Fishy feast with laughing gas
Not long ago eating calamari, octopus or mussels was considered daring. Now that they are mainstream, the time has now come to find alternative sources of seafood to sustain the globe’s insatiable appetite.
Cue Heston Blumenthal and his television extravaganza Fishy Feast. Aired earlier this year on SBS, Heston donned the Captain Nemo cap, cast the lines and returned with the ultimate sustainable seafood repast.
The gastronomic wizard dished up sea cucumber tea with sea cucumber sandwiches – with a side of laughing gas – for a fishy take on the high (seas) tea. Then came scampi fries, which you could adapt using deep-fried farmed green prawn meat, and even trout fairy floss.
Wolffish cheeks, which were otherwise discarded by the fish processor, were served with a white splotch called seagull sauce. Finally, ‘desserts’ focussed on an edible coral reef adorned with chocolate starfish.
Of course, the Japanese are renowned as resourceful seafood eaters. Seaweed features in their diet, as do fish guts, sea urchin roe and myriad shellfish that we’d never even give a second thought.
Then there is the famous Malaysian fish-head curry, fermented South East Asian sauces made from crab, mudfish, anchovies and more, and dried shrimp paste and sprats used to add a deep fishy taste.
But here we’re blinkered into thinking seafood doesn’t extend beyond the homogenised boneless fish fillets, cooked peeled prawns and, if you’re game, oysters. I think it is time we adopted Heston’s view, broadened our palates, and minds.
Kimberley’s model marine park
Ordinarily, the announcement of a new marine park would be met with jeers from anglers locked out of their favourite fishing spots. But the new Camden Sound Marine Park in the Kimberley is being hailed as the ideal win-win marine park model.
Recreational fishing group Recfishwest has praised the WA government for its new marine park covering nearly 7,000 square kilometres beginning some 300km northeast of Broome.
Although there are two no-fishing sanctuary zones, abundant fishing areas remain and the creation of a unique new Wilderness Conservation Area has caught anglers’ imagination.
The new zone provides for a wilderness fishing experience subject to certain caveats. Anglers (including those aboard charterboats) must either catch and release or eat their catch before leaving the zone.
Commercial fishing and other commercial activities will not be permitted nor will spearfishing. The latter is odd, given its targeted nature, but one supposes there aren’t that many spearos in the Kimberley.
Some 48 per cent of the marine park will be closed to commercial trawl fishing and 23 per cent closed to all forms of commercial fishing. If appropriate, compensation will be paid to fishing operators.
“High quality recreational fishing is a key part of the wilderness experience and these areas provided the best of both worlds where the environment can be protected but recreational fishers were not locked out,” Chief executive officer of Recfishwest, Dr Andrew Rowland said.
The same marine park model would work right around the country. Allow fishing in sensitive areas but stop open-slather harvesting. Surely, even environmentalist Tim Winton would approve of that thinking.
Off the Seagrass
Plans to ban boats from anchoring off Manly and Quarantine beaches in Sydney Harbour will result in anglers being denied access to some of their favourite fishing spots.
The area between the swimming baths at Manly and Oceanworld is one of the harbour’s best luderick and surgeonfish haunts, says fishing guide Craig McGill, while Quarantine is one of few places in the whole of North Harbour where you can anchor and fish in relative calm during a big southerly.
Under the maps drawn up, boaters will banned from anchoring close to shore at both places because of seagrass beds and the nearby little penguin colony. At best we will be pushed some 100 metres offshore where the featureless sand bottom is lousy fishing.
The Department of Primary Industries, Roads and Maritime Services and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service are working on the planned anchoring bans, which follows submissions from local dive groups who want the area to themselves.
It also sets a dangerous precedence in NSW. Seagrass beds are found in countless fishing areas and anchorages. Will commonsense prevail? There’s just so much more to protecting seagrass than banning boats. More at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/info/seagrass
David Lockwood’s Guide to Fishing – June
Okay, even the brass monkeys know its winter. What with the south-westerly winds, the towering swells driven from low pressure systems, the clear skies at night, and brisk starts to the day. But there are other signs of the change of seasons below the water.
The winter species have arrived. I’m hearing a lot more news about tailor, Australian salmon, trevally, luderick and hairtail than, say, whiting, flathead and jewfish. That said, June is still a transitional time on the fishing front.
The water temperatures haven’t declined as fast as land temperatures and fortunes rest very much in the lap of the Eastern Australian Current. While the north-south flow slows in June, it’s a matter of when the cold water arrives.
Checks of the ocean temperature charts revealed 20-21°C water offshore in late May. That’s still warm enough for an odd stray striped marlin, but many more game fishers will be chasing the June run of yellowfin tuna, albacore and mako sharks.
Meanwhile, Central Coast guide Scott Thorrington has been scoring some thumper kingfish over 90cm. Live baiting around the bait schools is the technique. The fish are anywhere from the headlands to 100 metres, but as the water cools the deep reefs are your best bet.
Closer in, minnow trolling at first light – if you can roll out of bed – will produce tailor and salmon, perhaps the odd bonito for the boat brigade. Sorry to say, beach fishers need to fish into the chill night for the tailor. And if it’s safe to do so, the back of the ocean pools is a great spot for drummer on peeled prawn baits.
