One hun­dred set­ting days

Brian Locke marks spe­cial mile­stone in his lob­ster fish­ing ca­reer

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIC MCCARTHY

When Brian Locke sets sail Tues­day morn­ing from Howard’s Cove with Capt. Jimmy Reilly, it will be his 100th time par­tic­i­pat­ing in the lob­ster fish­ing in­dus­try’s set­ting day tra­di­tion.

Locke, 64, got his start in the in­dus­try in 1971 as sec­ond man with Mick Gal­lant.

They set from Arse­nault’s Wharf in Cas­cumpec to the north side lob­ster fish­ing grounds.

“I want to go fish­ing that one day,” he said in de­scrib­ing the ex­cite­ment of see­ing all the lob­sters that are caught at the very start of the fall sea­son.

“They have a big­ger first day than we ever do (on the north side) — more than dou­ble, prob­a­bly what we do.”

He crewed for Howard’s Cove fish­er­man Allen Cooke.

From 1973 to the early 2000s, with the ex­cep­tion of three years, he fished full or par­tial fall sea­sons out of Howard’s Cove with a se­ries of Cookes, mostly with his un­cle Cyril and cousin Ricky.

Fall fish­er­men, he noted, usu­ally work with one- to three-trap bunches while spring fish­er­men out of Al­ber­ton usu­ally work with five-trap bunches, mak­ing for a longer fish­ing day in the fall, even though they fish 50 fewer traps.

Tides in the Northum­ber­land Strait, es­pe­cially the new and full moon tides, are par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing, he said, ad­mit­ting he was con­founded by that at first.

“On my (Al­ber­ton) side, you pull up to the buoy and when the man is gaffing it, you shove (the throt­tle) in re­verse to keep from go­ing any­more. Over on this side, when you’re pulling up to the buoy and once he gaffs it, you shove the throt­tle down for­ward a lit­tle bit more to try to keep up to it.”

He re­calls fish­ing 10-trap bunches with his un­cle.

“We would fish the 10 traps and I would won­der why Cyril was sail­ing and sail­ing. He was just try­ing to get back to where he was when he started.”

From 1973 to 1981 Locke fished spring sea­sons with Ralph Arse­nault out of Arse­nault’s Wharf.

He’s been a boat cap­tain since 1982, hav­ing bought a gear out of Hardy’s Chan­nel for $25,000 in 1981.

Locke would prob­a­bly be mark­ing his 103rd set­ting day had it not been for a re­stric­tion in the early 1980s that pre­vented two cap­tains from be­ing aboard a lob­ster boat.

That re­stric­tion was dropped in 1985 and he has been help­ing out in the fall ever since, some­times for a week, some­times for a few days and other times just for set­ting day and the first full fish­ing day.

“I like to be part of that,” he said of the ini­tial fall rush. “I can help out quite a bit, too. There’s a lot of mea­sur­ing and band­ing to do.”

He noted lob­sters trap bet­ter in the warm wa­ter than they do in the cold tem­per­a­ture that marks the start of the spring sea­son.

But the catch is usu­ally cut in half by the sec­ond day of the fall sea­son and halved again on the third, while spring boats tend to see in­creases in catches af­ter three weeks.

Since 2006 he has also been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing set­ting day and the first day of fish­ing with Nova Sco­tia friends in Yar­mouth, Ch­ester and St. Martins.

He plans to keep up the tra­di­tion as long as he is able.

“One of my say­ings is, ‘On a nice day there’s no place I’d rather be than out there on the wa­ter, but on a dirty day, nasty day, I’d rather be any­where else.’”

ERIC MCCARTHY/JOUR­NAL PIONEER

Brian Locke adds bait to the traps as he helps load Jimmy Reilly’s boat Mon­day at Howard’s Cove in prepa­ra­tion for the open­ing of the fall lob­ster fish­ing sea­son. To­day is set­ting day in the Northum­ber­land Strait’s Lob­ster Fish­ing Area 25. This is Locke’s 100th time par­tic­i­pat­ing in set­ting day.

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