Canada’s new longline tradition

Canada also has its own tradition of longline fishing, but over the last 25 years this method of fishing fell out of use. Now this is being revived, with support from the Canadian government.

Quentin Bates

‘They are really encouraging the fishermen to switch to longlining, moving away from net or trawl fishing, for quality and selectivity reasons,’ said Larry Parsons, one of the first to adopt an Oilwind longlining setup on board his boat. He made an immediate success of the system installed on board his Challenger 2000 when it was fitted in September last year as the cod season began.

Larry Parsons is longlining for part of the year, alternating this with netting for Greenland halibut and potting for snow crab

Faroese company Oilwind, has been producing fishing equipment since 1957 and for many years was best known for its jigging machines that virtually every coastal boat in the Faroe Islands had fitted to its gunwales, has increasingly focused on longline systems, and these have found uses around the world – including along the coast of Atlantic Canada.

‘I’m pleased with the system. You don’t need a big crew to work it and three men are very capable of handling it,’ Larry Parsons said.

‘We are working the 5000 hooks per day maximum that we’re allowed, although it wouldn’t be a problem to go to 7000 or 8000 hooks if we were allowed. We have a short season. Our stocks are rebuilding themselves, so we’re cautious.’

He said that the autoline system practically operates by itself.

‘Of course, the more experience you have with the system, the easier it gets,’ he said, commenting that with the Oilwind baiting system on board they have maintained an average baiting rate of 95%.

‘This is excellent,’ he said, adding that catches have been up to 450 pounds per line and preparing the gear for shooting takes 30 to 40 minutes.

The gear is shot away via Oilwind’s precision baiter which uses a flow of water to ensure that the pre-cut bait is positioned correctly as the hooks pass through.

‘You can’t get a 100% baiting, but we can get very close to it,’ said Oilwind’s Jeffri Johannesen. ‘We expect to see between a baiting rate between 90 and 100%.’

Oilwind's Jeffri Johannessen

At the other end of the system is Oilwind’s combined hauler and hook splitter, which separates the hooks as the line is hauled and the fish stripped off, cleaning off any excess bait and routing the hooks back to the magazines ready for the next day’s fishing. The hauler, stripper and baiting machine are capable of handling lines from 3.5mm up to 8-9mm.

‘This is a hydraulic system and it doesn’t require a great deal of space on board, and it’s ideal for the 35 to 70 foot boats that fish for cod in this part of Canada,’ Jeffri Johannesen said, adding that while Oilwind advises and assists in fitting systems to fishing vessels, often this is hardly needed.

‘I fitted the Oilwind system on board, with a little bit of trial and error, to suit the boat – and every boat is different,’ Larry Parsons said.

‘It just connects to the existing hydraulics and you go from there. It doesn’t require much deck space, and installing it comes easy. It takes less than a day to remove it when getting ready for a different fishery.’

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He explained that Newfoundland and Labrador where there are good fishing opportunities for cod are the main areas in Canada where there is a strong interest in this method of fishing. Outside the cod season, they work a springtime fishery for snow crab, followed by netting for turbot (Greenland halibut) in the summer months.

‘Now were are looking at trying the autoline system for turbot, so see if we can by-pass the nets,’ he said.

‘The Oilwind system works fabulously, and I’m really impressed with it.’