Scott Jefrey Pineo was born on June 23, 1986, in Saint John, N.B., to Jefrey, at the time a carpenter, and Susan, who worked in an insurance agency. A happy baby with sandy hair and blue eyes (which later turned green), Scott was “always interested in what was happening around him,” says Jefrey. He was just out of diapers when his dad first took him brook fishing near their home in Morrisdale, a small community on the Saint John River. Holding a twig with some line tied to the end, Scott got a bite. Says Jefrey, “He caught a fish and he was hooked.”
An outgoing boy with an “abundance of energy,” Scott was drawn to the calming nature of the sport, and “the thrill of having a tug on the end of your line,” says Jefrey. When he was small, his family, which grew to include younger sister Jillian, moved to Grand Bay-Westfield, on the other side of the Saint John River. In the spring, the river would swell up over the banks, flowing under the railroad tracks and into roadside ditches near their house. With his cousin by his side, Scott “would be out there at the first crack of fishing season,” reeling in 10- to 12-inch trout, says Jefrey.
Though “he wasn’t aware that he was funny,” says Jefrey, Scott was quite a character, acting out the adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in front of the family’s video camera. “He knew everything about all four of those turtles.” A dedicated video gamer, he graduated from Atari to PlayStation and Warcraft, an Internet-based game in which international opponents can face off. His kind, happy-go-lucky demeanour won him the respect of his teachers, despite the fact that he was “by no means a scholar,” says Jefrey. “He wasn’t a troublemaker. He was just there to please.”
Yet he could also be stubborn. As his parents quickly learned, getting him to bend to their will was a delicate act that often involved “reverse psychology,” says Jefrey. His determination shone through when, at age 12, he got a paper route to help pay for the mountain bike he wanted. Though Jefrey had initially asked him to cover half of the cost, “he saved so well that when he got to half of what he needed, I told him I was going to pay [the rest],” he says. A few years later, he did odd jobs to finance his ATV, which allowed him to access more densely wooded fishing holes.
By the time Scott reached junior high, his passion for the sport prompted his dad to buy an aluminum boat so he could introduce him to lake fishing. With easy access to the Nerepis River, a tributary of the Saint John River with particularly good fishing, Scott became a skilled angler. He competed in fishing derbies and learned from the veteran fishermen he met in local tackle shops. His first big catch came at age 12, when he reeled in a large pickerel, a freshwater fish known for putting up a fight. “He was just kind of nonchalant about it,” says Jefrey, “but I think inside it was a really big thing.”
His family bounced between Saint John and Grand Bay-Westfield before settling in Quispamsis about five years ago, but Scott took the moves in stride, making friends wherever he went. Says Jefrey, “He was worldly in a small way.” Though he fretted over what his dad describes as “a few teenage pimples,” he grew into a confident young man who was popular with the opposite sex. “If he had an Achilles heel, it was girls,” says Jefrey. But he always tried to remain friends with his exes. “Even after we broke up, he was always there for me,” says Aimee Hughes, who dated Scott three years ago, and still spoke to him weekly.
Scott was a hard worker, although moving often meant he had many jobs—he pumped gas, worked at a photo lab and Sobeys. He wanted to be his own boss, and a year and a half ago, he bid on a contract to deliver Saputo dairy products. The six-day workweeks were tough. “Emotions ran from, ‘This is the best job,’ to wanting to walk away,” says Jefrey, but recently, Scott, who rented an apartment in Saint John to be closer to the warehouse, hit his stride. He started training someone to do his route once a week, which gave him a two-day weekend—and more time in the aluminum fishing boat he bought last year.
On April 14, Scott called his dad and said he was planning to go out on the Nerepis the next day—the first day of the fishing season—even though the forecast called for snow and sleet. The next morning, he and a buddy stocked up on supplies, and went out on the water. The wind, however, proved too much for his boat; neither were wearing their life jackets when it capsized. His friend was able to swim to shore, but Scott drowned in the cold river. He was 23.