When you hear that the caplin are coming in, get to the beach as early as you can. The place’ll be blocked because it’s been on the radio all morning. These fish come into shore once a year to spawn. They are so numerous that their small, silvery bodies fill the waves and roll up on the beach in shoals. It’s a natural phenomenon that’s sad and cool at the same time. If you’ve never seen it, don’t miss it this year.
If you’re in town, Middle Cove is the beach for caplin, so much so that you’ll probably have to park in Torbay just to get a spot, and walk the rest of the way in. You don’t need to bring much in the way of tools. A net would be handy, but Sobey’s bags with holes poked in them have seen their fair share of the little guys gasp their last.
No matter what shore you end up at, the scene will be pretty similar. The beach will be dotted with the fires of families out for the day. The smell of fish frying will be on the air. Mothers will be watching their children like hawks. Only the continued vigilance of townie moms keeps us safe from the sea when we’re young.
Kids will be running around with fish clutched in their fists, rubber boots full of water and (probably) warm sweaters, because the caplin always choose the foggiest, mauziest days of midsummer to run themselves up on the beaches. That’s caplin weather, they say.
Besides frying fresh caplin on your beach fire, there’s lots to do with them. Traditional uses include bringing them home for Nan to fry up on the stove, pickling and drying them for later eating, digging shovelfuls of them into the garden to help the potatoes, or putting them whole on the barbeque, occasionally biting the head off one of the crispy fish to impress a child.