A silver lining to the recent storm

A few articles ago I wrote about the storms which had affected Southern Tasmania.  One of the unexpected occurrences which has resulted from that storm was a huge increase in free Atlantic Salmon.  It was reported that the Salmon fish farms which litter the coasts of Tasmania had been adversely affected, with hundreds of thousands of Atlantic Salmon escaping.  Atlantic Salmon are not native to Tasmania, so they were not able to cope with being free.  They have become accustomed to being fed a diet of pellets, so they have no ability to hunt for food.  This has resulted in a great benefit to local Tasmanians who were able to hit the water and fish up a nice collection of Salmon.

Photo from the ABC article on the storm damage,. A Huon Aquaculture enclosure washed up at Taroona during the storms. (ABC News: Ellen Coulter)
Photo from the ABC article on the storm damage,. A Huon Aquaculture enclosure washed up at Taroona during the storms. (ABC News: Ellen Coulter)

If I was a little better prepared, with some free time and the equipment needed, I would have been able to take advantage of this situation and fish up big… stocking my freezer with the valuable resource.  Unfortunately, I don’t currently have access to a boat to allow me to fish from off the shore.

After trying to live offshore around Tassie, starving and some being captured in nets, etc., the Salmon started to make their way inland.  I suspect it may be related to the spawning instinct, yet that is only a guess.  This was where local Tasmanian fishermen (and fisher women) started to take their catches.

Despite my lack of initiative, I managed to find myself with some fresh Salmon.  A friend of mine’s partner has taken advantage of this situation.  He spent his weekends catching salmon on the inland rivers of southern Tasmania, landing so many that he can’t store them.  He has filled his freezer (and apparently his parents freezer too) with the fish, so he has given out kilos of filleted salmon.  I was lucky enough to be given a couple of choice fillets, which turned out to be around a kilo of salmon.

With so many options on how to prepare the meat, I decided on a simple method… frying the fillets in olive oil, along with some salt and pepper.  I served this with some baked potato wedges and some slices of lemon from our lemon trees.  The whole meal was a major hit with my family, with everyone getting enough salmon, feeling full and happy.

I would have taken a photo of the end product, yet it was so quickly consumed that I didn’t have time.

This bountiful harvest is another reason why living in Tasmania is so great.  There is such an abundance of resources that these introduced fish can be caught in great numbers.

A successful fishing trip

While it is still summer and warm outside, I am very happy to be out and trying to catch some fish.  As you all probably know, I may be the worst fisherman in the world.  I don’t know what I am doing most of the time, and I rarely catch anything.  Lately, this has been changing with my focused effort to improve my skill in fishing.

As I drove home from work the other day I had an urge to get out and fish again… so I headed to the jetty, with my daughter, once I had finished everything I had to do at home.

The reason for my renewed passion for fishing was due to my chatting to a friend at work, who had given me some advice on how to bait the hook.  She told me that she throws larger pieces of meet on the hook, which is different to my normal small piece strategy.  I tried her method and I ended up catching 3 fish. The first fish I caught was a blue mackerel, on the first cast!  I hadn’t even bothered to set up the camera.

I am sure you can see in the video how excited I am at catching the fish.

 

My daughter filmed the event for me… she is still learning how to use the camera.  I also apologise for the sound of the wind.  I did manage to edit some of it from the video, yet I am working on a better solution in the future.

After I caught the Mackerel, I caught two other fish that were Flathead.  Those were undersized, so I had to send them back into the sea.

I was very impressed with the taste of the blue mackerel.  These fish make great eating, with their oily flesh, although they did have a lot of bones.  I cooked this one in a splash of oil, with some salt, and it was so amazing I couldn’t believe the flavor.

 

 

My first Kayak Fishing trip

I am really enjoying Kayaking, which was something I have been dreaming of doing for many years.  Owning one, at the moment, is still a bit of a pipe dream…. I have other financial obligations which require my attention over something so frivolous as a kayak.  My friend lending me his kayak has allowed me to decide if it is something I want to do, and I am sure that it is definitely something I want.

