Fishing Lessons II (In which we kill a lingcod and learn to fillet it)

Viner Sound, BC

Near the forestry buoys, Viner Sound, BC

4 July 2012 Viner Sound, BC

We were moored to a Forestry Service buoy in Viner Sound and our provisions were running low.  A fresh fish would be lovely, we thought.

Our friend Rick, who had persuaded us to come here, invited us to take our dinghy and accompany him out to the entrance to the Sound.  “Sure,” we said, “we’ll come along soon.  But first we have some writing to do.”

Viner Sound

Falls, Viner Sound

Writing, however, does not feed you, so when Rick returned—“Hey, I thought you said you were coming along! The wall out there is lined with lingcod”—and held up an enormous fish, we too were hooked.  We jumped into our dinghy and rushed off.

Rick and lingcod

Rick with his lingcod

Marike dropped our line in the water and it was struck again and again on the way down by rockfish of various kinds; one or two of them might have been large enough to keep if we had wanted them, but we hooked not a single lingcod.

Marike, Viner Sound

Marike rowing in Viner Sound

Rick returned then, and showed us “the place;” for of course, we were fishing in front of the wrong steep cliff.   We watched as he hooked a heavy fish and took his time to reel it in. As he brought it to the surface, he invited us to dinghy over and net it, which we did.  We tried then to load the fish into his boat—it was huge!—but he wouldn’t let us.

“No; it’s yours now. You netted it; you kill it.”

Yikes.  Practice; not theory.

We looked down at the enormous head and mouth of this unhappy large lingcod, and took up our shot hammer, which we’d brought for the most unlikely occasion of needing to brain a fish.

Karin wielded the hammer and banged the cod on the head just enough to make it thrash more. Not good.  Marike then seized the hammer and whacked the poor thing right between the eyes several times.  That did it.  A death throe and then the fish was still.

We removed the hook from the toothy mouth, lifted the fish from the net and settled it, headfirst, into our bucket.  It was 3 feet long! And slippery.

Lingcod and rockfish

Marike holds our lingcod and a rockfish

We headed back to the anchorage with Rick and pulled our dinghies up a grassy incline.  He taught Karin how to fillet the fish—laying it out on a flat spot on the grass, slipping the sharpened narrow blade along the flesh just above the spine, pulling the meat away from the bone, gently, slice by slice with the knife, cutting around the tail, being careful not to pierce the gut and intestines or your own finger as it slipped in the fish blood. We remembered what a delicacy the cheeks of Atlantic cod were, and, though lingcod are another species, this memory induced us to slice out these large (and delicious) cheeks too. (After peering into the fish’s mouth for awhile, we decided to leave the tongue; it probably wouldn’t be, we thought, anything like Atlantic cod tongue.)

Eagle lingcod Viner Sound

Eagle guards lingcod carcass

We ferried the carcass to another rock where we left it for the eagles and ravens and bears.

lingcod filets

Barbecued lingcod filets

Thus, for the 4th of July this year, thanks to our generous friend and marvelous teacher, Rick Burkmar, we had fresh barbecued lingcod fillets.  We were finally hungry enough for them.

Marike drinks and barbecues

Skipper Marike celebrates and barbecues

An afterthought which cannot ever really be an afterthought: Rick and his wife Dawn are adamant that fish must only ever be seasoned with “the holy trinity”–salt, pepper, garlic. And always buttered, no oil. We followed their instructions and were, indeed, pitched by palate into zones transcendental.

evening sky Viner sound

Evening in Viner Sound

Night, Viner Sound

Nightfall, Viner Sound

About Karin Cope

Karin Cope lives on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. She is a poet, sailor, photographer, scholar, rural activist, blogger and an Associate Professor at NSCAD University. Her publications include Passionate Collaborations: Learning to Live with Gertrude Stein, a poetry collection entitled What we're doing to stay afloat, and, since 2009, a photo/poetry blog entitled Visible Poetry: Aesthetic Acts in Progress. Over the course of the last decade, with her partner and collaborator Marike Finlay, Cope has sailed to and conducted fieldwork in a number of remote or marginal coastal communities in British Columbia and Mexico. Their joint writings range from activist journalism and travel and policy documents, to an illustrated popular material history of the Lunenburg Foundry entitled Casting a Legend, as well as their ongoing west coast travel blog, West By East.
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