Fishing from St. Mary’s to Jacksons Arm

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986
Photographs from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Dennis Marsh, 1986

Dennis Marsh, 24, lives at Little Hearts Ease, a community with unpaved roads. The road is pretty good today, the grader went through during a storm. However, the combination of grading and rain has left Dennis’ car with a seamless covering of mud.

“When it rains they put the graders on the road, they figure the surface is softer, easier to grade,” speculates Dennis as he hoses the mud off his car outside his brother Stewart’s house.

Stewart is captain of the 65-ft. Mackmariner IV and Dennis is one of the five crew members. They have just returned from 9 weeks’ fishing for mackerel at White Bay.

“It wasn’t a good year for White Bay, not like other years,” says Dennis. “They had an East German boat and two Russian boats buying, but we were selling to the plant at Jacksons Arm. They paid 6 cents a pound, but around five years ago you were getting 10 or 11 cents. With the price of fuel up and the price of fish down you need a lot of mackerel.”

The fishing season for the Marshes usually begins with the herring but this year they were unlucky.

Stewart Marsh’s Mackmariner IV

“The herring quota for this bay is only a million pounds, but with 40 or 50 boats after it, that lasts about one night. And there’s no money in it, only 6 or 7 cents a pound. The only money we made was at the caplin, we got a month out of that, and for us that was a long season. That’s covering the whole east coast in a month starting from St. Mary’s Bay and ending up in Jacksons Arm. But then again, you’ve got to live six or seven months on that money. You’re barely keeping on top and if you happen to have a major breakdown, then you’re in debt.”

The Marshes use purse seines to catch caplin and mackerel and gill nets for cod, but there hasn’t been any cod for them this year.

“There’s no groundfish except off St. John’s, but they’re talking about going 100 miles offshore for it. This time of the year that’s dangerous, these boats are built for inshore. Out there you’re talking about where the draggers are, too.”

The 21-year-old Mackmariner IV is a big boat, originally from Nova Scotia. Keeping her at sea from June 1st to October continually chasing fish costs a lot in fuel and human effort. After four months at sea, Dennis doesn’t seem to be too unhappy about having to clean a little mud off his car.

 “If I don’t get it clean, my girl friend won’t get in it,” he jokes, scrubbing with renewed vigor.

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Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, April 2019

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