7-year-old continues lobster fishing family tradition on Bay of Chaleur

·6 min read
A Grade 2 student at Janeville Elementary School in Bathurst, Trent Collins skipped classes on Tuesday to work alongside his grandfather on opening day of lobster season. (Submitted by Alysa Collins - image credit)
A Grade 2 student at Janeville Elementary School in Bathurst, Trent Collins skipped classes on Tuesday to work alongside his grandfather on opening day of lobster season. (Submitted by Alysa Collins - image credit)

Trent Collins may only be seven years old, but he knew he was ready to be part of his grandfather's lobster fishing crew this week when the season opened.

The Grade 2 Bathurst student has grown up going out on "Pa Daley's" boat, Daley Catch, but Tuesday was different. It was the first time he went out on the boat with his grandfather, Keith Daley, and the crew without his parents.

"It was really fun," Trent said. "I was excited."

Daley, 63, remembers going out lobster fishing with his father and grandfather when he was five or six years old. He loved it, and his father bought him his own lobster licence when he was just 13.

"I was the youngest around here for sure at that time," he laughed.

When he graduated from high school, Daley's father asked him if he was sure fishing was the life he wanted.

"He gave me an option, he said he never wanted to be held responsible for me making a fishing career because he had purchased the licence, and he offered if I wanted to go to university that he would send me to university. And I just, I liked what I was doing. So 50 years later, I'm still doing it".

Trent Collins, 7, and his grandfather Keith Daley headed out from the wharf in Stone Haven to set their lobster traps on opening day. Trent has always wanted to join Pa Daley's crew.
Trent Collins, 7, and his grandfather Keith Daley headed out from the wharf in Stone Haven to set their lobster traps on opening day. Trent has always wanted to join Pa Daley's crew. (Submitted by Alysa Collins)

Education moves from the classroom to the bay

On the first day of the season, known as "setting day," everyone gathered at the wharf in Stone Haven to see the lobster crews off.

While it was a "little windy" and a "little rolly" in the morning, Trent and Daley say it cleared to be a beautiful day.

Alyssa Collins, Trent's mother, explained that since the beginning of the season fell on a weekday this year, she and her husband decided to let Trent stay home from school and "take his education to the water for the day."

"Trent really, really want to go for setting day," she said. "And he's been talking the last few months about how he can't wait to go fishing on the weekends and he's really excited to go."

"It was a little nerve-racking because usually me or my husband are there to kind of keep an eye on things because my dad's busy. So we talked to him about being safe and the responsibilities he had because he was going on his own and he went, and he did just fine."

Trent Collins, dressed in the new 'oilers' fishing gear his grandfather gave him for his birthday, gets ready to head out on the boat on opening day.
Trent Collins, dressed in the new 'oilers' fishing gear his grandfather gave him for his birthday, gets ready to head out on the boat on opening day.(Submitted by Alysa Collins)

On the night before his first day as a member of the crew, Trent slept over at his grandparent's house and got up with the seagulls when the alarm went at 3 a.m.

Dressed in the "oilers" fishing gear his grandfather gave him for his birthday, he was ready to head out on the water at 4.

Daley admits he was a little "overprotective" of his eldest grandson but said it all "went very well" and Trent followed all the rules.

"Like don't go out on the deck if there's still some traps in the back because my foot might get tangled on one of the ropes," Trent explained, "And I have to wear a life jacket."

For Trent the best part was "gaffing the buoys" at the end of the day.

"You have a hook and you catch the buoy with the hook," he said, so you can haul the traps in. He proudly told his mother that even though it can be tricky and you have to "get it right on the hook," he only missed three times all day.

Trent Collins' favourite part of fishing was "gaffing the buoys" at the end of the day and pulling up the traps alongside his grandfather.
Trent Collins' favourite part of fishing was "gaffing the buoys" at the end of the day and pulling up the traps alongside his grandfather. (Submitted by Alysa Collins)

Like all fishermen, Trent "felt happy" when the traps came up with lobsters inside, although he admitted the lobsters weren't so happy.

"They try to grab everything with their claws and then they try to squirm around and get out," he laughed. "We have to be careful, reach up into the trap but you have to get them by their bodies because their claws can't reach behind their body."

Fishing 'part of our culture'

Collins said when she was a child, she always wanted to go to school on setting day, rather than be stuck baiting and hauling lobster traps like her friends, but she loves to see the enthusiasm her sons share with her father.

"It's a very big part of our family, and who we are," Collins said. "It feels like part of our culture, our history. And so to see him passing it on to Trent and Hudson — it's wonderful — it's great to see."

Collins has already been impressed with the knowledge Trent gained from his first day as a member of the crew.

There is one trap on the boat assigned to Trent and one assigned to his little brother, Hudson. Any profit from lobsters caught in those traps goes to the boys.

Alysa Collins, seen here with her father Keith Daley and her sons, Trent and Hudson, expects both of her boys will join the lobster fishing crew next season and carry on the family tradition.
Alysa Collins, seen here with her father Keith Daley and her sons, Trent and Hudson, expects both of her boys will join the lobster fishing crew next season and carry on the family tradition. (Submitted by Alysa Collins)

When Trent's catch was down this week, he had some advice for his grandfather.

"He said, 'You need to move it to Father's Reef,' So we were loving how he was learning all of the family lingo for the different parts of the bay," Collins said.

For Daley, deciding where to set your traps is "the game" of fishing, and he was thrilled to see Trent starting to take part.

"I was kind of amazed at how open his ears were," he said of his grandson. "We have all these different reefs or rock piles we have named over the last two generations … like a good spot for fishing. So I was kind of amazed that he had ears enough to be listening to the conversation."

After 50 years of fishing, Keith Daley still loves heading out at dawn. He often takes photos of the sunrises on the bay and shares them on FaceBook.
After 50 years of fishing, Keith Daley still loves heading out at dawn. He often takes photos of the sunrises on the bay and shares them on FaceBook.(Lesa Collins)

Collins expects next spring, when Trent is eight and his brother is six, both of her boys will be alongside her father on opening day.

Trent can't wait to go back out, but said when he grows up he plans to be an astrophysicist. In the meantime, he is saving the profits from his lobster trap for a new dirt bike.

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