GRAND BANK, NL — Grand Bank's Jason Matthews, unlike most Fortune Bay fishers, didn’t get much of a break this past winter.
Once the 2017 fishing season wound down in late October, he pulled his 40-ft. Cape Island boat out of the water and immediately started to rebuild the craft to a design much more to his liking.
For five months he had his "nose to the grindstone” changing the vessel completely. With the help of a couple of friends he cut one foot off the length of the vessel and changed the deck from a "drop deck" to an entirely flat one, using six full drums of resin to fibreglass it. He also built up the sides and bow of the boat by some 18 inches and changed the design of the wheelhouse.
The 45-year-old veteran fisherman has been fishing on his own for 20 years. Prior to that, he had spent one year fishing in Nova Scotia.
The design of the two boats now owned by him and his wife, Jeannie, are along the lines of the type of vessels that are popular with lobster fishers in Nova Scotia.
Matthews’ boat, unlike other smaller vessels used by Fortune Bay lobster fishers, has a wide, open deck that gives him lots of room to handle his lobster pots.
His fishing method is also a little different. He sets his pots in strings of five to 10, rather than setting or hauling a single pot at a time.
With this part of the province, 3PS, being a multi-species area, fishers such as the Matthews have licences that include quotas covering several different species.
With Jeannie Matthews' smaller vessel the licence covers the inshore fishery including lobster, crab and groundfish while the larger boat can be used further offshore to pursue scallop, sea cucumber and groundfish.
They have named their two boats “Jake’s Pride II” and “Jay’s Pride,” after their two sons.
Jason Matthews received lots of praise for his carpentry skills from his fisher peers as they viewed “Jay’s Pride” on the day she was relaunched. He never did a carpentry course but in the Matthews family tradition, “I’ve been around it all my life and I’m just willing to try anything.”
The crab fishery and lobster fishery open this month in the 3Ps fishing zone.