Being from the heart of the city of Toronto Ontario, many would find it odd that I have spent many seasons as a commercial fisherman. A few people have asked me over the past few months let alone years, what it’s like and how to go about getting a job on a commercial fishing vessels in different Area’s of Canada when your not a local.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of experiencing the commercial fishing industry in many areas first hand. I have fished in Canada on The Bay Of Fundy (Advocate Harbour) in (2002), out of Mabou Harbour Cape Breton Nova Scotia last Spring (in 2015), and over seas in Aberdeen Scotland U.K. ( in 1997-1998) as well. Every time I have fished somewhere it has been a very different situation or circumstance.
BOATS I HAVE FISHED ON OVER THE YEARS.
boy gordon 02 – Copy – Copy Plaice /crab/ skate
Aberdeen harbour Scotland
Lobster season 2015
Mabou Harbour Cape Breton N.S.
Advocate Harbour N.S This was not this boat, but the old boat I was on is no longer there.
lobster boat i fished on when our boat was broke down
Mabou Harbour N.S. 2015
No job is alike, and every species is fished differently. I suggest if you are seriously considering giving this type of work a try, then you do your homework to find out exactly what type of species you’d like to fish for before just jumping into the deep end. Last Spring, although I have been on several types of boats and fished many species, I found myself fishing for 1 day on a snow crab boat and let me tell ya, I thought I was a hard core fisherman, but that 1 day on a crab boat just about killed me LOL.
This was the boat for 1 day for snow crab & I did 2 days lobster on this vessel as well while the boat I was on had some mechanical problems and was getting repaired.
Mabou Harbour 2015
Before I get into the next 10 questions you should ask yourself Why am I going to try working on a commercial fishing boat? If the answer is , because I have watched every episode of Deadliest Catch over the past 11 years and you want to go earn a tonne of cash in a short period of time, Then you may as well stop reading any further. The reality is, there are a tonne of guys every year that make their way up the Dutch Harbour and places like that where the big boats are looking for work, but unfortunately when they get up there they realize there is slim to no chance to ever land a job like that. there are just too many experienced fisherman living in those areas and have already secured a spot on one of the many vessels long before this was even a thought in your head. Truth is in order to land one of those positions you may have to volunteer your time as a deck hand for free and or work in the less desirable jobs for years before you get the chance to become a greenhorn on one of those boats. However if your answer was, for an adventure, and a life experience then by all means continue reading (LOL).
when looking for a species of fish that you think you would like to try ask yourself these following questions.
Obviously, your google search engine will help you with this.
2. What shape am I in, and can I handle the work load?
If you Youtube the type of fishing you are researching you can see what type of physical demands are required. However, remember you will have to repeat these tasks over & over again, all day long, and Youtube will generally not give you an idea of the hardest parts of the job.
This information is easily found when researching the time of year from step 1.
You can find a job from home, or, from dockside. You can use your computer and go on Government job listing sites, craigslist, Kijiji, and any other sites you can think of that you can generally find work. Search by province and key words such as, fisherman, deck hand, corks-man,or second-man, and the type of fish you want to fish for. However, to be honest, many of the captains are old school. You may not find very much on line and still the best method is to be ready and willing to work dock side. Not being local you may need to work a little harder. Being dockside the week (or preferably 2) prior to the season, volunteering your time, loading traps, splicing ropes, and odd jobs, is a great way for captains to get comfortable enough to offer you a position or give you a reference to another captain in the fleet. do not over crowd a captain, if he looks uninterested in you then be prepared to hand him a business card with your information and picture on it so he can be reminded of who you were or pass it along to other captains that may be looking for deckhands.
Another great way, is to befriend the waitress at the local pub. She is often the local ‘fishermans therapist’, so if anyone knows the local fishermen, and who is hiring, its her (LOL). Leading up to the season many captains take lunch (in-between 11am and 3pm) at the pub as a break from this busy prep time. don’t be afraid to spend a bit and buy a round to break the ice with a few thirsty boat captains, it can go a long way, trust me LOL. Tip your waitress, she will remember you and every time you are in the pub you will get better service. for the entire duration of your working vacation.
Consider, gas mileage, train or air fair, food, and accommodation. Also, if driving, can you cover car repairs?. Even though we all tend to do things with great intent you may not be able to work as intended. If you can not find work, or cannot handle the physical demands, or discover you get sea sick, you will need to have enough money to come home before you even make a pay cheque.