Last week we had some amazing weather here, so my son and I travelled to a secluded part of the bay near my home and I went to try my hand at kayak fishing.  To be honest, I was a little nervous about trying this.  I had visions of something out of Hemmingway’s novel, the Old man and the Sea.  I would hook some large fish and be hauled about the sea by it.  I was also a little worried about falling in and losing my fishing gear.  After a chat to Kitty, who encouraged me to try, I decided to give it a go.

We arrived at the water around 11am, and I quickly set out on the water.  As you can see from the video, I am a bit of an elephant on the water (perhaps that is rude to elephants… I have read that they are excellent swimmers), yet I went out regardless.  I believe I was around 300m offshore when I made my first cast.  In less than a minute I had a big bit on the end of the line.  I tried to snare the fish, yet I missed it and brought back an empty hook.  I was very encouraged by this, so I cast again, losing the bait as I cast it.  I am not very good at setting the blue bait I used on the hook, which is something I want to correct.

On the third cast, within a minute, I hooked something, and this time I landed the fish.  It turned out to be a little Sand Flat Head.  They can be great eating, yet this one was half the legal size, so I would have to return him.  Problem was, they have lots of spines that can easily jab at a hand, and I forgot to bring a tool to hold the fish.  It was much too energetic for me to hold, jumping and spinning all over the place.  I threw him back in for a little while I paddled around… hoping to calm him a little.  I paddled on the water for a couple of minutes before trying again, and this time my little flathead was much calmer.  I unhooked him and cast him free.

I spent the rest of the hour just paddling around the water and enjoying the solitude.  Eventually I decided it was time to head back… my son wanted to try out the kayak as well.  When I started to paddle back, I started to really get tired.  It was hard work paddling against the very light breeze coming from the shore.  Still, I paddled on and eventually made it back, although I was a bit winded.

I think Kayak fishing is something I could do, if I owned a kayak.  I do need to work on learning how to bait the hook properly, as I am getting tired of losing bait due to my ineptitude.  I do know how to put worms on a hook (my father taught me that when I was a little kid), yet it is harder with a little fish.

Sand Flathead

 

Speaking of Kayaks, a friend of mine recently recommended another Kayak that I might consider, and after reading the reviews I am convinced that this would be a great choice. He uses the Malibu Explorer Pro, and he has told me that it really suits someone of my size (he is similar in build to me).  I have looked at some of the reviews, as well as the specs for the model, and I while is isn’t the “ultimate” kayak, it is still awesome and would suite my needs.

 

The ones I previously mentioned, the Malibu X Factor and Malibu Stealth 14, are pipe dream models.  They are too expensive for me to realistically afford (at least for several years).  The Malibu Explorer Pro might be more affordable.  I have seen many for sale on Gumtree… only the problem is that none of them are close enough for me to consider purchasing.  It is something I will have to keep my eyes on for the future.  To have a Kayak is a huge goal of mine and I feel that owning one (at the moment… considering the other items which take financial precedent) is only a dream.  I feel silly sometimes for dreaming about owning a Kayak, yet as Kitty often tells me…

If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true?

A Kayak is a great addition to your Prepping equipment.

Those who follow me on Instagram know that I have recently been trying out Kayaking.  A good friend of mine, who knows of my interest in self sufficiency, offered me the use of his Kayak.  I have talked about my intention to get a Kayak some time ago on this website… I have been dreaming about how great it would be once I own one and how I could get out on the deeper water to fish.  Now that I have one to use I have to say I am still very interested in getting a Kayak of my own.

The Kayak which I am currently using is a specially designed, SCUBA, Kayak.  It is meant for a SCUBA diver to use this to transport their equipment to their dive location.  Due to this feature, it is lacking in some of the things I would like in a Kayak, such as storage compartments… yet it is still great for me to get an idea of what it is like on the water.  I really wanted to try one out before I bought one, mostly as they can be so expensive.  It would be awful to buy one, then realise I hate being out on the water!  Trying one out is important.

