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Ice and weather causing problems for Northern Peninsula crab fishers

The crab fishery is underway for harvesters across the Great Northern Peninsula. While catch rates are varying, travelling ice and rough weather has been a problem for many this season.
The crab fishery is underway for harvesters across the Great Northern Peninsula. While catch rates are varying, travelling ice and rough weather has been a problem for many this season. - Submitted

Slow start to this year's season for some

NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – In a normal season fish harvester Ronald Patey of Englee would have caught his crab quota by now.

However, bad weather and ice are causing problems for crab harvesters on the Northern Peninsula so far this fishing season.

Patey of Englee made his first crab-fishing trip on May 17.

“It’s unreal how slow going it is,” said Patey. “I believe my first trip last year we hauled up 2,800 pounds. Our first trip this year we hauled up 700 pounds.

 “On average with three weeks of fishing we’d be finished, but unless things change we’ll be going right until the end of the season to get our quota this year.”

With ice moving in from northern Labrador, Patey says some fishers fear they may lose their crab pots.

This ice is also limiting where harvesters can use their gear.

Maxwell Sexton of Goose Cove put out his first pots of the season on May 21 and 22, but is worried that when he and his son Jason haul their gear this week they may have issues with ice.

‘The key is to get out there early’

The situation is a little better for St. Anthony fisherman Jamie Rose.

He’s finished his season on Thursday, May 24, and landed his total quota of 85,000 pounds.

For the past month, Rose has been fishing in area four in the 3K region on his 65 ft boat.

Due to harsh weather he was only able to make three trips in that time.

For his enterprise, Rose says it’s been a consistent year in terms of catch rates.

“We don’t usually have too hard a time getting the crab, the key is to just get out there early,” Rose said.

Currently, the fishery is only open during the spring and early summer. Rose says it would be much easier to fish crab in the fall, as they wouldn't have to contend with ice.

Roy Ward of Goose Cove also fishes out of area four in 3K. He’s been fishing for the past three weeks and currently has 18,000 pounds caught with 32,000 more to go to meet his quota.
Like others, weather has been a factor.

“We’ve been trying a lot of different areas to shoot our gear and get clear of the ice,” said Ward. “It makes it torture; when there’s ice around you don’t get as much fishing time on your gear and you can’t haul as much.”
   
On a recent trip travelling ice had shifted three some of Ward’s crab pots and, because of the ice, he cannot get to the pots to haul them up. He moved his other gear to a different location to avoid the ice.

Ward says the catch rates appear to be improving overall, with smaller crabs appearing to be plentiful .

“I see more smaller crabs now, which is a good sign for recruitment,” he said. “It seemed for a while like crab had bottomed out but it’s starting to grow back now.

“It’s nothing to get too excited about yet, but it does paint a better picture.”

kyle.greenham@northernpen.ca

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