If you are one of the lucky few to acquire a job prior to your departure, the captain may be a great resource for cost effective solutions. Otherwise, be prepared to be mobile because once you meet many friendly locals you may have an opportunity to find cheaper short term rental units that are not sourced online and a bit of a distance from the wharf. I have transported my own camper trailer as sites in local parks seem to be the best option. I have even parked my trailer at the wharf for a season at no cost to me. Even though my gas mileage heading there is higher. but I have even put my trailer right at the wharf that I was working out of so as to have $0.00 in accommodation fees. Be careful what time of year you leave with this option as a late thaw can limit availability to operational parks, (ie. power/heat) and leaving you a bit stranded LOL
yes I was a bit early last spring and we were 2 weeks delayed due to the ice. I had no power or running water during this time.
If you are taking a position where you are out to sea for days, weeks, or even months on end, do the math. It may be better to take a cheap motel for a day or two when on land then a monthly rental. If this is the option you choose you will only be traveling with a bag of clothes, pillow, and sleeping bag. You will have to budget for eating out when on shore.
Like any job you will most likely have a 2-3 week waiting period before seeing your initial pay. It is also important to keep in mind, if you are taking a position in the spring, jobs may be delayed due to a long winter and can add an additional couple of weeks to this time frame.
While you can find this information during your initial research, keep in mind, you do not want to financially depend on how long employment would be for the season. While your job may start late due to lingering winters it can also abruptly end due to early ice up.
Do not over estimate your abilities. You are going to work in harsh conditions, long hours, minimal days off, and grueling physical work. Start with a season which last weeks not months, with the ideas of possibly staying longer. Many captains will work the boat with back to back seasons with different species. They will probably never mention this until the end of one season, and then only if you were a great deck hand that they want back. If you are a valuable employee your captain or another in the fleet will know and possibly offer you further work.
The worst part about this is, it can happen at anytime, to anyone, and you have no choice but to, suck it up buttercup! No captain will spend thousands of dollars in fuel to bring you back to land. Taking Gravol works but only if taken prior to boarding. If you find out you get sea sick easily, your season is done. If it is happens randomly half way through the season, take medication for the next few working days before trying to go out without it. Sea sickness is the leading cause of most deckhands bowing out and walking out of the industry for good. I myself am lucky for the most part. I do not generally get seasick but I do remember back in Scotland a small period that I could not shake the sea sickness. It went on for 3 or 4 day’s straight and I can tell you I have never felt like I wanted to die like, I did then (LOL).
If everything comes together and all the above 10 tips come together without a hitch then you could be in for one of the best opportunities and or adventures of your life. If you think you are up for the adventure I can tell you its well worth it.
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My Fishing Adventures of the East Coast
Well the last day of my fishing adventure for 2015 on the East coast has come to an end. I came out with the intention of putting my head down for a few months and work hard on a lobster boat. I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest. I have worked on commercial vessels in previous years & in various parts of the world. In 2002 I spent a summer working on a scallop boat in Advocate Harbour NS. shucking scallops. After my stint on the scallop boat, at the time the Captain had invited me to come back to work the lobster season. Unfortunately at that time I was unable to make the trip back out to try out the lobster season but ever since I have wanted to try my hand at fishing for one of the worlds finest high end sea food, as a deck hand.
With the TV shows such as wicked Tuna, Deadliest Catch, Cold Water Cowboys, over the past 10 years and combined with the fact I now run my own fishing charter business which in my personal opinion is one of the best places to do what I do, chartering a world class fishery for arguably some of the largest walleye found in the world on The Bay Of Quinte. This peeked my interest to try and find a job for this past spring season. I was in for a bit of a shock tho, I had a false idea that lobster fishing would be one of the easier commercial fishing jobs that I would have ever experience and I was in for a rude awakening.