Though their numbers decline, you might also find a few kingfish in the estuaries in June. Harbour guide Craig McGill enjoyed a good run of big kingfish in late May, with two thumpers of 110cm and 106cm taken in one day in Port Jackson. The kings are also around the deep hole at The Spit.
But as the winter progresses you’re more likely to find tailor and salmon up top, with some trevally below the schools. Don your polarised sunnies, scoot around and look for the telltale diving birds or rippling schools of fish. Cast and jig lures under the fish. Lobbing poppers into the washes can be great for the tailor, too.
Given calm conditions, the offshore bottom fishing may well be a better bet. At the time of writing, anglers were landing teraglin, snapper, trevally, leatherjackets and flathead.
We also hear of long-finned perch on the 100 metre reefs. Think delicious mixed bags.
During past Junes I’ve scored some great flathead catches around the gravel beds. Big morwong are often about, too. But beware the pesky leatherjackets that tend to snip lines and pilfer your tackle. Sweep are another annoyance.
Out wide, some albacore have been reported and every game fisher is hopeful that the yellowfin tuna run will continue well into June. But beware the forecast strong westerly or south-westerly winds in June. One glance of the horizon is enough to determine if it’s rough out wide.
The other prime targets in the 200-450 metre depths are tasty blue eye cod, gemfish and hapuka. With the current slowing it’s easier to hold bottom. Once again, wind or lack thereof is the deciding factor to catching these species.
If there’s strong offshore winds but no real ground swell then tuck under headlands instead. A good berley trail should attract, bream, trevally, tailor and the odd kingfish.
Add some bread and fish the same for bait and you can score terrific black drummer.
Back inside the estuaries, you will still pluck a few flathead from the muddy shallows with your soft-plastic lures. Try bays such at Patonga, Hungry and Little Pittwater in the Hawkesbury, North Harbour in Sydney, and the coastal lakes like Narrabeen.
I have it on good authority that whiting to 42cm were taken around the mouth of Narrabeen Lake. Using live worms, you might score your biggest whiting at night in winter from the harbour beaches. Brisbane Water, Botany Bay and Port Hacking are even better.
Luderick are starting to stack up in good numbers in the estuaries and for many winter anglers this is their mainstay. As a general rule, the more oceanic your luderick, the less weedy it will taste. Filleted, skinned, crumbed and shallow fried, the luderick makes a fine meal.
As the westerlies blow and the water turns gin clear, big squid and John dory come about. Work jigs around the weed beds for the former, which tend to be heftier models in winter, while live baits suspended mid-water are the ticket for the dory.
I mentioned hairtail in passing, but the fish seem to be making a comeback this year. A school was encountered in Sydney Harbour in late Autumn and anglers landed a few in their usual haunt of Cowan Creek. Brave the night air and you should find some hairtail and a few random school jewfish this month.
Last but not least, hardy anglers will find trout in the Nepean following water releases from Warragamba that send the fish over the spillway. If you head into alpine country even more fish will be snapping. Just remember that trout fishing in the rivers closes on the June long weekend. Tight lines and play it doubly safe in winter.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fishing Key —
AS Australian Salmon
Schooling fish that enjoys the cool winter waters. Troll minnow lures, cast small metal lures or saltwater flies, try soft-plastic lures and pitch live baits to the fish. Enjoy the sport of catching and Aussie salmon and keep one or two fish for a robust fish meal or the hot smoker. The fish doesn’t keep or freeze at all well.
Berleying with chopped pilchard and floating lightly weighted pilchard fillets back into the berley using light tackle and fine line. Suitable method from both boat and shore. Hook size No 1 to 2/0. Or try using the latest soft-plastic lures jigged around the harbour wharves, jetties and rock walls on ultra-light flick sticks and 4kg braided line with a 4kg monofilament trace.
JD John Dory
A stealthy predator usually caught in ones and twos from the harbour’s deep holes and wharves where schools of yellowtail gather. Use a live bait suspended in mid-water under a bobby cork. Fights like a wet sock but taste incredibly good, though you get a small return in fillets. A real winter treat.
Herbivorous, with a taste for green weed, luderick are one of the most common fish in temperate estuaries. They inhabit deep rocky shores, sidle-up to pylons and piers and school over seagrass beds. Suspend some green weed bait (collected from the rocks or around ocean pools) about three metres below a perfectly weighted float. Berley with chopped weed and sand. First hour of the run-out tide is best. Bleed the fish, fillet and skin them, and cook and serve as you do veal schnitzel.
Fish the inshore reefs in 30-50 metres of water with 6kg-10kg tackle. Anchor up and berley with chopped pilchards and chicken pellets. Drift a half pilchard bait on a 4/0 chemically-sharpened hook back down the berley, with a pea-sized running sinker or just enough lead for the bait to waft down to the bottom. Dawn and dusk is best.
An aggressive schooling fish, named for its ability to slash baitfish to ribbons, the tailor is a snap to catch. Troll or cast and retrieve lures around the schools of fish hunting around headlands and estuaries in winter. Or cast a pilchard from the shore or boat during the flood tide and at night around Sow and Pigs or The Spit.
A soft-mouthed schooling fish that generally lays low in the water column. Use plenty of berley, light line and soft baits such as peeled prawn, tuna cubes or pilchard fillets. Drift the bait to the bottom on a 1/0 light-gauge hook. Go slow when fighting the fish or you will tear the hook from its mouth. Bleed and eat fresh.