As a CFA (come-from-away), going to see the capelin roll has been on my 'to do' list since arriving in the province. That image of thousands of silver fish just under the surface of the water caught my imagination right from the beginning.
Local artist Patsy Gosse has beautiful pictures of the capelin that she sells at the St. John's Farmers' Market and she first told me the story of their seasonal migration. When I was screeched in at the Inn of Olde in Quidi Vidi I ate my first smoked capelin.
This past Tuesday was the first time I've been able to make it out during that brief window of time that the capelin are flocking to the beaches. My boyfriend picked up a net at Canadian Tire, we grabbed a bunch of empty ice cream containers from home, and we headed to Middle Cove right after work.
We saw straightaway that we weren't alone, because the roadways were blocked with what seemed like hundreds of cars full of locals and tourists vying for a spot to see the capelin too. One man joked as he walked by us, "Sure there's more people 'n capelin here today!"
On the beach we saw all manner of nets, from grocery bags on sticks weighted down with beach rocks to great big green fishing nets, and it was difficult to tell who was having the most luck.
Most people were there just to enjoy the sight and their curious dogs poked through the remains of dead capelin washed up on the rocks. I tried with our net without any success, wading into the shallows in rubber boots and soon retreating when the first few waves soaked me in cold water.
My boyfriend persevered though, and we went home with a few buckets full. To be honest he did all the work washing and cooking them as well. I'll try my hand at cooking odd foods like knotweed, but the small capelin had me intimidated.
Capelin symbolize a lot of things when they arrive: that summer weather is almost here, that whales may soon be nearing the coastline, and they're a reminder to celebrate traditional seasonal food.
What follows here is how we made up our catch when we got home. They were much tastier than I thought they would be, and while they may not be my new favourite food, catching the capelin was a local food experience that I won't forget.
Here's a video of what it looks like when the capelin roll in, and another video from CBC-NL of all the people on Middle Cove Beach this past Monday catching capelin.