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Bay of Islands fisherman Rick Crane says eel company is staying ahead of the game by diversifying

An eel
An eel - 123RF Stock Photo

Changing with the times is what Rick Crane believes will bring success in the fishery.

That’s why Crane, a commercial fisherman out of Cox’s Cove, sees initiatives like the one being undertaken by North Atlantic Aquaponics Inc. as the way to go.

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The company harvests eels in Robinsons and sells them live, with the bulk of their catch going to markets in Korea and Ontario.

Eel fishing is something Crane's grandfather, Ludrick Crane, did for years.

The senior Crane, who died in 2016, started eel fishing in the early ’90s. At the time, Crane said DFO put out that it had licences available for people interested in trying out different fisheries, including eels.

“It was all new fisheries here,” said Crane, and his grandfather was the kind of guy who would try anything.

Back then his grandfather would sell his catch to a buyer from Maine. Crane said he would take the live eels in crates to a tanker truck for shipping.

It had been about 10-15 years since Crane had fished for eels when he started up again in 2017. During a trip to Nova Scotia he saw a new pot that a friend was using for recreational fishing. It was small, compact and modern so Crane brought some back to try.

He set a few pots at the wharf in Cox’s Cove and after a few nights got a couple. Then a local kid told him there were eels in the Cox’s Cove Falls, the local swimming hole.

Crane filled a pot with bait, threw it in and got 11 eels the first night.

“That was talk around the town then; there were eels in the falls.”

He got 100 that year, most of which he sold to local a Chinese restaurant.

He got about 50 this past season, which runs from June to July.

“I’m in the happy medium, but it’s not really happy,” said Crane. “I catch too many to eat, but not enough to sell.” 

He’s not looking for a new market and most of the time just fishes for recreation, even though he has a commercial licence.

There’s also a lot of rules and regulations to work with, and it would be expensive to start up given he’d need equipment to get to the brooks and to keep the eels alive.

Even though it’s not for him, he’s pleased to see others, like North Atlantic Aquaponics, get involved.

“I think it’s amazing, to be diverse. This is 2019. This is not the ’80s now. The fishery is changing and for them to do that, they are staying ahead of the game."

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