Lobster in Area 28
Story by Chief Charlie Dennis
The Bras d’Or Lakes have always been known to have harvestable lobster. I talked to old fishermen, like Alfred MacKay, Clearwater, and other fishermen from Alder Point who remember fishing in the Lakes. There were so many lobster in those years that you couldn’t squeeze another lobster in a trap, but the markets were poor.
Anyway, it got to a point that I was getting involved in different aspects of commercial fisheries. I worked for Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife, but we also wanted to make sure everybody worked year-round. We were interested in harvesting lobster in the Lakes, but the licensing was the most difficult part.
We found out that there was one available lobster license that was owned by an Elder in Eskasoni. His name was Peter Richard Paul–Pi’Lalo. Well, that was how he was known. I think one of his grandsons works in the fisheries right now, but anyway, enough with the small talk.
I found out from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans about this program that an individual who wanted to retire could sell their license, just paper–no boat, no lobster traps–just the paperwork. The day I approached Pi’Lalo, I asked him if he would be interested in selling his license. At that time, people weren’t interested. I knew he wasn’t active at that time as far as lobster goes because he had very little equipment. So, when he heard about the DFO payback, he told me he would be more than glad to sell his license to me for what the government would pay, which was $2,000 for just the paper.
So, we had a fair exchange: I got the license but no boat, equipment, or experience. I had no experience fishing lobster. All I knew was I had to get lobster traps and cod heads. At that time, they were what anybody I talked to said I had to use. “You got to use cod heads, they last longer.” Which I found out wasn’t the case, but anyway, I’m jumping the story a little bit.
The first thing we had to do was get a little boat–one of those aluminum, flat-bottom fisheries boats. They were made by a boat builder in Baddeck, Warden MacRae, an aluminum welder. It was not that thin aluminum, this was heavy gauge aluminum. We had a boat that could haul maybe twenty traps. I already had a motor from my small little boat that I used for my trap line.
Well, anyway, next thing that had to come along was lobster traps, so I asked around the community–any fishermen that I ran into that had some experience. A lot of people were telling me all you have to do is get a truck and go down to Cheticamp, where there was a lucrative fishery. And sometimes people saw traps piled up in the yards, so there I went.
Old man Lawrence Toney, great friend of mine, him and I went down there. We didn’t have a lot of money so we didn’t want to pay too much for lobster traps. We bought about fifty and I was so proud of those traps! Now, the next thing we had to do was buy some rope and some buoys.
Well, anyway, it was an interesting episode. We had 50 traps and it was a busy time for everyone trying to help put these traps together making sure they had no holes in them. It was really a family get- together. The day came when the season opened and it was all excitement. We had our boat and when the traps were all done up we were just lucky that the weather was very calm that evening. It didn’t take long to put the traps in. I was throwing them just about anywhere as long as they were in the water, thinking that no matter where you threw them lobster would climb in and you would get them. But as time went on, of course we learned that wasn’t the case.
For the conclusion of this story check our next issue.