Cruising the Cod Highway

And now, the story of what has become one of the most iconic photos of our trip, and also one of our favourites!  It’s made an appearance in Eat North, the Vancouver Sun, as well as a long stretch as Lindsay’s Facebook profile picture.  

Two fisher ladies, covered in approximately 12 layers, grinning mischievously on a dock in Newfoundland.

It was taken after a morning on the water with David Boyd, the man responsible for Prime Berth Fishing & Heritage Centre, and the giant whale skeleton on display at the entrance to Twillingate island.

David Boyd is a man of the sea, a warm-hearted character who was born in the remote (boat-access only) fishing village, Tizzards Harbour, and has been fishing Atlantic waters for over 60 years.  

He grew up in a time when young people were encouraged to leave the fishing lifestyle in pursuit of more lucrative careers.  As a boy, he enthusiastically trapped cod with his father, and even had his own lobster-fishing rowboat when he was 6 years old.  By his father’s insistence, David pursued higher education, and became a teacher.  

His love of the sea never left him, however, and he eventually returned to fulltime fishery work.  He started Prime Berth as a way to pay tribute to his family’s traditional livelihood, and educate tourists and Newfoundlanders alike about a valuable piece of the island’s culture.  The Heritage Centre is home to Newfoundland’s biggest collection of fishing artifacts, with seven different museum buildings that exhibit and interpret the traditional Newfoundland fishing life.

Here is a link to a poem that David wrote about his love of the sea, and his father’s fishing stage (traditional wooden hut for cod fishing and processing).  It’s a compelling and emotional, and it is clear how the poem’s sentiment embodies his life’s work.

We had the incredible honour of joining David on his fishing boat.  In his basement, next to a freezer full of moose, fish, and turr,

we were strapped into the most heavily layered outfits we’ll ever wear.  We waddled over to the boat, and rolled into it.  

Then we watched as he and another fisherman collected mackerel from the nets they had placed,

went to see a natural arch in Little Harbour,

and finally, witnessed some cod jigging in action. 

This was a lot more rudimentary than we expected; a weighted line with a single hook is dropped in and reeled back up by hand, catching one cod at a time.  It was also remarkable how quickly the fish were caught!

Cod can only be caught and kept by non-commercial fishers for a period of about 20 days per year; our visit did not fall within that time frame, so any cod we caught were returned to ocean.

While we were on the boat, David crafted an experiment for our GoPro camera.  He strung it to the cod fishing line, and let it spin to the bottom of the Atlantic.  Not sure what to expect from the footage, we all crowded around his computer after, and watched some unexpectedly clear (*although a bit dizzying*) footage of the cod highway in the deep blue.  Ninety feet below our boat, this was happening:

***The cod fished in this video were caught with a catch and release permit by David Boyd.  They were caught and returned to the ocean.

You can check out Captain Dave and all he does on his websites: captdave.ca and primeberth.com.

-DV

And here is one last bit of the Newfoundland sea for today, a song about Saltwater Joy by Buddy Wasisname: