An atmospheric change has hit Trinity Bight, and it’s not the weather. It’s the steady hum of dory engines zig-zagging across the bay, and the laughter of families gathering on docks at dusk. It’s the early mornings and late nights in unlit, creaking sheds built by someone’s grandfather, and the steady cut and pull of a blade snug between scales and fins. It’s the call of the pulsing sea, finally answered: it’s cod jigging season.
Near dusk, as the fog rolled in, our friend Justin took us out on his father’s big wooden boat, from his grandfather’s big wooden dock. Justin doesn’t like cod, but he brings his haul to neighbours and friends in the community. He unwound what looked like clothes-line wire from wooden sticks, and told us, “drop the line ’til it hits bottom, pull it up about a foot, and then just start yanking back and forth, back and forth.”
“So,” I said, “we’re not baiting them; we’re just spiking them in the head with our hooks?”
“Pretty much,” he said, and we threw our lines down, down, down into the cold, cod-ridden depths.
It’s a relaxing practice, at first, tugging and then letting the line slip through your fingers, again and again as the boat rocks. We chatted about the evening, and the pros and cons of going to University, and the trials of building a house, and then — something! Justin had one, and he pulled steadily, expertly: in one swoop, he shoved his hand into the gills, pulled the hook from its reddened jaw, and slit its throat.
We cheered. I choked a little, but smiled nonetheless. It’s good to know where my food comes from, I thought.
They came quickly after that. Hardly was there time for small talk, now: we were hauling up fish after fish until there were fifteen flapping on the cockpit floor. Fifteen is the quota, so we headed in, giggling at our good fortune, silently mourning their lack there of.
On Justin’s stage, we sat on old planks and listened as he told us, “you slit the skin here, slide the knife along its spine, keep the blade at a low angle,” and then, “A duck walks into a grocery store and says, ‘You got any grapes?'” (Justin is a master joke-teller). We laughed at the punchline, he tossed another carcass through the open door into the water, and a light rain started on the roof.
At home, we fried the fish with salt and pepper and poured goblets of cold white wine, reflecting on how lucky we are to live here, to fish with friends at dusk and share the meal with guests, to experience cod-jigging season in Trinity East. “Thanks be to Cod,” we said, and ate every last morsel of the tender white fish.
Cod carcasses beneath the dock
The stage and the dock
The Government Wharf
This cod was full of capelin.