3 generations

Sonia - August 16, 2014

This week, your salmon will be caught by 3 generations of Strobel men.

Last week, Otto and Shaun, father and son, started fishing together onboard Omega V.  Days and nights of fishing are just too much for one fishermen to fish alone, especially one who is 73 years old, no matter how tough and resilient he still is.  And with the Fraser fish appearing in what looks to be the start of the big predicted numbers, there will probably be a lot of long days and nights of hard fishing this month.  Right now, the pattern seems to be that the DFO is giving fishermen two days on fishing, one day off.  So that means Otto and Shaun fish day and night, grabbing a couple of hours sleep here and there, for two days.  Then, on the “off” days, Otto and Shaun run into Port Hardy, off-load their catch onto the pick-up truck, and then Shaun drives to Vancouver.  Tristan meets him, trades trucks giving Shaun the truck with the empty totes.  While Tristan runs the totes of fish to Rumi to be processed, Shaun heads back up the coast for more fishing.  It’s quite the feat of logistics and stamina, if I do say so.

Last night, Shaun arrived home about 10:30pm.  Exhausted but exhilarated, he sat in the dimly lit kitchen with me and, over bowls of cereal, he told stories of nets laden with fish, of a swirling and rough tide change where the net was nearly lost, of a cruise ship that passed dangerously close, of a pod of killer whales that went right under the boat, of the cold days and nights, and how coming down the coast from Port Hardy feels like going back into summer briefly again.  He explained that they caught nearly 700 fish in two days – one of the highest catches among their peer independent fishermen.  And he smiled as he described how he and his dad talked for hours over fishing about times past and politics and the future.  It was like when he was a kid, both of them freed from the conflicts and tensions of the world, alone together in the vastness of the sea.

After too few hours of sleep, Shaun was up, tip toeing around the house, packing up a change of clothes, grabbing a piece of toast, and preparing to head back up to Port Hardy for another two days of fishing.  The tell tale sound of little feet slapping the hard wood told us Oliver was up.  He was thrilled daddy was home but then suddenly realized he was leaving again and began to tear up.

“But you just GOT here, daddy!”

“I know, buddy.  One of these days I’ll take you with me…” Shaun said as his eyes drifted up to meet mine.

I knew that look.  Oliver, at 6, is still a year younger than Shaun was when he started going fishing with his dad, but I know that all 3 generations of Strobel men want that little boy up there fishing with them.  Squashing back down all the objections that flood into my mouth every time the conversation comes up (“But you guys need your rest when you get breaks.” “He’ll just get in the way.” “You don’t have enough proper food for him.”  “What if he falls overboard?”), I swallowed hard.

“Oliver, get dressed as fast as you can.  You don’t want to miss that ferry, do you?”  I smiled.  Oliver’s eyes nearly popped out of his head and he jumped up to get dressed, grabbing his stuffed kitty on the way out the door.

Shaun bustled around getting things into the truck while Oliver talked non-stop about what they were going to do “And then we’ll eat pancakes on the ferry, and then we’ll see Opa, and then I’ll help get the fish out of the net, oh and we’ll put on the running lights when it gets dark, and we’ll have to watch for tides and I’ll put on the radar to watch for ships and then . . .”

As he hugged me before leaving, Shaun said, “You know, I really shouldn’t.  I need to sleep on the ferry, not entertain a 6-year old.  And when we get a break in fishing, we both need to rest, not watch him…” But he smiled and shrugged and I knew what he meant.  That even though there were plenty of logical reasons why taking a 6-year-old gillnetting didn’t make a lot of sense, it really was the only right thing to do.


Sonia - August 16, 2014

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3 generations

Sonia - August 16, 2014

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