Maybe because im not as young and fit as I once was or maybe because truly Lobster fishing is actually a tough deal but I found this experience very rewarding and extremely difficult. With long hours (at least on my boat) LOL, Lobster fishing had quickly humbled me as I found I was not the lean mean fishing machine I figured I was when I looked in the mirror HA HA HA, Some 13 hour days 6 days a week lifting 250 traps a day weighing up to 120lbs each, sorting sea crustations that are trying all day to rip your fingers apart, Sorting through thousands of lobster daily, and banding up to 1500 (ish) claws per day, hanging over the edge of the boat to hook a rope which are often stuck on rocks and pulling against the tide while trying to balance yourself through rough seas. Everything in nature’s power is trying its hardest to prevent the fisherman of Cape Breton from trying to help supply the world with some of the finest tasting seafood many have come to love and rarely afford. But year after year these fishermen successfully battle the elements, and do so with dignity, and pride.
I was however fortunate enough to get a chance to see one the rarest lobsters in the ocean. the blue lobster, and not only did I get to see it once but on the last day of the season we actually got to pull up another blue lobster I think to be completely honest it was the exact same one we caught almost 2 weeks prior and released.
A friend of mine Jeff flew out to come for a visit and I was able to get him out on the boat for the last day of the season and he too was lucky enough to get the rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the blue lobster being caught and released back to its natural environment, a very special moment for me.
This type work is not for the weak, it is a tough job. But I would recommend it to anyone that are adventure seekers, determined, hardworking, has a love of fishing, loves being on the water, and of course does not get sea sick. I would challenge anyone who has never done it before to give it a try and see if you have what it takes to be a commercial lobster fisherman. And if you do then Cape Breton is the place to do it.
I will take a moment to thank a few people I have met out here I can only attribute my first ever successful season as a commercial lobster fisherman.
First to my new friends Liam, Boo, you guy’s to me are the salt of the earth type of people Liam helped me get sorted once I had arrived in Mabou Harbour he got the trailer working properly and helped me get my water tank filled up on a weekly basis among a tonne of other things you did for me without asking just because you are good people. Always willing to lend a helping hand, you guys are what helped make my trip enjoyable and I wanted to thank you for everything. your kids are amazing, Parker buddy, ill miss ya, keep your head up on the bike and hug Marry for me daily LOL.
Next Capt Andy, this individual helped me through the months as well. He invited me into his home for a hot showers and a meal on several occasions, He took me both crab, and lobster fishing while my captians boat was down getting fixed. I enjoyed every moment of your time I wish you the best of luck with your fishing charter business you are a hell of a fisherman one of the best, hard core, and a great guy in my personal opinion cheers bud. If anyone is looking for a wicked, tuna fishing adventure in Nova Scotia then check out Captain Andy’s charter I guarantee you’ll have the experience of a life time. Go to www.rankintunacharters.ca or call him at 902-9452709 you’ll be glad you did, and Capt I’d fish with you anytime.
Millan at the Downstreet in Inverness, you are a laugh for sure and the reason I kept coming back to the café, congrats on the new position bro you deserve it. Til next time bud.
And of course I must thank Captain Jody Rankin. Without you giving me this opportunity to kick my butt on the open water day in and day out this season I would not have had this incredible adventure giving me a memory of a lifetime. We have spent the last 2 months together, but we have spent more time together in that short period than I get to spend with my wife in a year. We fished calm waters, rough seas, been towed in from open water, worked through the break downs, caught lobsters, had break downs, worked through injuries together, did I mention the break downs HA HA HA. I hope we will fish again together sometime soon, I appreciate everything you did for me while I was here, oh and tell your wife she is an amazing cook LOL your a lucky man CPAT. maybe if you can make the trip to Ontario one day I’ll be able to return the favor, and again thank you for the opportunity.
There are many other people here on the island I met and wish I could mention but this blog would turn into a book so I’ll just stop there. But I will say that the experience of meeting some of the communities around the island I have never seen a more hospitable people in all the travels around the world I have ever been to and I look forward to making a trip back again someday. Thank you Cape Breton
Some other people I need to thank here are my family. I have 2 beautiful boys that have given me their support back home and always support me in my adventures in life, it was very hard for me to be away from you guys for this long and I look forward to seeing you soon. And of course my beautiful wife Rachel, without your support and sacrifice I could not go and do these crazy adventures. There is not a women on this earth that can put up with husband like me I know, and you do it in stride and with a smile. I’m a lucky man, I love you with all my heart, and I’m coming home, see you soon babe.
I hope for those that have followed my Fishing Adventures On The East Coast, that you enjoyed the story. This was about my real life interpretation of what its really like to become a deck hand on a commercial fishing vessel for the Lobster season. I’m sure I’ll be doing another one before long LOL.
