One hundred setting days
Brian Locke marks special milestone in his lobster fishing career
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.’”
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.