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  1. #1
    Ausfish Gold Member ThePinkPanther's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    On Moreton Bay

    Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Now pushing 75, I started my fishing life at the tender age of two when I was squashed up front near the anchor storage well of a twelve foot, wooden, hire boat my policeman Dad rowed for many miles from Boyd’s Bay Bridge to Terranora Lakes and back again along the glorious Tweed River.

    My first fish was an eighteen inch flathead in 1950 when I was seven! Our catch that day was 99, or so Dad told me!

    And I make no apologies for that wasteful number compared to today’s catches and conservation thinking ‘cos back then fish were so plentiful nobody could ever envisage them ever dwindling in numbers to what they are today!

    If it swam, slithered, splashed, clambered or whatever, their numbers were virtually unlimited! And as I grew up I became used to catches of well over 50 huge male mud crabs, so many BIG Greenback tailor from the Fingal NSW beaches that we simply could not carry any more in our fishing team of Dad, Mum and me!

    Our “Base” was a wonderful rented house called “WoodGreen” right on the beach at Bilinga Qld, adjacent to where the current SLSC is now situated! For six weeks holiday every year until I was sixteen, we spent every single day fishing and crabbing.

    Bait was thick on the ground! Walk over to the beach and gather pippies by the bucketful and giant ones at that! Sea worms? After acquiring the skills of catching these tricky critters, it was just a matter of pulling out as many as you wanted all in a space of a hundred yards in less than an hour! I caught so many, I set up a stand on the roadside and sold them by the hundreds, true!
    And these were big, big worms! Over a metre in length,big yellow snapping heads and occasionally needing two hands to pull them out!And they were as aggressive and hungry as hell! They stuck their heads so far out of the sand chasing the bit of pippie bait, you couldn’t miss them!

    Yabbies were simply a matter of finding the nearest sandbank in the local river or outlet and using the old four-inch diameter yabby pump we had back then with two air holes and a handle, we easily filled our buckets with huge, orange, snappy bait in under an hour. Back then of course, Mum had to plunge her hand down the hole vacated by the pump and drag them out! Many was the time she was shrieking “get it off get it off” as a humungous big male clamped down on her finger tips in objection to being dislodged from its home!

    Dad was fastidious over keeping all the bait fresh.Every day, often twice or more, it was my job to take the worms over to the beach, give them a bath in fresh salt water, cover them in dry sand and put their container in an ant proof position in our under the house shower room. Likewise with the yabbies. Same treatment though we found keeping them in dry straw better than in water. If you chucked out the dead or sick ones, they would last for quite a few days.....

    And fish? They were everywhere in such vast quantities you simply had to toss a coin on the day to decide where to make a killing. We favoured the beaches around the Palm Beach and Bilinga areas but the Fingal beaches produced the magnificent “greenbacks” that sat in a big gutter for half a day and just never stopped biting, non-stop! Big, hungry and aggressive guys up to five kilos, more commonly two to three but eventually you simply became so tired of pulling them in you had to quit!

    What Fraser Island is today with tailor, the southern beaches were back then. Using pillies, pencil gar, chrome or bronze lures my Dad made, even mullet strips, they slammed anything that touched the water. And we walked, yep walked, down and back from Pottsville to the Black Rocks lugging creels jammed full of beautiful tailor! Probably three plus or more miles with all the gear, tackle and bait along with our faithful old six inch wooden Alvey side casts and solid bamboo surf rods, heavy gear!

    Whiting? Hundreds in the surf! Big hit ‘n run critters and none of this pick pick pick sort of bite so common these days….scared now I guess of all the activity and boats!

    Agile as mountain goats back then, Dad and I used to literally jump across the southern Fingal rock headlands to land on a big solid spot whereupon we tossed lures into literally acres of tailor that stayed in the gutter there for often half a day or more!

    In the same Fingal area above the Giants Causeway, we skull dragged dozens of Golden Trevally up on the high headlands, often returning later and threading on BIG bunches of fresh sand worms for the ever hungry Jewies!

    Of course, Sea Bream – now non existent – were ever present and I used to watch my Dad wrestle these seriously big guys up to 3-4 kilos along the Palm Beach at night, monsters they were! And the really big Jewies also patrolled the same beaches and it was common to see other Fishos all “walking” their big fish along the beach until they (the fish!) tired!

    Bilinga beach was often standing room only as the tailor schools moved into the big, deep gutters by morning and afternoon. To see 50 plus guys all shoulder to shoulder, dragging them in without a single tangle or cross word was incredible. Nowadays it is snapping, snarling and line cutting that is more common, even only between a few guys!

    When we wanted a change of variety we rented an old rowboat and ventured out into the Tweed River near the present day Golf Club and filled the boat with great whiting from the sand banks nearby after pumping as many yabbies as we needed. The deep rock hole by the headland near the Club never failed to produce top quality black bream! Let the float out twenty feet and wham, down it went, and the fight was on! And similarly walking the Tweed rockwalls always bought a bountiful supply of the same fish! The Kobaki arm of theTweed also produced big quantities of black bream with easy fishing along the deep, grass covered banks!

