My fishing career first started when I was 13 years old when I used to fish with my father, John Gillett. My summer holidays weren't filled with summer sports such as basketball, baseball, or soccer. Instead, they consisted of me getting up at 3 every morning to go down to the wharf to bait trawls, or go out in a skiff with my father to haul cod traps, gill nets, and hand lines.
As a result of doing this labor-intense work, my hands got so bad that I couldn't complete the simple task of doing up the buttons on my shirt. I learned at a very early age that fishing was very hard work but I loved it and everything else that went along with it. The reason I was so intrigued in becoming a fisherman is because the older, more experienced fishermen in my community of Twillingate were very well-respected and I aspired to follow in their footsteps. Growing up in a fishing community never left me bored. There were always things to do like mending fishing gear, pronging up fish from the boat to the wharf, and cutting out the tongues of cod fish. Little did I know at such a young age that this was just the beginning of my fishing career.
Thirty years later here I am. As a morning routine I now get up and the first thing I do is look out the window to see how windy it is and what way the wind is blowing. After years of fishing, it has become a force of habit to look outside and see what I'm going to face when I head out on the water.
Now that I'm a captain and have my own boat called the Midnight Shadow, I have greater responsibility than back when I was just a crew member. My responsibilities are to make sure everyone is safe aboard my boat, that everyone has enough money to feed their families, and to ensure that we find the fish. The shortest conversation between two fishermen is arn, narn -- Is there any fish? (arn). No there's not (narn).
My fishing career hasn't always been smooth sailing. I have lost two out of four fishing vessels that I have owned. Seabreeze, the first boat that sank, was 250 miles North of Twillingate when ice, hurricane force winds and 12-14m swells forced us to be rescued by a 175 foot shrimp boat back in the spring of 1996.
My second boat, Atlantic Predator, sank 197 miles East of Twillingate in the summer of 2001 due to fishing gear that got caught around the prop. Luckily, we were rescued by another fishing boat. I've had countless times where I have faced extreme situations while out at sea -- including taking on mass amounts of water and having to call for assistance from other boats. This made for some rough times in my years of fishing.
Survival and success is a major part of fishing. The key to survival and success is to put your head down and grind through the long hours of work. In the end, hard work will always pay off. A big lesson that I have learned in my many years of fishing is if you're not prepared to do hard work for long hours, fishing is not for you. The best feeling in the world is when you're on the way home to your family after a trip out to sea and you have the boat full of fish, sun shining down, knowing you have a good pay check made, and you can see your reflection in the water because it is that calm out. That is the reason I love fishing.
Richard Gillett appears in Cold Water Cowboys which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery. The series features a truly Canadian cast of characters who have spent their entire lives at the core of the Newfoundland fishing industry. Viewers can use the Discovery App and visit Discovery.ca to watch full episodes, video extras and discover behind-the-scenes content.