About Those Fish Hooks…

A guest post, from my husband, Tom Walters.

For some on Green Turtle Cay, our little house by the ferry will always be thought of as “Miss May’s.” And their memories of Amanda’s great-grandmother, May Curry, have a recurring theme.

At a time when many people cobbled together a livelihood in a variety of entrepreneurial ways, Miss May sold fish hooks to the local children. Almost without exception, those old enough to remember her at all remember buying them from her. As Amanda described in her first post on this site, this made the idea of calling the house “Fish Hooks” irresistible to us.

An actual fish hook sold by my great-grandmother, May Gates Curry. Model ship builder Vertrum Lowe recently discovered the hook -- in its original container -- among his treasures from the past, and has kindly donated them to the Albert Lowe Museum.

An actual fish hook sold by Amanda’s great-grandmother, May Curry. Model ship builder Vertrum Lowe recently discovered the hook in its original wooden container among his treasures from the past, and has kindly donated them to the Albert Lowe Museum.

But there is one detail of this story I have struggled to understand.

Miss May’s former customers would often tell of using her tackle and their mothers’ sewing thread to go after bait fish in the harbour. And, occasionally pointing to the nails on their baby fingers, they would describe how small the hooks were. “Tiny shad hooks,” they would say.

That’s where the story stopped making sense. Tiny shad hooks? They might as well have said “pocket-size pickup trucks.”

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The thing is, I once had the privilege of casting for shad on Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River with Dennis Grant of the Atlantic Fly Fishing School. So the shad I know is a big brute of the herring family. Like the salmon, it goes upriver to spawn. And, like the salmon, it is a thrilling fighter. Five or six pounds of line-stripping rage.

So, while kids jigging for shiners off the New Plymouth dock made perfect sense to me, the idea that fish hooks of pinkie-nail size were designed for shad was a contradiction I could not reconcile.

At least, not until I saw this fascinating post about bonefish on the Rolling Harbour Abaco blog.

Citing research work by the Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, it explains how juvenile bonefish may improve their chances for survival by blending in with schools of tiny mojarras. Which, I now learn, are known in the Bahamas as “shad.”

And so the light bulb comes on.


Mojarras, or, as they’re known in the Bahamas, shad. Photo credit: Cape Eleuthera Institute

It is not the first time, of course, that I have noticed regional variations in the common names of fish. For example, the species known in most of the world as “turbot” – and that was once at the center of a shooting war between Canada and Spain – is a cold water flatfish like a halibut. In Bermuda, the Bahamas, and parts of the Caribbean, however, “turbot” is widely used to refer to triggerfish. (Which, you’d think, would have been more likely to inspire an exchange of gunfire.)

In any case, I can finally recount the story of Miss May selling “tiny shad hooks” without confusion, because I now know they were not meant for the creatures I met on the Shubenacadie. And because it makes far more sense here on Green Turtle Cay than saying “mojarra hooks.”

  4 comments for “About Those Fish Hooks…

  1. Steve Marinak
    June 2, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Great stuff!

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. June 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    That hook is a wonderful find! Thanks for the cross-ref. Glad the shad hook mystery is solved – though I do like the concept of “pocket-size pickup trucks.” All the best RH


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