A provider is born

Susan Flanagan
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Family patriarch proves himself by snagging the Kingpin

My husband has turned out to be a real provider. This time last year I had my doubts, but now I know for certain, he’s a true man who, if given a hook and line, can put food on the table.

Last year, you see, we were vacationing in lovely Straitsview on the Northern Peninsula at our friends’ Barbara and Cyril’s when we were invited to go out cod jigging on the Mary Boneta, owned by Carl Hedderson from Noddy Bay. It was a big boat — like 50-foot big, give or take a fathom or three.

We boarded in Quirpon (rhymes with Harpoon — I know this only because I lived up there 25 years ago and quickly learned local pronunciations), which is home to one of the bread ovens built during the 2004 French Celebrations.

After loading aboard the coolers and barbecue and guitars, we headed out to L’Anse aux Meadows to see what it was that enticed the Vikings to come ashore over 1,000 years ago. We did our cod jigging off Cape Bauld on the north end of Quirpon Island, drifting below Quirpon Lighthouse and Inn where Linkum Tours has developed 10 guest rooms in which tourists can relax and take in the whales and icebergs.

There is no road to the lighthouse so, like us, guests take a boat from the wharf in Quirpon (or fly out by helicopter). A chopper may seem farfetched, but when you consider rooms are between $350 and $375 double occupancy plus $50 per child, you can understand how a helicopter ride might fit perfectly into some budgets.

And from what I hear, a stay at the four-star inn is worth it. The lighthouse was built in 1922 and still functions. Guests stay in two outbuildings with all meals included in the cost.

Anyway, as we drifted below the lighthouse, my husband tried his hand at cod jigging. When he finally got a bite, everyone directed their eyes to see what size cod this landlubber would pull over the gunnels. What he pulled in was a shock to all of us. It was not a cod. It was not a sculpin. It was not even a crab. What it was, was a softball-sized sea cucumber.

The children laughed and went back to eating burgers or whatever they were doing at the time. The prize-worthy sea cucumber faded from memory.

Until last week, when my husband was once again invited to go cod jigging — this time out of Hants Harbour, also known as the Hamptons of Newfoundland, or Centre of the Universe, or Belly Button of the Bay. My hopes were not high when he left our cabin with No. 3 and his sidekick cousin from Calgary in tow.

I watched them circle the bay in the speedboat, wondering if they would venture outside the wave break. When they finally disappeared, they held contests to see who would be the first to jig a cod.

Well, for a long time sidekick cousin was owner of the largest cod, maybe 15-20 pounds. The rest of the fish were a reasonable 7-10 pounds. They had caught their 14th fish and were on the last contest.

That’s when my husband proved his manhood. He got a bite, pulled in the line a little and thought he had hooked the bottom.

“No sir,” said boat owner and gracious host Steve King, after leaning over to test the line. “Keep pulling.”

Soon enough, something surfaced and it was not a sea cucumber. The Kingpin was a monster. The hook pierced his lip and the skipper advised not to pull too hard as it might rip right through, letting loose the godfather of all cod. My husband did as he was instructed, gently pulling in the line until Steve caught hold of the fish and pulled him aboard.

The Kingpin weighed in at 35 pounds — according to a rusty old scale with barely discernible markings on the side — the biggest fish of the day. Once it was gutted, Steve and his father, Woody, separated the fillets into seven-pound bags and put them on ice for us to transport back to the city.

My husband, the provider, tried to fillet one of the smaller fish caught that trip — they weren’t letting him mangle the beauty — but was in the process of turning a 15-pound fish into a seven-ounce fillet when the experts took over. They insisted we take it all. The cooler was so heavy I had to distribute some to the neighbours before I could take it out of the trunk.

Monday night we had the best feed of pan fried cod I’ve ever tasted. Furnished by my husband, the provider, with a little help from his friends.


Susan Flanagan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.


Conner-catching contest feedback:

Gertie Pike writes: “We have been trying for a while now to do Centre Hill … now I can't wait. I really liked the conner contest in Hant's Harbour. Your articles bring the uniqueness of our precious province alive.

You are doing a super job and always placing the family in the forefront.”

Organizations: French Celebrations, Vikings, Quirpon Lighthouse and Inn

Geographic location: Quirpon Island, Noddy Bay, Cape Bauld Hants Harbour Newfoundland Calgary Centre Hill Hant

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