On Prince Edward Island, we love our lobster.
Lobster fishing has been deeply rooted in Island culture for over 100 years and Setting Day marks the opening day of the lobster season each Spring. It’s a tradition among many Island families (mine included) to wake-up before dawn, go to the harbour to watch the fishers as they leave the wharf and head for the fishing grounds to set their traps.
Growing up on Prince Edward Island, I have been on countless lobster boats but never on Setting Day. Every Islander knows that on Setting Day, the fishers are too busy and boats are too weighted down to ever take an extra person — especially one who isn’t there to help. So, naturally, when Chef Ross of PEI Culinary Adventures invited me along to take part in this event, I was thrilled.
There is an unwritten rule that fishers are not to leave the wharf on Setting Day until 6am and each harbour has their own rules on deciding which boat leaves the wharf first – it is common that veteran fishers are first to go. The end result is always the same – a parade of lobster boats, one after the other, stacked high with traps, and fishers dressed warmly, waving to the crowds of family and friends. As they sail through the channel opening out into the Gulf, there is a feeling of excitement as we all eagerly await the result of the day ahead.
This year, after watching the parade of boats take off out of Covehead Harbour, I made my way to Tracadie Harbour to meet with Chef Ross. We waited at the wharf until mid-morning to allow the fishers time to set some of their traps in order to make room for us to board.
We hopped into Chef Ross’s state-of-the-art boat and met the fishers on the water in time to push several clusters of traps overboard.
Traps are generally set in clusters of 5 or 6 and marked with a buoy unique to each fisher. The buoys themselves are interesting to see as some fishers choose the colours of their favourite hockey team or maybe neon pink because of their daughter’s favourite colour.
Once the traps are set, they will stay there for the duration of the season. Each morning, before the sun rises, the fishers head out to sea and pull them up in hope of a great catch before baiting them up again and pushing them back overboard.
Three hundred traps were set before making our way back to shore where we enjoyed a cup of Chef Ross’ gourmet hot chocolate to celebrate a job well done. I’d like to thank Chef Ross & PEI Culinary Adventures for such a great day on the water. For anyone who has the chance to get on a lobster boat on Setting Day – do it. It’s an experience you will never forget.