Wow, summer is finally here. I dusted off my second-hand air conditioner and cleaned off the dead mosquitoes and flies off the grill and readied the window for the first official indication that summer is really here. To make it ecologically official, belugas arrive just in time, migrating near the Great Whale River (hence the name) and boats scramble out to the semi choppy waters to get some highly valued muktuk, a delicacy that seems to have a varied description from one happy chewer to another. Taste like peanuts says one, while another doesn’t have the time to spare in between swallowing. For me, it means that fish are somewhere nearby.
In the cool breeze of the air exchanger, I look for lures and lines, checking to see if the rod hasn’t broken during the past 11 months of storage. I discover that the worms I imported from the south had petrified into hard skinny things that had a pretty unpleasant odour. If robins can eat them and live, I guess that a fish can do the same. I text for another annual shipment from a buddy in the next community to rustle up some more worms and send them soon, before the fish change their minds and prefer something snobby like shrimp. The lines are near untangled and I double check to make sure that the rod can take something larger than a minnow, bending the rod slightly does the trick. Enough testing, let’s get some action.
On arriving at the favourite spot, I quickly return for some good old poisonous Deet to ward off the voracious mosquitoes, which have learned that my blood type is so tasty and managed to pass around that information at an amazing rate. Freshly doused in enough bug juice to kill a beehive or two, I return to the secret spot, just in time to lie to other fisher people that it was actually much better at the other spot.
Alone with my GPS coordinates still highly confidential – top secret, I cast into the cold waters of Hudson Bay. Soon a tug tells me that my bobbing bright fluorescent lure has struck pay dirt. I pull up a rock cod of decent size and quickly make sure that I don’t put it back by accident, I throw it into a saltwater pool high up on the rocks. Another tug soon after tells me that I made the right choice at Canadian Tire’s bargain-priced overstock selection. You never know with fish, they seem to bite anything, except the lure that looks like a shark.
Ahh, the inglorious rock cod, another acquired taste, but nonetheless very healthy for you. The liver – which can be collected and turned into valuable cod liver oil – ready for consumption for anyone who can stomach its icky taste. For all those who went to residential school, every morning, everyone was lined up to swallow down a spoonful. Such was the vitamin regime of the schools of those days. But today, cod liver oil is probably one of the best replacements for the sun and worth a lot more on the shelf of today’s modern pharmacy. Many former students can still remember that forever-lingering taste. I was one who those who actually liked the taste, but then again, like muktuk or haggis, there are those who have no real sense of adventure or the guts to honestly say that they are taste deprived. They most likely are those who cannot tell the difference between plonk, or let’s say, Château Lafite.
Perhaps one day, the rock cod will earn its place on our plate of choice for seafood. Let’s put it this way, they’re pretty mercury free, and when filleted, are very tasty served as fish and chips. If one knows their history, the cod was extremely plentiful, as were most species in pre-Columbus days, as the fish were so many that the ship could not sail through them.
Oops, another tug on my line and another creature from the deep has attacked my lure, the silly looking ugly fish. This is another taste tester, best cooked over open fire and cast upon the bare rocks when cooked and the fillets fished out of the smashed fish. The rest is left for the seagulls, which meticulously pick off just about everything, keeping the area fly free. Ahh, the cycle of life and nature. My fish line sings as it is cast off again…