EPISODE 572 “HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A ‘CAPELIN ROLL?’…a fish story from Newfoundland


alan skeoch
april 2022

“When can we go fishing…tired of sitting in the truck mile after mile.”
“How about right now, Dad?”
“Probably not catch much but let’s pull into this ocean cove….scenic if nothing else.”
“Great…getting out the fish rods.”

We were camping in Newfoundland when, by pure chance, we came upon a 
‘capelin roll’.  These tiny sardine sized Atlantic Ocean fish play a deadly mating game
each where thousands and thousands “roll” onto Newfoundland beaches… a small
percentage are gathered up and hung to dry with clothespins by local people and
even some tourists like us.  

Humans are not the only predators feasting on capelin.  “It’s the humpback whales that drive the
capelin on to our beaches.  They are  out there beyond the breakers feeding on the
little fish.”   

Newfoundland beach, north of St. John’s, where Andrew and Kevin Skeoch were determined to go fishing.  If you look
closely you can see the boys.   Most have ben about 1970 wen we took the boys to experience life in eastern Canada.

This is Daisy with a capelin in her mouth. A little fish considered a delicacy When they rush ashore in hundreds of thousands
after mating.   
Newfoundland is a great place to go camping.  Often we were find empty camping spots right on the ocean…at least that was so in 1970.

Those wonderful Tourism Advertisement on television are not exaggerated.  Newfoundland is unique.

People gather to watch our dogs, Daisy and Sonny, investigate a capelin roll…the shiny bits are live capelin.

Once the capelin begin the trip to shore, people line the beaches to watch, catch, and scoop up these silver fish. You’ll see all manner of nets, including a cast net or dip net, as well as buckets. Many people come to simply enjoy the sight, watching kids, and adults alike shriek as they capture the wriggling creatures in their hands. The more adventurous will don their rubber boots, and wade into the shallow ocean waters to use their nets (some more successfully than others!). The more patient cast their fishing lines out to the capelin retreating from the shoreline. The festival atmosphere at these local beaches is akin to a pop-up, as family and friends gather with plenty of campfires, beach blankets, and picnic coolers. Who knows, you may even see whales lunge feeding on these delicious capelin just offshore. 

And this small, slender fish is actually much healthier and tastier than you may think, although it may never become one of your favorite foods. The locals each have their own way to prepare them, from frying, to roasting over an open campfire, to pickling, along with the traditional method of salting and drying the fish. Regardless of how much you love the taste, catching them is a local food experience you’ll certainly never forget. If you ever get to see the capelin roll, it really is one of nature’s wonders.

Marjorie figured if the capelin were good enough for Daisy and Sonny to eat, then she may as well try one as well.   Note Marjorie’s version of a bikini.

Capelin are delicious treats for humpbacks 

Many people visit capelin hotspots like Middle Cove beach, just outside St. John’s, to see if the capelin roll has begun. The fact that there are 30 different coves across the province named for capelin indicates the widespread fascination with the annual tradition. To stay up to date on capelin locations, visit www.ecapelin.ca. People who spot capelin can also let others know on Twitter by using the hashtag #CapelinRoll20XX and insert the current year, which is updated annually. 

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