Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fishing then and now

The Farm Manager brought home some "planked salmon" that she'd caught at the Wiarton Foodland last week.

It was on sale, which gives cause for a lot of forgiveness on my part.

"Planked salmon" for those who don't know, is a slab of salmon fillet on a chunk of cedar that, according to the instructions, is to be put into the BBQ right there on top of it's own cedar-slab cutting board.

I remember years ago on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, I saw a guy fishing in the surf down by the beach. Figuring I'd make some small talk, I went down there.

Hey, how's the fishing?

Cum see cum saw the guy says. Holy shit, I'm asking a simple fishing question and the guy breaks into Latin?

Back when we were simple German immigrants who got to Canada from Poland via Denmark, I remember that we'd go on family fishing expeditions along the Grand River between Fergus and Elora. I remember we'd catch a lot of Perch and a few Catfish, but according to my parents everything we caught was a "smelt", and catch and release was an unknown concept.

If we caught it, it went in the fry-pan.

So I was mightily discombobulated when buddy on the beach answered my next question. Have you caught anything?

Ya, but I let them go.

Say what?

This made no sense, no sense whatsoever.

After a moment of head-shaking I said, so why are you standing here all day?

I swear, the guy looked at me like it's me who's retarded.

I looked at historical data from the fishery in the Saint John river out in New Brunswick, and according to the stuff I saw, back in the old days the  fishermen could make a year's wage in a few days when the herring or the salmon run was on.

Of course, greed being the way of things, the herring are scarce to non-existent and the salmon haven't run the Saint John River for years. They still run the Mirimachi and a few other rivers, but today the only people fishing there are foreigners who hire a local guide at $800 a day.

I should say those are the only people fishing legally, because in New Brunswick, just because the law says you can't fish doesn't mean people don't. In fact, one of my buddies at the drydock was telling me about his favorite fishing hole, and I said isn't that the Saint John water reservoir?

He says, ya, and you park your boat-trailer right by the no-fishing sign out by the highway!

And there was a multi-scale approach to fishing and poaching. You needed a tag to catch salmon, which is what the rich tourists got for their $800 a day.

It was only after I'd been there for a time that I found out there was a price you got for a salmon you had a tag for, another price for a totally illegal salmon, and yet a third price for a salmon that had a tag but the customer gave the tag back to you.

But this is now.

There's a case flailing through the Ontario court system where some local oafs beat up some Chinese fishermen somewhere north of Toronto.

The Chinese fish for Carp. I guess it's an acquired taste, because even long before the niceties of "catch and release" Carp was a throw-back.

I'm thinking most of the "smelt" my immigrant family was catching back in the early '60's was probably throw-back material too.

Luckily, we stayed under the radar of the local immigrant-beaters and we had some mighty fine fish feeds.

As for the "planked salmon," it comes from fish farms in Norway, and sale price or not, I don't imagine it will be returning to Falling Downs anytime soon.

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