A Summer of Fishing

A bit of joy, out in the boat and on the plate

November 2017, my boat was stolen and destroyed. Unfortunately that brings to an end my adventures off shore for the foreseeable future. I do look back at the good times that boat gave me and enjoy the photos that came of them.

a large mixed bag of whiting flounder garfish mackerel and blue crabs

my favourite type of mixed bag including, king george whiting, mackerel, herring, southern sea gar, blue crabs, southern calamari and flounder.

When I’m taking fish for the table I have a largish cooler filled with a seawater and ice slurry. The catch goes straight in and stays there until processed at home.

Catch it one day and eat it the very next, freshness makes all the difference with fish.

a days fishing out at sea for sea garfish and blue crabs

a few nice blue crabs protecting my hoard of garfish.

a large catch of sea garfish make a yummy dinner

another day out on the water gave me this posey of garfish. I cook the fillets the same way I do squid, lots of garlic, ginger, chili, butter and oil.

a beautiful sunset seen from the deck of my boat well off shore

A trip out to sea on a calm evening. Even 20km off shore it was dead flat and peaceful. The sun set was magnificent, and especially welcome after a 40 degree day.

garfish whiting squid and blue crabs caught off adelaide from my boat

a tidy mixed bag from the evening’s efforts

a very nice eating squid southern calamari

chilli squid for Friday night

this is a king george whiting a permier eating fish from adelaide waters

King George whiting, one of the premier eating fish from the southern waters

calm waters sun set and perfect weather makes for a very pleasant drive back to the boat ramp

it was so pleasant, when the time came, I motored quite slowly back to shore, enjoying just being out there

a plate full of southern calamari ready for processing

A tidy bag of southern calamari, (sepioteuthis australis). Sometimes the fish don’t cooperate no matter what, but regardless, it’s good to have these aggressive suckers hanging around as backup.

We treat them simply, just chilli, garlic, butter and a hot pan, maybe a touch of salt as they hit the plate

a catch of seafood with pink snapper garfish herring and snook from adelaide

A nice haul of surface fish. The long barracuda-looking fish are snook. They and the herring went off to the cold smoker, where I slowly burnt hickory over nearly a day to infuse the meat with that lovely, golden smokiness.

a mixed bag including flathead herring king george whiting leather jacket and pink snapper

I’m not sure how many fishing days are left this season, winter has already arrived. I awoke yesterday to darkly-heavy skies and mist in the valleys but the Met said fair seas and the right tides. So I launched,…. in fact it was rough, it rained, it was cold. Some seals scared off the few fish I’d managed to attract, some dolphins hung around and chased away the rest, but I persevered and finally lucked out with this tasty mixed bag. Pink snapper, King George Whiting, Rock Flathead, Herring and a Leatherjacket. I love the variety buckets.

a plate of garfish herring and squid will make a tidy dinner

This is my sort of plate, herring, southern sea garfish and southern calamari. With such strong tasting fish, (which is a big yum) I like to keep the cooking simple and hot, just a bit of garlic and butter is all the prep required. Just a light salting when served.

looking at cloud weather from the boat well off shore

My ten year old son has been asking to go snapper fishing with me for a while. The best bites usually take place when a high tide coincides with dusk, which means a late night by the time we get back to the boat ramp. Not many kids like being out in a small boat, on the open ocean, after dark. Three weeks ago the elements were supposed to come together. We launched the boat and made it off shore before the winds blew up. Unfortunately it was one of those rare occasions when the Met got it wrong and the seas were soon steep and high. We had to head back in. There were some tears and a very sad face, my son was upset as well.

Last week though it worked and even well off-shore it looked like this. Calm and fishy-promising.

a large catch of plate sized and pan sized pink snapper just right

He came down to the boat ramp after school and in dead flat conditions we found the anchorage quite quickly. But as ten year olds are want, after half an hour without a bite he got bored and took to watching a pod of dolphins from out the bow hatch. When they departed, he came back inside and let the hatch drop shut with a massive thud that I could hear echoing out through the water. I counseled him about the benefits of quiet, because now there wouldn’t be a fish within a kilometer of us. With perfect timing, just as I finished flappin’ my gums, the snapper rod bent double and we entered a purple patch of fishing.

a purple patch catch of pink snapper and garfish

We caught a good swag of garfish, ten or so squid and bagged out on pan sized pink snapper in around one hour. Rarely does it come as quickly and abundantly as this. All I did was bait the hooks and remove the fish, my son did all the fishing, though at the end he allowed me to land one snapper, which signalled time to go home.

After cleaning up the boat we drove from one friends place to another so he could gift fish to them. He got great pleasure in handing out fish that he had caught himself.

So the first question he asked me was, when can we do it again, hopefully soon

me holding up a giant nile perch caught in lake victoria tanzania

As part of a book project I’m doing at the moment I’ve been looking through old photos. I came across this one, taken of me holding up a nile perch caught in Lake Victoria, Tanzania during the late 90’s

tasmanian flathead caught by a client and processed useing my handmade fish filletting knife

Its photos like this that make it all worthwhile. Thanks to Rod for sending it in to me, it made my day. A lovely pile of flathead, the best eating fish south of the tropics. And that would be one of my knives he’s using to fillet them.

view of coopers creek from our camp site

This is our campsite on Coopers Creek. The water was full of silver drummer, so fat on shrimp their flesh had the texture of butter.

a large yabbie the biggest we caught from the darling river in southern queensland

We also got into some decent yabbies

yabbies crawling from a net after being caught in the darling river

there were more yabbies than we could eat. We pulled something like a kilo an hour from this one net.

a bucket full of yabbie shells after cooking them for breakfast

Breakfast each morning resulted in two buckets of empty yabbie shells like this one, tossed back into the water. Fresh white bread, butter and hot yabbies, now that’s a sandwich.

a large pink snapper that will feed a family

Oh, yeah, I’m still taking the boat out, don’t you worry about that.

I’ve started fishing light for these snapper, where I go, about 20km off shore, is flat bottomed and snag free, so I can run with just 5kg line.

That being said, this sod wrapped my fine line around the motor prop and berley bucket. I was lucky to get it on board.

a large pink snapper caught in the evening off adelaide fishing reel for scale

But every now and then, you get to see something like this. Is that a pretty sight or what. A tad over 76cm long and vibrant with colour. I’d spent all afternoon dropping prime baits like live mackerel and gar down but only scored a few moderate keepers. About to go home, I had two old pilchards left and took a chance on my light line outfit. The bait didn’t even reach bottom, this fish must have met it half way.

holding up a snapper but talking about my smelly and much loved fishing hat

A good keeper, this size and smaller are my favoured target for eating fish. I’d like to think I was strong enough to let the bigger breeders go.

And that’s my favourite hat as well. It’s kept me safe all around Australia twice, bush bashing across the Serengeti, on the highlands of Mt Kenya, looking for bathawks in Zimbabwe, even eating oysters on the Garden Route in South Africa. It’s spent weeks bird watching in the cloud forests of Peru and long boating the mountain headwaters of the Amazon. In Canada up to the Artic Circle and back down to the west coast of the US. It’s even looked quite out of place on the Costa Brava and Amsterdam. I haven’t washed it once and my wife tells me you can smell everywhere it’s been from a couple of meters away. What a great hat.


a haul of pink snapper caught in the waters off adelaide

I’m starting to feel spoiled when I bring in bags of pinkies like this. But it does feel good to spread them around the relatives and friends.