Fishing gear in Petty Harbour, 2014 (Terra Barrett photo)
"That's all I've ever done. Fished. I'm fishing over 50 years myself now. I loved it from the beginning and nothing has changed. I still have just as much passion for fishing now as I ever did in my life. I'm the kind that goes on the water very early in the morning - probably two, three o'clock, that kind of thing - but when I get out I won't be the first to come home. I just like to be out there, right? Sometimes I say to myself, 'How lucky am I to be in a job for over 50 years and loved it and still do?'"
These are the words of Michael Hearn, a fisherman from Petty Harbour who shared his memories of growing up in this small outport on the Avalon Peninsula and working in the fishery. Mike, born in Petty Harbour in 1943, grew up in a family of nine boys and three girls. His father and his grandfather both worked in the fishery, and Mike himself got his start in the fishery as a boy.
“When we were young fellas we used to catch codfish - well, not cod, tomcods we called them, about, oh, six to eight, 10 inches long. Especially in October, November you would get them a foot long. They would be in the harbour after the old offal,” he recalls.
Aside from the fun of catching tomcods, Mike and other children in the community would also cut cod tongues, make fish and play around the flakes.
“Even when we were young fellas, when fish was being spread, before I started going fishing we had to make the fish. They used to call it fish makers on the flakes. So you would get up early in the morning and a lot of fish would have to be spread on the fish flakes. You would get up and spread all that no matter what, cold or warm, as long as it wasn’t raining. Then in the evening, we could be up swimming; but if we thought there was going to be a shower of rain and we were up to the pond, we would have to beat it home to get that fish in before the rain came in,” he says.
“We would [also] have sword fights. The fish flakes had all longers, we called them, all small sticks about as big [around] as a Pepsi can. And then the end of them was long and pointy, so we’d crack off one of them [and] nail a little piece on the cross. It’s a wonder we all didn’t lose our eyes.”
When Mike got his start in the fishery, the main resource was cod. But after the collapse of the fishery and the eventual moratorium, the fishery diversified with the increase of the crab and lobster fishery.
“When we started off it was all codfish. I started fishing with my father and then it was all salt fish, and then it eventually got into a fresh fish market, which was much easier,” says Mike. “Now when the cod moratorium came in ’92, after the cod moratorium we got into the crab. We were fooling around with lumpfish and things like that, but the crab has been a big saviour now. It’s an easier fishery, especially, than the cod traps. Hook and line is pretty easy, but the cod traps was a lot, a lot of work, hard work for what you were getting because you weren’t getting any price for the fish. But now with the crab, the price is good and it is much easier - very easy compared to what we were doing. So the crab is the number one thing now. There is a few lobster now, but nothing that you would depend on.” - By Terra Barrett
Click here to listen to the full interview with Michael Hearn.
The Collective Memories Project is an initiative of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador to record the stories and memories of our province. If you have a memory of old-time Newfoundland and Labrador to share, contact Dale Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-739-1892 ext 2 or visitwww.collectivememories.ca.
Wonderful story Maybe you could make a short film about this