I picked it up from my friend on Friday after work and I immediately drove home, then went straight down to the beach to test it out (arriving there around 7pm).  I was a little unsteady at first, yet after a couple of minutes I was gliding over the water like a professional.  I also gave my kids a turn and they had great fun.

On Saturday morning I work up early and headed out by myself.  I realised that before I could head into the deeper water I needed to be sure I could get back into the craft should I fall out.  Imagine being in the deep bay and not able to climb back into the Kayak?  I went out into the water, close enough to the shore to swim, yet deep enough so I couldn’t touch the ground.  I then proceeded to, intentionally, fall from the Kayak and then climb back in.  After the sixth time I was tired enough to call it for the morning, so I headed home… yet a little more confident that I could complete the drill of re-entering in deep water.

Over the course of the rest of the day, and the next day too, I went to the water six more times.  Each time I tried the deep water entry to the Kayak and I am glad to say that by Sunday I could do it with no problems.  I also paddled out a hundred metres from the shore and sat there to contemplate the serenity.  It is very relaxing to be out there with no people around, with the sound of the water and the sun to be my companions.  The water was so clear I could see many metres below the surface, which made me enthusiastic to try some snorkelling.  I would have liked to take my phone out to take some photos, yet I was too worried it would get wet.

This week I am intending to get out on the bay at my house and try to catch some fish… being able to bring food to the table will make it easy to justify the cost of the kayak.

The Kayak, is a little too small for my needs.  Due to my immense body weight, it rides a little too low in the water.  It also feels a little unsteady… which makes me think I would need a larger Kayak.  A couple that I think look nice are the Malibu X Factor. As well as the Malibu Stealth 14.

Nice image of the Malibu X Factor from http://www.pierandsurf.com/fishing-forum/showthread.php?108763-WTS-Malibu-X-factor-Kayak

These are more money than I can currently afford, so I will have to start saving up for them.  My family also realise how much fun they have on the water, so they all want to get Kayaks too… that is going to be lots of fun (and money) when we all get out there on the water.  If only there was a way I could take our dogs with us.

Are fish the only food from the ocean?

I have recently been thinking about going fishing again, yet I am a little conflicted.  I have heard that the fish are less likely to bite in the colder months, as they move to different sections of the ocean (or different layers), so I doubt I will have any success… however I should try anyway.  One of the major reasons as to why I haven’t gone is because, over the last few days, the weather has been so terribly cold.  We have had a fake spring, so realistic that the trees are budding (a couple of mine have been fooled by the weather) and it has been a real pleasure to be outside.  Now, the harshness of winter has returned for the final blast before it is officially gone at the end of this month.  So, I have not wanted to go outside, especially somewhere I have to stand for hours in the wind.

My younger son fishing in the summer
My younger son fishing in the summer

So… thinking about my skill in fishing reminded me that while I am not the best at catching fish, I am a highly skilled collector of seaweed.  Each fishing trip sees me bring large amounts of seaweed to the surface, which usually gets thrown back, or taken home for use in my compost.  Yet, these collections of seaweed could be used for other purposes.  I have been looking into the use of seaweed for food.  According to the research I have conducted, every form of seaweed collectable from Tasmanian water is edible.  Some are actually full of great flavour and some companies are considering farming the product for sale.

Seaweed off the coast of Tasmania
Seaweed off the coast of Tasmania

I am very interested in bringing home some food from the sea, yet as I have stated, I am not the best fisherman.  I see collecting seaweed as a great way to bring home some nutrition, in the form of an easily collected resource.  Also… my kids love seaweed, at least in the form of Japanese Nori.  If I could convince them to eat fresh seaweed I would be very happy to bring home the goods.

How many years do you fail at a task before you give up?

You wouldn’t believe it… after several years of failure, over thirty years of not catching a fish, I caught two in one day!    Please allow me to tell you the story.

