Mother and daughter fishing duo Lillian and Christine Day reflect on their time in the fishery
Lillian Day of Garnish will be 65 in September and while she says she’s doing so with “mixed emotions,” she will be hanging up her nets and retiring once this season is over.
“I’m getting out after 32 years in the fishery. I’ll miss it, I won’t lie. I’ll miss the first week the most, putting out the (lobster) pots. The first week of hauling is really exciting. If you don’t go the first week, you’re missing out on a lot,” the seasoned fisher begins.
Lifetime On the Ocean
She’s spent nearly a lifetime on the ocean, part of it spent fishing from what she calls ‘the shoreline’, a remote area called Round Nap near Point Rosie about 25 kilometres from Garnish. While she’s never shied away from the work, she also admits enjoying a secret pleasure while she and her husband fished more secluded waters from their 35’ longliner, MV Christie Gail.
‘‘One thing I like about fishing on the shoreline was the tranquility and the peacefulness of nature there and listening to the sea,” she says.
But the sea wasn’t always kind. “I also hated the sea at times when it came to hauling up the boat on the slipway. We had an ATV and a block and tackle on the sea bank to haul up the boat when we came in from fishing. My job was to hold the boat on by the slipway til Gerald would run up and tie on the boat to haul it in. Several times while waiting for Gerald to get everything ready to haul the boat out of the water, the sea would take me off my feet, and into the frigid waters below. Not nice in rough seas. There were close calls, but not anytime did I lose the boat off the slipway,” she says proudly.
When the seas turned rough, you just kept at it, she says.
“You just keep going. You are busy. If it’s raining, you zipper up to the chin. The worst is, when you come in, you’re satched right down through the middle. That’s the worst. Not the cold – the wet. But I never thought of giving up.”
Lillian’s daughter Christine Day sits near her mom.
“She’s not givin’ up because she wants to. Her health and dad’s health is starting to deteriorate just because of age. I said, get out while you still got some go in ya, or keep at it until you’re wore out,” she says.
‘A Dying Breed’
At 40, Christine has been fishing most of her life, but started full time in 1996. She lived away for a while, in Calgary, but returned home after a year. “I hated the lifestyle away and missed my roots,” she says. Many Newfoundlanders can relate.
Christine and her husband Jerry Peach purchased their own fishing license in 2007 and she’s been skipper ever since. “I love my job. Love my life. The fishery is one of a kind and honestly, with all the rules and regulations there are now, it makes it near to impossible for a young person to start a career which somewhat makes us a dying breed,” she says.
Reflecting on having a daughter in the fishery, Lillian sighs. Does it make her happy? “
“That is questionable. We always took the kids out in boat when they were small, banding lobsters or whatever, and we hoped they wouldn’t go into the fishery. My son, he’s older, he went doing hair. My daughter went on to pursue a career in Calgary and then came back fishing. Sometimes I’m nervous but I’m out there too and it’s what we know. I have no fear going out in boat, so I guess I have to like that she’s out there too.”
When asked why they felt it was important to showcase their way of life in The Herald, the women are clear.
“It’s important to know the women are not just collecting a check. When we gets paid it’s because we worked the same or as hard as any man. We don’t sit on the shore while someone else goes fishin’ and we take the credit. The only credit we get is what we worked for,” says Christine with passion.
Her mother agrees; “We are not just there on E.I., we are doing the work.”
It’s also about being proud of what you do as well, they both share, even when others seem to look down on those in the fishery. “I’m proud of what we do, but you got people who make you feel like you have to hang your head down like you’re ashamed. The women who posed for The Herald, and lots more like us, we all work hard and I’m proud to say it. I think that’s an important message to get out there,” says Christine.
It’s also important to show how these women have each other’s backs, she adds. “It’s nice to know that if you’re out there, someone is looking out for you. We are all after the same fish, but we all want to come home safe. If the wind picks up and you’re in trouble, you want someone to be there for you like you’d be there for them. You won’t be able to haul yourself in over. It’s important to help each other. If you’re done early, give someone else a hand. It’s how we do things around here.”
And they all have the same goal. They are the women who won’t give up on their roots. They are in it, so to speak, for the long haul.
“We live in rural Newfoundland yet we are able to make a comfortable living staying home here and we enjoys it. That says it all,” says Christine.
Lillian is quiet, lost in thought. What’s on her mind? we ask.
‘‘I got mixed emotions retiring. I don’t know. My daughter’s fishin’ so I’ll go out with her, but it’s hard to give up.”
Christine smiles. “She can go, but she won’t work like she used to. I’ll have her banding lobsters or something.”
Lillian laughs. The roles have reversed and that’s what passing the torch is all about.