Wharf, with another trip at 1 p.m. Rods are anchored at stations around the boat.
Capt. Flower provides the gear: Penn Pursuit rods with Penn 309 level wind reels loaded with 30-lb. test line. Avid anglers are welcome to bring their own tackle. Traditional handlines are available if you want to fish the old-fashioned way.
The boat cruises out of the harbour, past the lighthouse at Lunenburg Bay, past the Ovens sea caves, past cliffs and faded light towers on rugged bluffs. Seeing Lunenburg by water was surprisingly cool, and I couldn’t help but think of the long line of fishermen over the centuries that have seen this view.
Quite the Catch
The catch—our group of seven reel in cod, mackerel and Pollock—is mostly hook and release, but RVers, campers and local clientele can take their fish home to cook. Flower and his deckhands fillet and bag your catch right on board.
Eleven seagulls follow behind as Capt. Flower fillets my cod on a white cutting board at the back of the boat. Wasting no time, he tosses off excess parts and the birds swoop down from their fighter pilot formation, fanning out and moving in for their spoils.
I settle into a seat on the side of the boat. Sea spray hits my face.
I smile, knowing that I won’t be telling tales about the one that got away.