My daughter, Cookie, and I set out early in the morning.  It was starting to turn from high tide, so while the water was high, the direction the water was moving was (in my opinion) less then preferable.  As we walked towards the jetty I saw a small family of tourists setting up on the side.  I greated them as I walked to my favored fishing position, and my daughter and I set up.  I only carried one fishing rod with me, as my daughter was coming to read and keep me company.

I had a little trouble setting up my bait and casting, yet when I put the hook out there I was happy with my positioning.  I cast out a few times, loosing a couple of baits, yet each time I was greeted with several nibbles on the hook… yet each time it came up empty.  On my sixth cast I felt a sizable nibble on the line and I jerked back the rod.  This time I had something!

I started furiously winding my jig, bringing the hook back to the jetty.  I didn’t know what I had, yet it was trying to fight.  I franticly asked my daughter to take my phone and start recording.  After seconds of winding I finally saw the flash of the silver that was the fish.  I brought him up the 2 meters to the jetty and I finally caught my first fish in decades.

I lost the sinker during the titanic battle to bring this fish to the surface, yet it was worth it.  This was a Silver Trevally, a nice little fish that is great fried and apparently nice as Sushimi.  If you watch the Youtube video I am sure you can hear the excitment in my voice.  One thing… once he was in my hand I realised that I had not prepared for catching a fish.  So many years of failure had ingrained in me that I never needed to actually prepare for catching a fish.  So I needed to scoop up some sea water and set the fish in that till it was time to go home.

 

Not wanting to rest on that single success, I continued casting.  Within 10 minutes I once more felt a little nibble on the line that stayed hooked when I jerked back my rod.  I was feeling elated when I brought another fish up to the jetty… a little Tiger Flathead.  I had to let that one go as it was undersize, yet I was very happy with just catching a second fish.

Once I brought the Silver Trevally home I needed to kill, gut and fillet him.  Once again, I had failed to prepare for this situation.  I had caught fish in the past, yet as I was a child at the time my father did all the work.  Since then I had watched some videos on how to deal with a fish, yet I have had no real experience.  Despite this, I had to give it a go.

Kitty filmed the process of my attempt to kill the fish.  To be honest, I am not that happy about it.  The videos I watched told me that a sharp impliment to the brain would kill the fish.  I am not so sure it worked, so I cut it’s throat.  If you watch the vide there is a small part where I am not so sure that I killed it properly.  I will have to watch more and learn how to do this.

 

On killing the fish I discovered the secret that was deep inside the fish… it had a parasite.  To be precise, it had a tongue eating parasite (Cymothoa exigua).  I know what it is now, yet at the time of butchering the fish I had never seen one before.

 

http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/28/tongue-eating-fish-parasites-never-cease-to-amaze/

In the end we ended up with four small fillets from the fish, which I fried after lightly coating them with olive oil and a tiny pinch of salt.  I served them on a plate with a lemon from our lemon tree.  This had to be the best fish I ever tasted and everyone in my family enjoyed a taste.

After so many years of failure I finally achieved success.  I admit that I doubted I would ever land a fish, I even talked about it in the video, yet I proved that I can do it.  I know it is a small win, yet it is proof that you can do anything you want it you work at it.  If I can achieve my dream of landing a fish, you too can get what you are after.

Success on a fishing trip doesn’t have to mean that you caught fish

There is little chance of someone confusing me with Rex Hunt, Jeremy Wade or Matt Hayes.  I have learned that I am not a very good fisherman.  If I was the Old Man from Hemingway’s famous novel, I would have starved long ago.  My younger son and I went out on the weekend to test the water with our fishing rods, intending to spend an hour on the jetty in the morning and see if we could bring anything to the table.  First hiccup in my plan was shortly after we arrived… I realised I left the bait at home.  So, we turned around to pick that up.

Before long we were back at the jetty and I was setting the bait on my hook.  We were the only people fishing, possibly as it was a terrible time to try, yet I decided that I would get some practice in, and my son and I could spend the time chatting.  I decided it would make sense if I cast first,  which would allow me to bait my son’s hook, so I let loose with my rod then placed it down and let it sit (which was something I had seen experienced fishermen do).   I set up the second rod, then my son and I sat back to talk.

