For anyone who watched Gilligan's Island, the words "three-hour tour", do not instill confidence. Yet on the day before my sister's wedding we found ourselves in North Lake Harbour, PEI at McNeill’s Tuna Fishing, about to embark on just that. Despite the company name, we won’t be fishing tuna. Although Captain Jeff McNeill could tell you some stories. Like the recent tuna he caught - 677 lbs and 924 lbs. That's too much for these landlubbers so we’re after mackerel today.
Before we leave the delightful harbour, Captain Jeff gives a quick talk using the Bride-to-Be as his assistant to demonstrate the safety features of the vessel and the functioning of the life vest to the landlubbers.
With that, we are off and sailing with the wind. OK not really – we’re motoring but we’re motoring near some windmills on PEI’s east coast, which are most impressive.
After this brief bit of sight seeing which also gives us the chance to see some sea lions, we arrive at thedesignated fishing spot where Captain Jeff turns off the motor and gives a quick demonstration of how to operate the fishing rod and reel and how to catch a fish. To everyone’s amazement this actually ended with him catching several mackerel on his first reel in! Claps and cheers from the landlubbers and we’re off trying to outdo him.
We went fishing and camping as kids but let’s be clear – we’re not really outdoors people. Given the chance I choose glamping over camping. My European parents rightly thought that their children should not miss out on these Canadian experiences but this sometimes meant pitching a tent in the wooded area a few feet from our house. Not exactly adventure extreme conditions. But we found it to be quite the adventure all the same. I believe I did catch a fish as a child and there is definitely a picture of my youngest sister with a fish she caught that appears to be twice her size. So we are not without skills. I'm feeling confident.
The most interesting thing about this trip was what I learned about certain members of my family when caught in a primal hunter/gatherer moment. Screams from a few you might not expect and deftly exhibited skill from others came as a great surprise. Ya think you know people.
We do not cast our lines like we did when I was a kid fishing off a dock into rivers and lakes, but we simply drop them over the side and let it sink to the bottom before reeling it up while at the same time lifting the rod up and down smoothly to attract the fish. Within two minutes I am embroiled in a strange triangle with my youngest sister and her boyfriend, our lines are seemingly inextricably entangled. Captain Jeff to the rescue and we are free. So far I suck at this.
The others are catching fish left and right and our bucket of mackerel is growing. But I’m getting nothing.
And then this happens. A cheeky seabird thought it was a great idea to wait until he saw the mackerel coming up on the line before diving down to get it. Brilliant! Or not so brilliant perhaps. Now I have a bird on the end of my line. Or do I? The line snaps and the bird is now floating a few yards from the boat but with its wings tied up on its back in a sort of reverse Namaste position (for the yogis among you).
At this point, I really have to commend the actions of the captain and crew who quickly gave the order of ‘Rods up’ and had us haul in our lines so they could get to the bird and rescue it. Catching it in a net they deftly untangled the bird and promptly set it free causing very little trauma to the animal who seemed rather un-phased by the experience shaking it off as the cost of doing business. I imagine that fishermen see this thing all the time but suffice it to say there were a few landlubbers on board who may have been scarred for life.
Beside this bird, and one mackerel which was deemed to small to keep, so far I have not caught anything. But near the end of the trip, I feel a great tug on my line and with a little effort swiftly reel in my catch. I’m told it’s the biggest of the day. Clearly I’m a quality, not quantity person.
So before we knew it, our 3 hours were up and we were back at North Lake Harbour. All in all, a brilliant day out and Captain Jeff and his crew made the day fun and relaxed while teaching us a thing or two as well. The crew cleaned and filleted our mackerel right on board making it easy for us to take away.
But for me the highlight of the fishing trip came a day later when for appetizers at the wedding banquet, we were served small pieces of our mackerel, lightly breaded and pan fried. There’s something pretty special about knowing where that fish came from and how it came to be where it was.
MacNeill's Tuna Fishing Charters
North Lake Harbour, PEI
Contact: Captain Jeff MacNeill
Tel: 902 - 357- 2858