Tales and Yarns

Uncle Stan's Halibut Obsession

Author:  Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe

Summer had arrived once again, and, as it was with all of our summer holidays, we were visiting Labrador. Our childhood vacations were always spent ‘going home’, and ‘home’ meant English Point, Labrador. We had no Disney World, no Niagara Falls or trips to foreign places; we knew we were going to visit Labrador and our cousins every summer, and we loved it. My father had gone to Labrador as a Newfoundland Ranger, found acceptance and great friends, and married a Labrador girl. Being the first of five children, I, too, was born in Labrador, making me a Labradorian as well. My parent’s love of that special and unique place is strong and shows clearly when they talk about those days. And when Dad tells stories of the antics he had with my uncles, I truly believe they were worse than us children!

It was in the 1950's, and life was much simpler then. Our parents enjoyed friends and family, and we loved our adventurous cousins.

We would run around the fish flakes where the salt cod were spread to dry, visit every house just to be nosy and annoying, fish for ‘tom cods’ from the wharf, pick berries and indulge in all sorts of endless fun. We were wild and free, filling ourselves with berries, chunks of salt fish, and a stolen turnip, or potato, when we were hungry. No place on earth could offer the endless list of activities that a small place like English Point offered us as we skipped through another Labrador visit. By the end of our vacation we were covered in fly bites, bruises, cuts, and often a few stitches, but it was always worth the experiences we had enjoyed.

What nobody knew this one particular summer was that our Uncle Stan, a legend in his own time, and a Labrador fisherman, was obsessed with a huge halibut. Just as sure as Captain Ahab was obsessed with ‘Moby-Dick-The Whale’, as the sea story by Herman Melville was titled, Uncle Stan was obsessed with a huge halibut that evaded his jigger once too often. This obsession led him to devise a plan. He recruited my Uncle Enos and my father to accompany him on a fishing trip, both men totally unaware of his ‘Halibut Obsession’. Soon they were in a small boat just off the coast of Labrador, enjoying the day on the sapphire blue, satiny unusually calm sea, with the hot sun, in a brilliant blue sky, feeling hot on their arms.

My father’s recall of that memorable morning is as clear as if it happened yesterday, and he still cannot tell about it without laughing until tears run down his face. He is eighty-five years old now and this hilarious incident happened over fifty years ago, but he has never forgotten it.

When Uncle Stan decided it was time to head for shore, they didn’t argue. Stan had spoken and it was useless to disagree with Uncle Stan. He then told them he wanted to stop the boat at a place where he knew there was a large halibut, and if asked how he knew where to stop he would say "I marked an ‘X’ on the water!".

He always had an answer, and marched through life to his own drum beat.

After a short time they stopped at this supposedly ‘big halibut spot’. After a few jigs by Uncle Stan, with the big lead jigger and huge hooks, to his amazement he felt a large weight on his line. He then, with considerable exertion, hauled up a huge sixty-pound halibut. He was ecstatic! But the halibut, with it’s great weight and strength, thrashed and flopped, flipped and rolled, and finally got away. However when fish are hauled from such a huge depth they slow down and if they get away they float for a minute or two, before they revive and dive back to the depths of the briny deep. The huge halibut was still close to the boat on top of the water.

Uncle Stan went haywire, and was determined that this fish was not going to see the briny deep again! He threw the heavy jigger again and embedded it into the arm of Uncle Enos! His aim was a bit off in all the excitement he figured later! Thankfully Uncle Enos was wearing a heavy shirt, and although he was hooked like a fish, he pulled the hook out and started berating Uncle Stan about his mistreatment.

"I come up to visit you and you throw a hook at me and hurt me. What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy? I’m never visiting you again! You hurt me, no need of that......", was the start of Uncle Enos’s ten minute rant that nobody could understand because when he talked fast he ran his words together. The other two weren’t listening anyway because the huge halibut was still there and still close to the boat. Uncle Stan let loose with his choice swear words as he threw the jigger again. Father says he was laughing so hard he was totally useless.

Clunk! This time the lead jigger, with it’s huge hooks, dug into the halibut! He had him this time! Pandemonium ensued in the boat then! Uncle Enos was still lecturing and rubbing his arm, Uncle Stan was still swearing, and my father was still weak with laughter.

"I gotcha this time ya demon!", yelled Uncle Stan, as he dragged the huge halibut into the boat, adding the flip-flopping sound of the huge fish to the already raucous goings on! Uncle Stan was one proud fisherman now, with another good fish story to add to his repertoire. In fact they all did!

Uncle Enos had no great injury, Dad was sick from laughing, and Uncle Stan practiced new curse words, with his chest stuck out, as he motored toward shore with his foot on the ‘one that nearly got away!’. Later they all reported that those halibut steaks were the best they ever had eaten!

Yes, it is a good fish story, never to be forgotten!

Certainly not for my Dad who just cannot stop laughing, even when he sees ‘Halibut Steak’ on a menu!

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