Dumping Day on Thurber’s Tradition

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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Photos from the deck of a lobster boat on the first day of the season on St. Mary's Bay

Tony Thurber was the last boat away from the wharf in Freeport.

The others had good reason to hurry – low tide was 8 a.m.

Most of the boats draw too much water to make it through the channel from South Cove wharf for two hours either side of low water. And that’s without a couple hundred traps piled on deck.

[14 photos from the deck of Thurber's Tradition on dumping day]

[3 videos from dumping day (after the first is over, the others will appear at the bottom of the window)]

To be safe, most of the boats left the wharf around 3 a.m on dumping day, Tuesday, Nov. 29, and tied up to a lobster carr to wait for the official start at 6 a.m.

Thurber was waiting for one last crewmember coming from Digby on the 5:30 ferry.

“I’m never in a hurry,” said Thurber to a guest who also came on the 5:30 ferry. “Are you ready? Let’s go.”

Thurber’s boat was one of the biggest in Freeport when he bought it 12 years ago. Now, at 44’ 8” by 15’, the Thurber’s Tradition is one of the smallest. The others run upwards of 17’, 18’ even 19’ across.

They draw six or seven feet of water; Thurber only draws four.

He left the wharf just before 6 a.m., headed south through Grande Passage and then northeast into St. Mary’s Bay.

Not in a hurry, he says, but Thurber’s Tradition steamed by several boats including Tim Crocker’s Grace and Madeline.

“That was a little closer than I like it,” said Thurber afterwards. “I thought he saw me coming by him on the inside but I see he had the wheelhouse lights on so I guess he didn’t.”

All part of the fun on dumping day, as fishermen head for their favourite fishing grounds.

For Thurber that’s just around Dartmouth Point along the coast of Long Island, right where the salmon cages are sitting.

He usually sets his first 120 traps right down through that same spot. This year he started up a little further than normal and ended a little sooner. He figures about 45 of his traps are in a different spot than normal.

“Well we had to figure out something a little different this year,” he says. “It’s been good fishing there the last two years. But some years the lobster are there and some years they aren’t. It might have been good again in there this year, but well, I’ll never know.”

It was still dark when Thurber began setting near the cages. He knew exactly where the lease boundaries were thanks to flashing lights on the metal balls at all four corners.

“It’s a lot more than just the cages. You can see from here how much space they take up.”

The sun came up while Thurber and his crew were out there. They use a solid red buoy.

“It’s no good for the dark but I’m no fan of this night fishing,” says Thurber. “You can have the brightest lights in the world, it’s still not the same as daylight.”

Thurber is also no fan of off-shore fishing.

“I went off there one time and went away for the weekend,” he says shaking his head. “When I came back I found the draggers had been through there. I lost 51 traps and I’ve never been back since.”

When he returns to South Cove for a second load of traps, he lets the Thurber’s Tradition glide slowly through the channel. It’s 7:30 a.m., a half-hour before low tide. The crew on back can see the bottom, it’s only about five feet deep.

Behind him Lee Melanson has less luck. The Pride of Mine sticks fast on the bar and only after ten minutes of rocking back and forth does he manage to get free.


The Freeport fishermen aren’t allowed to make their first haul before midnight on dumping day. Thurber, no fan of night fishing, waited for first light Wednesday.

He says the weather was pretty miserable but since it’s giving fine for Thursday he’ll haul more traps then. He quite correctly wouldn’t let the Courier print any information about his catches.

He hasn’t heard yet about the price but some people are saying $3.25.

“It’s pretty bad, when you’re hoping for $3.50,” says Thurber. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

[14 photos from the deck of Thurber's Tradition on dumping day]

[3 videos from dumping day (after the first is over, the others will appear at the bottom of the window)]


Geographic location: South Cove, Freeport, Dartmouth Point Long Island

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