I should say that when I cast my hook I felt the reel was a little stiff, yet I didn’t pay it much attention until I noticed I had a nibble… as I tried to wind the reel I found I was unable to turn the handle… it was almost stuck solid.  I suspect it might have rusted from when I went surf fishing a few months ago and I (stupidly) didn’t maintain it after I came home.  I spent 5 minutes wrestling with the handle, slowly bringing it in, until the handle on the reel snapped.  I brought the hook and sinker back to the jetty, yet I was unable to use the rod.  So my son and I shared the remaining rod.

We had a nice time fishing, chatting about things.  We had many nibbles on the line, and lost plenty of bait, yet nothing was caught.  I did witness a commercial fisherman nearby (he was part of the crew off a crabbing boat), he seemed to be catching fish with every cast.  Still, the experience was enjoyable and it was nice to be outdoors.  We spent nearly three hours on the jetty, as every time I had decided it was time to go home I had a fish nibble on my bait.  This encouraged me to keep with it a little longer.

After the time fishing my son and I took a walk on the rocks by the jetty.  It was a chance to explore areas that are usually under water and for me to share some knowledge.  We found all manner of sea creatures, such as abalone, muscles, oysters, sea snails, and hundreds of crabs.  The noise the crabs made on mass was surprising, it sounded like rocks crawling on sandy ground.  Many of the animals we found were edible and some were also legal to take, yet we decided to leave them all for another day.

 

 

I did learn something from this day.  I took special note of the bite marks on the bait which I brought back up after a nibble.  I noticed that they would usually start biting at the stomach of the blue bait I was using.  My hook was usually set through the eyes of the bait, or through the backbone (if using a lower portion).  I believe that my hook placement was wrong, as it was not in the ideal position to hook the fish when it nibbled.  I have decided to try out some different configurations next time I go fishing… trying to keep the hook near the most desirable portion of the bait and make it so that they will be eating parts closer, so when I try to set my hook into the fish it might bite at the ideal location.  So despite nothing caught, I did learn something.  I also realise that even without bringing fish home for a meal I can still have a successful day fishing if I enoy my time.  That said, I hope that it will be soon when I bring home some delicious fish for my family’s dinner.

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” – Steven Wright

We took some of our new rods down to the local shoreline, for a fun afternoon and also to attempt to work on my 13 skills.  We decided to walk down there, thinking that we would find a place to fish from at the local harbor.  We have seen Jetties down there that, from the road, looked perfect as a place to set up for a spot of fishing.  Once we walked down there, we found that one was in total disrepair, the other was privately owned.  We decided to walk even further and we eventually found a nice little jetty to use.

DSC_3487
My Daughter is fishing from the rocks. You can see the jetty we used in the background.

We had little success… well, I should say that we caught zero fish.  Yet, none of us minded as we were just having a great time out at the water.  The only thing we caught was seaweed… a whole lot of seaweed.  It caused me to think that I could, if I was permitted, take some home and use it to make a fertiliser for my garden.  I understand that Seasol is made from seaweed… and I have been using that on my garden.  When I returned home from the day I found that according to local laws I am permitted to gather up to 100kgs of seaweed.

I don’t see the need to gather that much, so I should be sweet.  I found quite a few sources for information on turning seaweed into a fertiliser, yet as I trust Gardening Australia for most of the information it provides, I am providing their link.  I also found a great blog at, Earth Easy, that has a lot of info on this.

DSC_3502
My younger son, showing off his newly acquired casting skills.

 

We all enjoyed our little attempt at fishing, and I can say that the pride I felt when I taught my children to cast (and for them to learn so quickly, and not hurt themselves once) is hard to describe.  I could tell a lot of stories of how I learned to cast, of my failures that resulted in hooks through my hands and my back (as well as hurting some other people!).  Of my father having to make me practice casting a lead weight on my school oval for weeks before he was satisfied I would do myself (and no one else) any harm.