If you enjoyed, please like and share my FaceBook Page, and /or Comment below, if you think you would like to try your hand at doing something like this I would be happy to speak with you and my be give some helpful advise.
Tight Lines, and full traps
The further into the season we get the harder it seems to be going for Captain Jody. As I wrote in the last blog our boat had been broken down, well things have not changed a week later. Now I’m not much of a mechanic but the problem with the boat I believe would normally be an easy fix, but with our boat, because of the age of it, it’s near impossible to find parts to replace broken ones. This problem proves no different, the captain had ordered a new tamper plate and when it arrived it was the wrong size. So the skipper drove to Charlottetown PEI and got the only machinist he could find to rotor the plate to size and drill the holes in the proper place so it would fit. After a 13 hour return trip we come to find the plate will not line up properly and the boat is still dead in the water.
On Friday morning I got a knock on the trailer door to Capt Andy’s helper asking if I would come out to help them for the day. since our boat was still down and not knowing where my captain was or weather the boat would be fixed that day I decided I would go and help Andy out for the day and try and make a bit of extra pocket cash.
The day with CPT Andy and crew was interesting, I was able to see how another fisherman operates and with the extra hand on board the day seemed to fly by, it really made a huge difference. When we had returned to the wharf Capt Jody’s boat had not moved and was still dead in the water.
On Saturday Jody had returned with the part machined and ready to install. The plan was to install the part and be on the water to run at least half our traps by 2pm ish, but the mechanic we expected to do the job did not show up to do the work. It wasn’t until late that afternoon when we were able to find a mechanic to come have a look. Once everyone had figured out what was going on, the mechanic left to re-drill the holes and returned only to find that the part, still would not fit into place once again and we were still dead in the water, so off I went to the cole mines harbour to see if I could catch up with my buddy Liam LoL.
Feeling that this problem with our boat would not be handled by anyone until Monday morning CAPTJody had decided to take out his Father’s (Capt Wayne’s) boat on Sunday morning to run his traps and giving us fresh bait in the traps and hope there were some lobsters to try and salvage some of his loss for the week.
What a good way for me to spend Father’s day a 16.5 hour day on the water to take my mind off of spending time with family. To our surprize the traps were full. It made for a hard day re-baiting the traps as there was not a lick of bait left in any of the traps but the lobsters were plentiful. We even got a blue lobster. It is pretty special to get a blue lobster as they are extremely rare, just to give you an idea my captain has been fishing lobster for approx 25years and he has only ever seen 1 before, about 10years ago. Apparently this one was quite a bit bigger than the last one weighing approx 5lbs or more. After a few quick pictures we decided to let the beast go to hopefully spawn some more of its kind in the future.
This was the 3rd boat (out of 10 boats) I have worked on in this harbour alone, since the start of the season. Well I came here for an experience and I’m beginning to think I’m getting what I asked for LOL.
just a random pic I decided to through into the mix LOL
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Wow what a week LOL this week was packed full of surprises. As I had mentioned in my last post on Monday we started the week by breaking down and getting towed back to the wharf. Tuesday went fairly well however the weather was a bit on the rough side but what do I expect, I guess we cant have great we ather all the time.
On Wednesday we fueled the boat first thing in the morning and I think we may have made it about 6 maybe 7 feet from the wharf when the boat lost all power again and we blew back to the dock and tied up, the day was a write off. both Wednesday and Thursday we were going nowhere as the boat needed a bit of TLC. as we finished the repairs to the boat at about midnight Thursday it was late to bed and early to rise so we could try and play catch up baiting traps and banding claws.
the wind was blowing hard on Friday and a north wind at that. The Captain seems to always get seasick with the north winds and this time was no different. as the day moved on and the skipper feeling ill he wasn’t about to go in as we had missed to much fishing time this week already. we were hauling traps as we normally would when the rope tightened right up and stopped the hauler dead in its tracks, as the skipper reached out to the rope to try and shake it free ( it sometimes works), the rope sprung out of the hauler sending the 20lbs metal wheel (called the block) straight into the skippers head. hardly a peep out of his mouth he went down on one knee holding his head. I didn’t really see what had just happened I thought the rope had hit him, not the block. anyway with the skippers head bleeding and him feeling seasick he now had a giant headache to boot. anyway ill give it up for the CPT he toughed through it and worked the rest of the day.
