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Chris Gertridge looks for a run of gaspereaux before he jumps on the dip net that his family has operated for generations on the Gaspereau River.
GASPEREAU NS – Imagine there was a time when gaspereaux were so plentiful they were used as fertilizer.
Chris and Colin Gertridge didn’t experience that era, but they heard fishing tales from their late grandfather, Ellis. And they maintain the family tradition on the river.
Square net fishers began operation along the Gaspereau River in early May. The fish, which elsewhere are called alewives or kayaks, are captured in a dip net and salted.
The fish are primarily sold to the Caribbean island of Haiti, where, according to Chris, the market is softening.
They can be purchased locally for $5 a bag “if you know where to seek them out,” grins Chris. He prefers them smoked.
From time to time the two brothers pick up shad or striped bass in their net near the Benjamin Bridge Winery. The season ends in June.
Fishing on weekends in not allowed in order for a healthy amount of the three or four-year-old gaspereaux to reach Gaspereau Lake and spawn.
“It just means the fishery stays sustainable, “ he notes.
The Gertridge family has a shed down by the river where they store bins. One wall is marked with each year’s catch since 1991.
The biggest one-day catch, Chris says, was 185 barrels. There are years with virtually no catch.
Well known for their boniness, Chris chuckles recalling his grandfather referred to gaspereaux as Sunday fish.
“He used to say it takes all day Sunday to pick the bones out.”
Chris says there are 12 or 13 active square nets in operation this year. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans issues licenses in Gaspereau and Melanson.
He pays tribute to the Mi’kmaw who used to spend spring and summer near the river to catch the herring species, when they swim up the river from the Bay of Fundy.
A sunny day makes for the best fishing and for tours.