Catching the Holiday Spirit
Twas the day after the first salmon opening, when all down the dock,
The fishermen were stirring, having their morning coffee and a lengthy talk;
Their socks and gloves were hung above the stove with care,
With hopes that their gillnets weren’t in need of repair.
When up on the dock there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their boats to see what was the matter.
When what to their wondering eyes should arise,
But a jovial man with a most welcome surprise.
He was dressed in his gumboots and a cozy warm fleece,
His jeans all tarnished with oil and grease;
With a wave of his hand and a nod of his head,
Everyone knew there was fresh salmon to be had.
Commercial fishermen know how to capture the spirit of the holidays year round. No matter the season, they spread joy by inviting other fishers and landlubbers alike onto their boats for lavish seafood meals and festive drinks. It doesn’t matter where or when, delivering gift sized packets of fresh-as-you-can-get seafood always creates an atmosphere of merriment.
There are many fishermen who exemplify these Santa-like qualities, but one in particular has taken it up a notch. Captain of the F/V Sun Mariner, Barry Marcotte is famous in Prince Rupert for his onboard fish frys. If you’re lucky enough to get an invite, it’s something you won’t forget.
It’s the day after the gillnet boats have delivered their catch of Nass River sockeye salmon in Prince Rupert. Barry sends out the word that there will be an evening celebration. Those of us lucky enough to receive an invite arrive down to the docks while Barry filets a beautiful silver sockeye that he caught just yesterday.
We all clamour onboard to seat ourselves around the galley table as the late summer sun streams in through the window. After having our mugs filled to the brim with wine, our ears are treated to the sizzle and pops of fresh sockeye strips being dropped into the hot oil of the cast iron frying pan. With it, we hear stories of the old days, a recent coastal adventure and a little fisheries politics thrown in to make for some well-rounded pre-dinner conversation.
It’s time for the first round out of the frying pan. Barry piles our plates high with a mountain sized portion of sushi rice and wild sockeye salmon that melts in your mouth. Barry is in his element. With his cheeks rosy and eyes twinkling, his energy is infectious. He’s sharing what he loves the most, and in return, witnesses how thoroughly we all enjoy this one-of-a-kind experience. It’s hard to beat the experience of eating fresh fish right on the boat cooked by the fisherman who caught it!
As the evening carries on, wine glasses are refilled, a second serving is ready, and everyone is made to eat more than they possibly have room for. Afterward, Barry brings out the photo albums so we can look through all the adventures, dinners, and parties hosted on the Sun Mariner over the years.
This tradition of sharing seafood on and off the boat is learned early when you grow up in a fishing family. Coming from Salt Spring Island, Barry started fishing with his father when he was nine years old. Every year, he watched his father bring fish home to family and friends, especially if someone in the community had fallen on hard times. This tradition of giving embodies the spirit of the holidays.
If learning to carry the holiday spirit year round is something you find most appealing, then I would highly recommend embarking on a career as a commercial fisherman. Or, at least make sure to befriend one.
Interview and photos by Chelsey Ellis