By John Hawkins
It must have been around 3AM one morning back in the mid 1950s when I heard my grandfather get up and light the wood stove in the big room in the camp that served the purposes of cooking, eating and kicking back. He fried up bacon and eggs and soon we were walking out the camp road in the darkest night I can ever remember. The only thing I could see was the light of fireflies clicking on and off.
We reached the East Side Road when as if by appointment a pair of headlights traced around the curve of the dirt road toward us. We hopped in with Lester and Cliffy for the short drive to what might have been called Cabbage Cove. We hopped into open boats and headed out the inlet to fish. The boat had a big straight six Chevy or Pontiac engine - 290cid IIRC, with a two-speed GM power glide transmission.
The first stop was to pull the herring net, and then we set to trolling. The first lure on the heavy monofilament hand line was a big shiny, chromed Norwegian jig with triple hooks. Above that were several bright plastic "bugs" with single hooks maybe six feet apart. The water was boiling with pollack, big ones that you never see anymore, and the gulls were in a frenzy.
The pollock struck the lures as soon as the line was out. It was all my young arms could do the haul four big fish in against the speed of the boat. The front cuddy began to fill as fast as you could work until Cliffy decided we had enough and turned to jigging for cod and haddock.
Getting seasick on these trips was just tough luck for me; there was fishing to be done and it wasn't done until it was done. Cliffy offered me a chocolate bar or a gulp of rum from one of the pints tucked neatly along the aft port side. I didn't much think that would help a lot and began to look at death as a welcome alternative to my situation. That passed when my feet hit the welcome shore and in minutes it was as if it hadn't happen at all.
There were fish to be split and cleaned and they set about the task with the skill acquired from years of practice. They didn't sell their fish fresh but salted it in barrels. Fresh cod might have brought a few cents a pound at the time but salt cod brought 10 if you could afford to wait for the money until the barrels were full.
I watched Cliffy set the tongues, cheeks and livers aside, cutting any visible worms from the livers. "They won't hurt you", he said, "but people don't like the look of them.” Amen to that.
Note: John Hawkins lives on the shore of the threatened Meisner’s Lake in East Chezzetcook.