Page 26 - Poaching for Salmon on the Margaree
ISSUE : Issue 28
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1981/6/1
and everything was black right quick. You had no money those days to pay fines. You had to go up to Port Hood, the County seat, sent before the justice of the peace, if you were caught taking a salmon illegally. It didn't make any difference how hungry you were or how badly you needed salmon, if you were caught. I was never caught. But there was an old story an old Murphy fellow told me one time from out Big Brook--he was an old salmon spearer, he used to follow the river. They caught him-- the wardens caught him--and they told him he had to appear in Port Hood--no, Inver? ness then. He had to appear in three days. The same night they caught a Ross fellow from Portree--four miles further up. So when the three days were up, Murphy got up early in the morning and went to Inverness. Actually, it may have been the very next day--but in any case, he had a fresh sal? mon with him. Murphy took along a nice big fat salmon to sell in Inverness to pay his fine. So when he got out to the main road from Big Brook, Ross from Portree was com? ing along in his wagon. They knew one an? other. "Where are you going, Mr. Murphy?" "I was caught spearing and I've got to go to Inverness." "Gosh," the Ross fellow said, "I was caught too. There's where I'm going." Ross fellow said, "How are you go? ing to pay your fine?" "I got a big salmon under the seat. I'm going to sell it in In? verness." Ross said, "I got one, too." You'd have perhaps a flashlight when you were sweeping with the net. But this flam? beau was for spearing salmon--that gave a beautiful light. You could see the bottom of the river, you could see everything. That's why it was so easily detected by the warden, if he was around at all. But those days I've heard the old fellows say that they've known seven boats to be on the river at one time, different pools, different sections of the river. The war? dens had beats. Using a boat and a flam? beau, you speared the fish. When you come down the pool over your salmon, they'll back up, but the first time over they're not wild. Just going right slow and hug? ging the bottom. And you have all the chances in the world to get him. But the next trip over, you're going to have wild salmon. You put your boat in right up at the head of the pool and start, and go o- ver your pool till you get to the lower end. And it's like anything else--like learning a trade--you know what to do. You light your flambeau and just drift and you have no time to waste--you've got to pick them as you come over them. Some you'll miss. Some probably will be wild. But you usually pick up a salmon or two for a trip over a pool. Then times advanced and pine root got scarce and they couldn't find the pitch pine to make their lights, and gasoline engines came in and kerosene lamps and peo? ple learned how to make a light with oil. They used to use bags and kerosene--old sacks. Last long enough for going over a pool. Go over the next one, you could re? plenish the kerosene. Then gasoline came in. One fellow at the threshing mill (it' was run by gasoline engine) said we're go? ing to try this on salmon spearing tonight. I believe it will make a beautiful light. So that night they all made up they would meet at the river and try it in their flam? beau. He took some of this gas, it was very strong. In the commotion of getting the boat to the river and the bags in and the flambeau in and everything, his can was leaking a little on the boat and a lit? tle on the beach. Got some on the flambeau and he hollered, everything was ready. All he needed was a match. He struck the match and the boat went afire, th' flambeau and river and beach and everything. Discour? aged the gasoline. Piece of iron tire A piece of wood S'ti cj<' at the bow. The stick goes thru that and down into a block in the boat's bottom. "It took a second to put it Basket ' in--and "y half a second ' to put it out." With the flambeau, you went over the pool, and if you missed or you didn't get any fish--you went back over the pool again. If there were fish down below in another pool, you just keep going down to another pool. But there's a limit to how far you could travel, because you can't twitch a boat back too far. Haul it back up the riv? er again. The fellow that handled the boat, he had a spear too and he was in the tail of the boat, and he used this spear handle to steer the boat, and if you missed the salmon the fellow in the rear tried to get him, but he also steered the boat. If you were going too fast, he dragged it on the bottom. And if you were heading for the shore or bushes, he could use it like a rudder. Then if he saw a salmon he could use it as a spear. (You go from upper end to lower end of the pool. Then how do you get back up?) Plain strength and awkward- ness--pull the boat back up. Rope on the front end and walk along the shore and the boat would come right back up. Flat-bot? tomed boat. (Did you use the flambeau?) I did. But not very much. I was coming in just as it was going out. They were doing it for genera? tions. I wasn't ashamed of it. I would be today. It's a different situation. We have money and we can go to the store--we don't need to do that today. (You knew it was il? legal.) But I didn't think it was wrong. And I wasn't thinking about how wrong it was. I was thinking about getting some fish to feed the family. And the same as my neighbour. I never met a man who thought it was wrong. He had an obligation to feed his family. But today is a differ? ent situation althogether. (I've heard sal? mon were so abundant then that there was waste.) Well, I never heard that from the old people. What couldn't be eaten fresh was always pi(;kled for the winter. Mrs. Hart: All I'd have is the worry of it. Soaking wet, he'd come in drenched to the hide. But you wouldn't mind when you knew there was nice salmon at the end of it. I canned the salmon afterwards. Put it up in
Cape Breton's Magazine