Fishing is in my blood

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 6, Number 3
April 1977
Photographs from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Henry Hiscock

The following article is an edited transcript of a conversation with Henry Hiscock, a Heart’s Content fisherman. He talks with Decks Awash about boats, and the fishery.

“I’ve been involved in the fishery since I was nine years old. I haven’t done anything else. I started out at the fishery in a row boat, and this is the second longliner I’ve had. I got the first one about ten years ago.

“I used to work a 30-foot trap boat, but the trap fishery was starting to go down in this area and i decided to go into the longliner. The one I have down on the wharf cost $52,000, but she’s worth more than that now. The same boat today would probably cost a man around $200,000. She’s supposed to be a 52-foot boat, but she stretched a bit, so she’s 54 feet now.

“The longliners are very good boats, but I think they could be made even better. I’d like to see them a bit wider, something on the lines of the Cape Islander boat. Mine is only 14 feet across the beam, and that’s a bit narrow. If the beam was wider, we could carry more fish in her. The most we’ve had in her was 67,000 pounds.

“The past season wasn’t that good, fish wise, but the price was very good. There was a bit of tangleup in the strike when the herring fishery was getting started for the fall, and we couldn’t get at the herring until October. We lost a month there and except for the strike, it would have been a very good summer. By the time we got at the herring, the best part of that season was over. There was thousands of mackeral, but we couldn’t sell it.

“I’m not from Heart’s Content originally. I came here from St. Jones Without about 24 years ago. When we came, there was only one HENRY HISCOCK trap boat fishing from Heart’s Content. It started from that, and now there are seven or eight longliners here. It’s the biggest longliner fleet on this shore, except for perhaps Old Perlican.

“There’s still two or three trap boats here. I still have two traps, but I haven’t put them out this two or three years. The fellows who have had traps out have hardly gotten enough fish in them to eat.

“I don’t know if a man can make what you’d call a good living with a longliner, but he can get a bit to eat and that’s all I want these days. I don’t have any trouble getting a crew. A fellow left me a while ago, and there were about a dozen people looking for a berth. My young boy left school before he was sixteen and it seems as though there are a lot of young fellows at it here now. In my crew, there isn’t one over twenty- five and two or three boats have mostly all young people in their crews.

“You can’t really make a living with a trap boat here, but it’s expensive to get into a longliner these days. The subsidy is cut down a lot now too. When I had mine built, half the cost was in subsidies. The federal government and the provincial government each put up 25 percent. But the subsidy at the present time is down to about 30 percent, while the cost of a longliner has almost tripled.

“If a man who was crewing for me wanted to get his own longliner, he wouldn’t be able to do it, unless there’s something special for a fellow who’s just starting off. If you can’t afford to buy a longliner at today’s prices, or make the down payment, then you might as well quite fishing.

“There is one thing badly needed in Heart’s Content, and that’s a community stage. We can’t seem to get one here, and I don’t know the reason why. If we had one, we could salt a few turbot in the fall. You wouldn’t get a very good price for it, but it would be something. During the strike last year, we wanted to salt some mackeral and we had to do up one of the sheds down by the wharf with plastic and salt the mackeral there.

“They have a subsidy of a quarter cent on the herring and mackeral, and a half cent on the ground fish, that goes to the skipper to help him get ready for the season. The snag is that I haven’t got it yet. I’m O.K., but lots of men can’t get credit, and they’re hung up waiting to get that money in order to buy their nets. Fishing time has come before they get their nets and get underway.

“I’ve never regretted being in the fishery. I like the water, and I was brought up with fishing. There were no roads and so on in those days, so whatever you wanted to do you had to do it in a boat. We used to go 20 miles in an open boat to get to the doctor. So we were bought up in the boats, and it is in your blood, and that’s it. You’re your own boss if you’re fishing and that’s good, but it’s hard work”


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, April 2018

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.