TWILINGATE, HERRING NECK AND HAPPY ADVENTURE, N.L. — On shores across the central region, the signs of cod appear to be a mixed bag.
Twillingate’s Jim Gillard, better known by his business name Skipper Jim, says the opening weekend of this year’s recreational cod fishery proved a bit tougher than previous years.
“Any other year by the 1st of June there’d be lots of fish moved into the bay, but they haven’t gravitated there yet,” Gillard said. “With 40 years of fishing I know where to drop my hook, but there’s not fish in a lot of those typical areas.”
While taking some tourists out on his boat tour, Gillard says he managed to get his 15 cod fish, but in much deeper water than usual. Some capelin rolled into Wild Cove on Twillingate Island earlier in June, but Gillard says the cod he caught did not have any capelin in their bellies.
“They’re still in deeper water, still chasing the capelin,” he said. “When they’re out there on the move like that it’s hard to find them.”
Further south to Happy Adventure on the Eastport Peninsula, Chuck Matchim says signs were also poor the few trips he’s made at the cod. Because of recurring strong southwest winds, Matchim has only been able to go at the fishery on two occasions.
“We spent an hour or so just to get seven or eight fish, and from speaking with some other fishers there’s not much cod around right now,” said Matchim.
However, one fisherman says these difficulties do not necessarily mean the cod is nowhere to be found.
Lloyd Burry, who operates a sentinel fishery out of Happy Adventure, says there are serious signs of cod in the area, but with plentiful capelin the cod are just not hungry.
The sentinel fishery is done to assess cod stock and population sizes in different areas across the island. This past week off the coast of Happy Adventure, Burry found 500 pounds of cod in one net. To his delight, the cod were also healthy and plump.
“I’ve been at the sentinel fishery the past 19-20 years, and this is the best shape I’ve ever seen the cod in my life,” said Burry.
Burry says the cod are both plentiful and “right full” of capelin. Whenever the fish are glutted with bait, chasing after that shiny and glimmering hook of a jig line is no longer as enticing. He suspects this is the key factor in the lack of excitement with the food fishery thus far.
On the northeast edge of New World Island in Herring Neck, Ryan Burt is seeing these plentiful signs of cod first hand. He had a very successful first trip at the recreational fishery this year.
“There’s lots of it down Herring Neck way, took about 15 minutes for us to get our fish – and just in the one spot,” Burt said. “It was all nice fish too, biggest one was around 30 pounds.”
Burt says he’s heard there are strong signs of cod in other parts of New World Island, such as Cobb’s Arm.
While the opening weeks of the fishery presented difficulties for some, with these strong catches and assessments there is potential for a strong year for cod.
Into the coming weeks, all of these fishermen are hoping to experience the latter.