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Fishing – It’s a Family Affair

September 21, 2019

This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 edition of the Union Forum Magazine. 

Neil Chubbs is a professional fish harvester living and working in the community of St. Lewis on the south coast of Labrador. Neil and his wife Cara are a young family making their living in the fishery with their three children, Madison (14), Marc (12) and Liam (9) who play no small role when it comes to their dad’s enterprise. 

Neil’s father, David Chubbs, was a fish harvester, one of four families from St. Lewis, that moved their families to Spear Harbour, 10 miles north St. Lewis, each spring to prepare for the cod and salmon fishing. Neil’s involvement in the fishery began at the early age of around 6 or 7 years old when he began in the stage, helping his father and crew who would return with the day’s catch. By age 12, Neil was aboard the boat as a crew member until the cod moratorium hit in 1992.

Neil went away to school for some training outside the fishery, but quickly realized that was not the life for him. He struggled to return to the fishery, going from boat to boat, as fishing berths were scarce at that time.

In 2000, Neil attained his fishing Masters and became Skipper on his uncle’s 34’11 boat, fishing for snow crab out of St. Lewis. He later purchased his own fishing vessel and licenses and continues to fish today, building a successful enterprise he hopes to one day leave to his children, should they want to carry on the tradition of fishing. And right now, that future is promising.

The children are eager to join their father in the fishery, getting involved in the day-to-day operations of fishing from an early age just like Neil did with his father.

Madison got her start doing the tally for sizing when she was about 6 years old. “At 14 years old now, Madison can gut and head fish, and cut out the fish ears just as good as any man,” jokes her mother Cara.

Marc battles through seasickness from time to time but perseveres to go in boat with his father to haul nets and works in the stage until the fish is done.

“Liam learned to cut fish when he was just 6 years old. He saw everyone else doing it and wouldn’t let up until his dad showed him, too,” says Cara.

Neil’s parents, David and Emma, still lend a hand when fish is plentiful. The whole family chips in to help set and haul the gillnets, to clean the fish, ice and slush, and transport the catch to the LFUSCO plant in Mary’s Harbour. It truly is a family effort. “Many hands make light work,” as the saying goes.

The Chubbs have a long history in fishing, and if the present is any indication, they have a bright future ahead as well.