Not too many people took advantage of the food fishery in the summer or in the week just past in Hermitage Bay. And not too many ground fishermen are involved in catching their individual quotas now that buyers are paying 60 cents for cod and 40 for hake.
There were a few exceptions, but most people who went out to the shoals in Hermitage Bay to catch their five codfish reported that it was a waste of time and money to go out there. Your writer made one trip in July with an inshore fisherman, and we were able to bring in 14 fish for the three of us, four of which we described as big enough to keep. On that occasion we were taken to all the shoals where a fish could be caught almost any time.
I spoke to Derek Hill, another ground fisherman, last week. He will attempt to catch his cod quota later in the fall, but he did go out one day for the food fishery. “There’s little out there,” he said. You can’t get one big enough to eat; the five you get – all ten fillets are enough for one meal.” Most people describe the size as tomcods, tinkers, or “as long as your knife”.
It is understandable, therefore, that only five fishers are involved in the ground fishery in Hermitage Bay right now. Wayne Goods, a 35-year veteran of the inshore fishery, said that the fish available are too scarce for him to fish every day. “There’s been an awful change in the bay,” Wayne explains. “I don’t expect to catch my quota this fall. I did have a couple of good days last week, but I have to shift nets around every time I go out. I get five or six (all species) in one net, so I end up moving it to another spot just to see if there’s anything there.”
Wayne was pleased with his lobster fishery this year. “The catch rate was about the same – even with 15 fewer pots – but the price we got for them started at $4.33 and pound and dropped to $3.82 at the end. But the ground fishery, I think that’s the worst I’ve ever seen. The expenses keep increasing: I have to pay over a thousand dollars every year for licenses, and on top of that there are fees for “Cod Conditions” ($231.00) and Harbour Authority fees. And everyone knows where the price of gas has gone. I don’t know; maybe it’s something to do with the higher water temperature. Look at all the mako sharks in our bay; I had fifteen in my nets the first day I fished this year, doing a lot of damage.”
For now Wayne will persevere, rising around 4 a.m. and going out before daylight every second morning. Years ago his brother and fishing partner Bob left to work in aquaculture, but in 2013 it is certain that Wayne will go lobster fishing, hoping that the number of pots is not reduced again. Following that, it is almost certain he will go cod fishing again with the hope for a better year.
Another long time fisherman, Rick Harris, left the industry in August and began work in aquaculture. “In August, 2007, I caught 7500 pounds on handline in the bay from Porter’s Ledge to Stag’s Horns (shoals); this year I wouldn’t have caught 75 pounds”, he explains. “In the month after my lobster fishery until the buyers stopped buying, I caught 890 pounds of my quota. This was the worst year ever.”
“On top of that,” he adds, “when the halibut by-catch was caught, we had to sink those we caught to the bottom. I know in one week I sank anywhere between 500 to 600 pounds (buyers paid $3.75 a pound). That was hard to do, but you can imagine how hard it was to make a week’s pay just on cod, hake, and redfish alone.”
One has to wonder how many more years there will be a commercial wild fishery in Hermitage Bay!