    Another exciting and much loved adventure was walking along the sandy shores of the Tweed River at night with a pressure lantern, hessian bag, some steel spears and getting as many mud crabs – and big flathead– as we could carry! Mum was quite leery of the big eels that also came shooting out around your legs but we all loved that “sport” so much! Now you wouldn’t bother lighting the lantern.

    Back then when fishermen actually had some freedom, we used to sell most of our catches to the old Markwells Fish Markets near Tugan Beach, then go out and buy more bait so never, ever did we toss good seafood away, it simply got eaten by others!

    And then ever so slowly but ever so noticeably it all started to grind to a stop!

    The Netters got lighter, faster boats, longer monofilament nets, paid more on-shore spotters and annihilated anything that dared to come near the beaches! We used to help them pull in the nets for a reward of a bucket full of mullet or tailor! Little did we know we were assisting in decimating the swarms of fish that seemed inexhaustible at the time.

    And of course, local Councils then permitted the mechanized digging of Pippies! And in ONE YEAR they ceased to exist on the Gold Coast beaches. The bait harvesters used Bob Cats with huge shovels and small meshed wire to gather them up, in their tens and tens of thousands! And the industry (and Pippy supplies) vanished in a little over a year!

    Now the giant schools of Tailor that originated in their hundreds of thousands offshore from Sydney and headed north were hit by the netters every time they came close to land. By the time they reached SE Qld they were a rag tad bunch of skittish and terrified fish. You might pick up a few on the Gold Coast beaches but the tiny numbers only lasted half an hour or so before moving on!

    Back then Peel Island in Moreton Bay was literally one big coral reef and once you found one of many seriously deep blue holes at the SW Rocks with bommies galore, it was on for the young and old with Parrot, Snapper, Cod, Squire, Pearlies all on the chew ….. but you had to beat the sharks to get them in! Great fun was had stuffing some Carbide down one of the fish’s throats and chucking it back to see a shark swallow it and then… kaboom!

    In fact, Moreton Bay was awash with fish, sand and mudcrabs! Just go almost anywhere and a big haul was guaranteed! And then of course the Netters got extended permits to stake their nets out at night, move into otherwise protected waters and the Asian “Yellow Raincoat Brigade” plague started with their Bay trawlers and “killer 21ft cast nets” from Tinnies or the river banks, illegal mud crab taking was pretty well ignored until too late and the recreational prawn netting was taken over by the Vietnamese with the Mother Boat and a dozen or more “catcher boats” that relayed the huge catches out of reach of any Boating and Fisheries Officers who even dared going near the bunch!

    And then the Fisherman’s best friend and the fish’s worst enemy came along! GPS!

    Now Spot X and all our secret places were laid bare as every guy got a handheld GPS or more lately a Chart Plotter/Soundo combo! The offshore reefs of Moreton bay, it’s big islands and north towards to Henderson's Shoals were laid bare in a few years. I once fished Square Patch off Moreton Island with the legendary John Palermo for truly massive hauls of great reef fish, then a Trawler dropped a net on the peak by mistake, and whereas once only a handful of boats could successfully a) find it b) anchor up in 86 metres of water with a screaming current and c) find the fish, now it was so much simpler with the GPS coordinates and dozens of boats every day all helped to reduce The Patch to a shadow of it’s former self!

    So, seven boats later and 73 years behind me I have had a truly incredible satisfying, wonderous and enjoyable time chasing our finny friends! Most probably many will say how I hastened the demise of the fish population but to repeat, like many other things in this world, you can never ever imagine their vast quantities would ever be reduced to near extinction or at best, scarce as all hell!

    Nowadays, in retirement at Raby Bay with some ten years as Commodore of a local Volunteer Marine Rescue Unit, I have more than paid back my dues with well over some 800 rescues of Boaties and rarely if ever take home more fish or crabs than I need for a feed …… even on those rare days when it is Fish City down there!

    I do get a tad saddened in the knowledge that my kids and grandkids will never experience the great thrill of “hooking on” as easily and as prolific as it once was, and as we see more and more wins for the Fish Kissers and Far Left Activists wherein our precious fishing grounds are continually being shut down and what few rights we once had when out bagging a feed are inexorably being eroded away!

    That’s all folks! Enjoy your fishing …… while it lasts!
    Last edited by ThePinkPanther; 14-02-2018 at 11:15 AM. Reason: Heaps of typos!

  2. #2

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Great read mate, thank's for sharing.

  3. #3

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Great story Pink Panther. Great memories for you obviously.
    Thanks for your vision of what it was like. We will never see it again.
    Not all tools are usefull

  4. #4

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    I've got to admit that the sheer numbers are well down from when i started 50 years ago.
    I suppose the sharpest drop was in the 90's when it became the "in" thing to do by large numbers.
    It has only got worse since.

    I remember going fishing with my grandfather back 45 years ago and I was disgusted that he would rape the place until he ran out of bait......he and I had several arguments over his habits.