Saturday was not gentle on us either with large rolly waves in the morning and rain most of the day another long day but the week was done for the Skip.
As for me Sunday at 2am I had a knock on the trailer door to start my first day as on a crab boat.
the ride out to the crab grounds was about 2 hours of decent sea’s but by the time we were ready to start hauling crab traps the wind was blowing a north wind, about 25km North wind too.
as the waves hit the boat one at a time relentlessly throughout the day it slowly started making me loose by sea legs LOL by about 5pm the boat was going one way and I was going the other, I wasn’t sick but totally disoriented. I have now experienced lots of different types of fishing and this by far was the hardest longest 20.5 hours I have ever put on the water. at 10:30pm we were back at the wharf and I cant remember the 25foot walk back to my trailer, and believe I was asleep before I hit my pillow.
Monday morning came fast and furious at 4:30 am to start week 6 (I think) of the lobster season. The Skipper had somewhere to be and with the winds blowing hard on the Sunday the harvest wasn’t great so we were in by 3pm an early day for us. once we unloaded our catch at the wharf we were heading across the harbour to our regular parking spot when we lost all power to the boat again. me standing at the stern ready to jump onto the floating dock to tie off was wondering why the boat started going sideways towards other parked vessels I yelled to the skipper to PUT HER IN REVERSE when he replied ” I GOT NOTTIN” Moving quickly to push us off the other boats we were about to hit we managed to get the old girl nosed into the wharf and tied off. The Boat was dead in the water and the transmission was finally dead.
As bad as I feel for the captain about this, truth be told I was happy to get a day off LOL it has been a long week, with the break downs I had still had approx 80 to 90 hours on the water in the past 7 days. although I hope the problem can be fixed fairly quickly or the season may be done for the skipper and I.
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My Fishing Adventures on the East Coast
I have just finished my 2nd week of Lobster fishing out of Mabou Harbour Cape Breton NS. Atlantic Lobster fishing is not for the weak, this type of fishing is a lifestyle and a hard one at that. After my 2nd week completed I can tell you that this can be long hard hours on the water. Since I have started on day 2 I have had swollen hands from the repetitive action of banding lobsters for 12 hours a day. If you are not used to a certain type of work your body will let you know it fast, and won’t let you forget it either. I have had a bad bout of tendinitis in my left wrist after the first day of work and it hasn’t let up. If you have never had this before it feels like someone swinging a bat and hitting your wrist every time you close your hand, so every time I land a trap on the boat, gaff a buoy, band a lobster, or anything that involves me using my left hand I get that feeling. I have battled it with pain killers and a tenser bandage but it only masks a portion of the pain.
Yesterday was another rough day on the water with 25km with gusts of 33km west winds it made for a rolly morning. As If the waves weren’t bad enough then our hauler (winch)went down after pulling only 30 traps onto the boat. The captain made the decision to head back into the wharf to check out the problem as it would have been too dangerous to go down in the engine room with the rough weather. Once back at the dock we checked out the source of the problem which thankfully was a quick easy & inexpensive fix and we were back heading out into the open water once again. As we headed out the weather had picked up even more as we headed out. Try to picture this, as we headed over each swell when looking ahead we would see only sky at one moment then we would head down the other side of the wave and all we could see was water in front of us. With my life jacked buckled tight back on deck I went as we approached our next buoy in order to get the trap aboard I need to lean over the side of the vessel and use a gaff (a stick with a hook on the end of it) and try to use the hook to catch the rope underneath the buoy then pull it up and take the rope and put it on the hauler. Doing this in this type of weather with my wrist problem made for an interesting morning to say the least. Walking on the boat in this type of weather is like stumbling home after a good night of drinking but only your sober.
Anyway it wasn’t long maybe another 30 traps were pulled and the hauler decided that it was time to call it a day as all we heard was a bang below deck and the hauler once again was not working. The captain decided to call it a day and we headed back to the wharf, 1.5 crates of lobster on deck was just barely enough to cover the captains expenses for the day but none the less we were homeward bound and I had completed my 2nd week of Atlantic lobster fishing. Once back at the wharf the skipper rewarded me with enough of the ocean crusteations for a nice lobster feed.
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