Two Sides to This Fish Story

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Aug 18, 2015 9:35 AM
Gordon and Florence Bennett with their big fish - who caught the biggest one was always up for debate. Photo courtesy of Gerald Bennett

We grew up on Bell Island, in Newfoundland's Conception Bay. Our father, Gordon O.F. Bennett, was a descendant of John Bennett, one of the earliest settlers of the island. Our mother, Florence Mary Bennett (nee Jones), who grew up on "The Green," was of Welsh and Irish ancestry.

When the last of the Wabana mines closed in 1966, our parents left their home on Bell Island and moved to Georgetown, Ontario, where Dad had already arranged for work at a steel fabricating plant. Our mother soon found her retail experience and sewing skills were appreciated at a local dry-goods store.

But they both loved “the water” and they loved jigging for the fish that swam in it. So in 1971, they returned home to settle in a nice bungalow on Red Bridge Road in Kelligrews, Conception Bay South. Dad found work as a watchman at the Trades School in Kelligrews.

The Big Fish Tale

Our family has heard this story many times. The following is my mother’s version. Dad’s story differs only in the sequence of events, the size of the individual fish and, of course, who caught the bigger one.

Our sister Loretta remembers being told that it was an unusually warm and calm November morning in 1977, when Mom and Dad set out to jig a fish or two off Kelly’s Island in the little boat Dad had built, guided by plans in Mechanix Illustrated

No doubt after moving around to several locations, hoping for more fruitful fishing grounds, our mother called to our father, “Gord! I think I’m grounded” - meaning her jigger had hooked something on the bottom. Our father took Mom’s line and soon replied, “If that’s ground, then the ground’s coming up.”

Soon, with Dad's help, Mom had a monster fish in the boat. But it was only a few minutes after that our father called out, “Florrie, I believe I have the bottom, too!”

“It better not be bigger than mine,” she retorted.

There were soon two big fish in the boat. At 73 and 69 pounds, these were fine fish by any Newfoundland standards. Of course, they both laid claim to the larger of the two massive cod.

At that time our sister Anna was working at the Janeway Hospital in St. John’s. She remembers being at work and receiving a frantic call from our mother to “Come up, come up!” (to Kelligrews). But Mom refused to say why. During the roughly 30-minute drive from the Janeway, Anna wondered what the excitement was about. Judging from Mom's excitement and the fact that Mom had never before called her at work, doubled with the fact that the family often went in on Lotto tickets together, Anna thought “We must have won the lottery!” 

Mom very excitedly told Anna the story when she got home. We have often wondered if Mom would rather haul in a big pot in Auction 120, Lotto, or that big fish?

It was only a few years later, when the talk of declining cod stocks hit the news, that Mom was often heard to say, “I believe we may have caught the breeder that day.” She may not have been far off - some fisheries scientists now believe that it is the large, old female cod that produce the preponderance of fertile eggs.

As the years advanced, Mom and Dad returned to Georgetown, O.N. where they now lie under a stone that says simply: “Gone Fishing.” By the Bennett Family: Gerald Bennett, Loretta Bennett, Anna (Bennett) Kennedy, Madonna (Bennett) Crane