Sounds pretty simple really. Since I grew up at the coast I’m surprised it was something I never did when I was younger. I remember going to the wharf, catching a fish and throwing it back, but I was a kid, it was a small, it stank and I got bored easily.
Every year around Australia Day our extended family travels to a caravan park on the coast to camp for a week or so. This year, as I checked in and paid $400 for a square of grass with no power, I glanced across the sea of brochures that littered the wall of the reception area. Amongst the many pictures of sport fishing boats catching giant fish on the open ocean, was a modest flyer for ‘Calm Water Charters’, a business that did 3 hour morning and afternoon fun fishing charters on the estuary rather than the ocean. This sounded more like my kind of thing and also much cheaper. I took the flyer and had to bargain with myself to push back my inner OCD associated with brochures being in the wrong spots. As I walked out the door clutching the details of my future fishing adventure I caught the eye of the young and annoyingly long-legged, tanned 15-year-old behind the counter. ‘Too much time in the sun and not enough time tidying flyers missy’ I thought as my jealous stumpy legs carried me back to camp…. Flyer crisis averted, I dialled the number and booked the afternoon fishing trip for the following day.
Husband arrived just in time and we were off to catch our dinner, or so we had hoped! We had the choice of prawns or yabbies for bait and while I knew I was there to catch fish I felt bad picking up a yabby, pulling off its claw and hooking it through the body from tail to head while it was still alive. I decided to stick with prawns, after all they were already dead.
On the boat with us was a very friendly,heavily tattooed man with a long ponytail and his very shy son, 2 middle-aged ladies with a red-haired, pale and very sunburnt girl, a know it all little boy, and a man who that seemed to know the boat captain. The captain was somewhat…older, he wore socks and sandals, faded shorts, had a long grey beard and was a self-confessed control freak.
When we had reached our first spot Husband and I took up our positions at the back of the boat. The call from the captain came to ‘drop our lines’ and I swear he looked at me like I had 2 heads when I asked how.
“What do you mean how” he said “Just drop it in”.
It was then that I explained that I didn’t know how to get the line to go down. After rolling his eyes he came and explained the basics to me. I’m sure his money was on me going hungry rather than catching my dinner!
Now the next hour and a half was a mixture of hilarity and frustration. No more that 3 minutes after our lines went down husband had a fish, sure it was a little fella but it was a fish none the less. He must have hooked 10 or so in the first hour and as we moved from site to site he managed to catch 2 Bream and a Trevally that were big enough to keep. Every time he caught something I set about switching spots with him only to find that he had another in the spot I ‘d just given up! Sure, I caught a few too, even though it seemed like I caught the same poor little snapper 5 times in a row. While husband and the know it all boy kept bringing them in and letting them go the ladies, sunburnt girl and I seemed to be feeding more fish than we were catching, my hook came up with a distinct lack of bait more often than I liked.
With 25 minutes to go I got a bite, it felt big, well bigger than the snapper anyway. I pulled it up out of the water and saw the fish that was to become my dinner. “‘Can I eat it, can I eat it” I squealed with way more enthusiasm than would be necessary for such a small achievement, but I didn’t care. I jumped around like I’d won the lotto. The ladies shared my enthusiasm and husband gave a congratulatory chuckle. I’m sure the captain was concerned about the crazy woman on the boat!
We brought it up in the net and as I gently took the hook from its mouth I started to feel bad that I had taken it from its home in the water. I gently cradled it in my hands and apologised to it as I placed it into its icy tomb to die with the other 3 that husband had caught.
We got back to the jetty and it was time to do the dirty work. First came the official death, even though they had been on ice it was important to break their neck to be sure. I asked the captain to show me how and I then proceeded to kill, scale and somewhat gut the fish. I think he was unprepared for this from me, I’m not sure anyone had wanted to do the gutting etc themselves before because he was quite resistant to the idea at first. It also seemed that we came so unprepared for this dinner that we had set out to catch that we had to borrow a shopping bag from one of the ladies in the group to carry our catch back to camp.
Busying myself in the camp kitchen, determined to do the whole process from start to finish, I put some lemon in the fish, seasoned them, wrapped them in foil and they were ready for 20 minutes on the BBQ. Mu Mum, Dad and Sister came to join us for the 4 fish feast which included prawns, oysters, fish, salad and potatoes. Now here’s where the story goes a bit strange… I don’t actually really like fish. I love seafood in general; Prawns, oysters, crab, Salmon, yes but white fish…not so much. BUT the flavour of the fish was actually amazing regardless of the bones!
I never thought I would like fishing. To be honest I thought it would be a bit of a chore. But, to my surprise I found it interesting, social and shock horror, even somewhat relaxing. I would definitely do it again. Perhaps next time on the ocean for a different experience but for now I have happily experienced the satisfaction of catching, killing, preparing and cooking my dinner and you know what, I was much more conscious of waste when I had gone to all that trouble. It was so nice to have the family around to share the fishy feast and definitely something outside the everyday, for me anyway!