Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

Prawning with Reid

with 2 comments

During our visit to Canada this past summer, Eileen and I stayed with our friends Reid and Dani at their new waterfront palace near Mill Bay, on Saanich Inlet. The house and its location have many attractions, many of which are of the glossy magazine variety: large modern kitchen; giant deck; hot tub; views of Mt. Baker; and a private beach.

But the Garners’ house also has its more workmanlike attractions, such as Reid’s little power boat, which he moors just off his beach. He bought it used: the interior is dilapidated, but the hull and engine are solid. Here is a photo of the Garners’ beach, with Reid’s boat moored offshore. The canoeists in the photo were random passers-by.

Dani is a reluctant boater, so Reid uses the boat mainly to fish for prawns in Saanich Inlet. Every day or two during the season, he paddles their canoe out to the boat and buzzes out to empty and reset his two prawn traps. From door to door, Reid’s prawn runs take him approximately one hour.

In the long hours between Reid’s prawn runs, his boat sits idle, but not always unused. Shortly after it appeared just offshore, a local otter family claimed the right to use it as a party barge during off-peak hours. Otters are notorious for being messy tenants, and the Saanich Inlet romp was no different. After each of their parties on the boat, the otters left a mess for Reid to clean.

Otter messes are distinctive, as their poop is a mixture of the typical soft ingredients found in mammal poop, along with a fine gravel of gnawed shells from their diet of oysters, mussels and urchins. Otter poop is therefore simultaneously slimy and gritty – making it difficult to remove from fibrous surfaces. Reid’s time-share tenants smeared it throughout the interior of the boat: on the floor, seats and dashboard, and even up to the windscreen and canopy ceiling.

Needless to say, Reid attempted to evict his time-share tenants from the boat. But they ignored his eviction notice and were defiant, even when Reid brought his dogs down to the beach to intimidate them. While he waits for the RCMP to enforce the eviction notice, Reid has changed the locks on the boat and otherwise otter-proofed it.

When Eileen and I visited, we did not see the offending otters, but Reid did take us prawning. And to my eye, the interior of the boat looked clean.

Here is Captain Speedo motoring out to the fishing grounds, with Eileen in the back seat. To the right of the steering wheel, you can see Reid’s phone, on which he plays music to drown out the engine noise and the usual loneliness. On our excursion, Reid played Justin Timberlake on his phone – an odd choice.

Here is another photo of the Captain, this time with another gadget: his GPS/depth sounder unit.

Next is a photo looking back towards the northern opening of Saanich Inlet. Reid’s property is somewhere along the shore on the left. The prominent hill in the distance is Mount Maxwell on Saltspring Island. The little finger of land on the right is probably one of the points framing Deep Cove, on the Saanich Peninsula.

When we accompanied him, Reid had his two traps positioned a couple of hundred metres apart in the deeper water outside of Mill Bay. I understand that he has since moved them to a new location that yields many more prawns. But as is customary in fishing, the location of Reid’s new prawning spot is all very hush-hush.

Here Reid slips into two layers of gloves: a rubber inner pair to keep his hands clean from the fishy smell of the prawns, and the even worse smell of the prawn bait; and a tougher outer pair for hauling up the traps and absorbing the prawns’ spiky defences.

Here Reid hauls up the first trap. If I remember correctly, he drops each trap to a depth of approximately 75 metres, with 85 metres of rope below the buoy, so the trap does not float or drift with currents or high tides.

Prawn bait consists of some foul smelling pellets that are loaded into a plastic canister, where they disintegrate slowly into the water. Hungry prawns swim into the mesh trap and are never seen again.

Here is the last prawn to be removed from the first trap. It is a spot prawn, the main target species. Notice his pale pink-orange colouring when he is freshly out of the water – this changes markedly within a few minutes.

Reid re-baiting and resetting the trap:

The catch from the first trap was underwhelming:

As I repeat to anyone who will listen: Reid is a brave man. He proved it again on this excursion by letting Eileen drive the boat from the first to the second trap, a dangerous route through the orchard of buoys and ropes attached to other traps. “Reid, where did you say the life jackets are stowed?”

Here is a photo of one of the prawns Reid recovered from the second trap. Notice how, moments after emerging from the water, the air and sunlight have changed his colour to a bright orange.

The haul from two traps – approximately 40 prawns in total. The prawns are still alive, but not for much longer, I am afraid.

The intrepid fishermen returning to shore after anchoring the fishing boat:

On the beach, it was time to head the prawns. Here Eileen and Reid play a cruel game with two doomed, head-intact prawns:

Moments later, no more heads.

At first, Eileen was squeamish about heading the prawns, as they squirmed and poked:

But she very quickly became impassive in her job. Ruthless, even.

Nothing goes to waste on Garner Beach. Here is Argus crunching the prawn heads, reinforcing that Labs really will eat anything – the heads are not much more than carapace, antennae and two eyes.

When we returned to the house, we displayed our catch to an adoring audience (Dani and the dogs). As Eileen tried to shoot a photo of one of the prawns, she caught this image of Argus, who was unable to resist the dangling morsel:

Photo credit: Eileen Palmer

Reid is not only good a driving a boat and catching prawns, but he cooks well too. Here are the fruits of our (his) labour: prawn cake Benedicts for brunch.

Photo credit: Eileen Palmer

In closing, if you find yourself in Mill Bay, I can recommend the hospitality at Château Garner: beautiful setting; warm company; lots of activities; and fresh prawns.


Written by Kris Terauds

October 25, 2012 at 17:20

2 Responses

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  1. Sounds like life is a terrible struggle for everyone. Let us know when they aren’t home; we feel a home invasion is imminent. Mike and Linda

    Mike Palmer

    October 25, 2012 at 19:42

  2. I LOVE that picture of Argus eyeing up Eileen’s prawn! I am also surprised that, while you mention Reid’s penchant for Justin Timberlake, there was nary a word about his ridiculous prawning outfit! The orange! The yellow! My eyes!!!!


    October 27, 2012 at 02:33

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