    The biggest bag I have brought home in the past 20 years would be about a dozen whiting or two snapper or about a dozen sand crabs.

    It pisses me off no end watching people be greedy and go well past bag limits, yet every single one of these idiots "justifies" it.

    Bring on a fishing licence in Qld and use that money to employ inspectors state wide. We should be inspected at least every second trip for bag and size limits. Funds raised from fines can then go into infrastructure like ramps, fishing docks, artificial reefs etc.

  5. #5

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Thanks for the article Pink Panther. You know I only wish I grew up in my father's era as it appears he had so many more opportunities in life to that of what we / I have had in my life. This not only included fishing and secluded locations but jobs as well. He started working with the British Airforce as a carpenter and took on a role in the Gilbert and Ellis Islands, from there he went to private industry taking on projects in many pacific islands such as The Solomon Islands, Christmas Islands and a few others. Looking at it from his stories he never really worked that hard and loved every day of it, he was always near the ocean and fished from shore or from a very small boat every afternoon. He certainly didn't need a 6.5+m half cabin decked out with 250+ HP outboard a shit load of fuel and 10 grand worth of GPS, Sounder and transducer to find a small feed miles from shore.
    Although my wife would hate me saying this in public, I really wish that the government would stop any further people imports, we have enough just look at the state of the traffic on the roads, I'd also like commercial fishing to service local only and be illegal to send outside of the state, or at worse the country. Sending seafood overseas is just ridiculous, I feel other countries have eaten there share and now they are eating ours. I also disagree with globalisation in general and feel that local is the way to go. You only need to visit any of the pacific islands or Bali to get an idea of how local farmers still sell there meat and vegetables at local markets and don't go through large corporations with huge profits such as Coles and Woolworths, though I too am a sucker for this current day lifestyle due to me and my wife's hectic work life (no kids just work long hours and buy shit). But something needs to change.. and If only there was more jobs in more remote (beach front) areas around the country i'd be there.
    Actually it's funny how things change as the old man used to work in Honiara Solomon Islands as a foreman/chippy etc building buildings. Just a couple of years back I met a fella who was working over there setting up IT systems, there's no chippy work there anymore (I've looked) but if your into IT you might have a chance.
    The old man these days suffers from Alziemers and the stories are gone sadly, and having no kids I feel sad I don't have another generation coming through to experience the wonders of life, but hey shit happens.
    I know #### all about politics as i'm a pretty simple man but what I see is a bunch of ####wits who have no idea of reality. A bit like a boss who's to far from the field to really know what's going on. Thanks for striking a chord

  6. #6

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    great insight into days gone by..the world changes..progress ???

  7. #7
    Ausfish Platinum Member Funchy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Blog Entries

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    top read thanks

    Click "like this post" if ya reckon my dog is cute!!!!

    Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn. ~Chuck Clark

  8. #8

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Loved the story PP thanks.

    I would like to be an optimist and think that things are getting slightly better. In my fishing life (only 30 years or so and for last 15 years offshore) I think some fish stocks are getting better. Snapper are slightly better than 10 years ago IMO due to the increased size limit, reduced bag limit. Maybe is has to do with other things like better techniques/tech etc who knows. Also marlin seem to be in better numbers but again could be the techniques/tech thing...

    I think the more we learn about the fish stocks the more we can manage and keep them around and maybe even increase numbers. I'm certainly not gonna give up fishing no matter how hard it gets to get a fish as its more than catching its the whole experience, as we all know. Plus it becomes more rewarding to succeed when it gets harder.

    From what i have read in this post i think Tuna's point about fishing licenses and more frequent checks and Almako's point about not sending local fish oversees would be 2 great steps to help better manage the local fish stocks.

    Until then these days you just need to "go the miles to get the smiles". Cheers

  9. #9

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Childhood memories from the 70's of the bathtub covered with mudcrabs while the copper (old washing appliance not the constabulary to the younger among you) got to the boil. These were caught in pots tied to the main coal wharf in Gladstone harbour overnight. Regularly and nobody messed with them. Also remember that a 5 minute row from Farmers Point in a leaky wooden boat got enough spangled emporer to feed a family in a half hour. Never froze them - just got them as no electrickery....

    Sent from my SM-G900I using Tapatalk

  10. #10

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Great read !!! Thanks for sharing a lifetime of fishing memories ......This could only be improved by hearing it all again face to face over a few beers in a boat on the water...

  11. #11

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Thanks for sharing PP and yes simmillar experiences years gone by , But think stocks lowered as years go by not by Rec Fishers alone but trying to feed the World with Fish here that other Countries envy . Too big a debate to get into but i also think that variouse stocks are on the increase , if only they can do here as they have done in the Fitzroy..

  12. #12
    Ausfish Gold Member ThePinkPanther's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    On Moreton Bay
    Thread Starter

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    That's weird isn't it as they last I read Oz was importing a staggering 73% of it's seafood!

    I even weakened and bought some of the "boneless barra" that comes from Asia at well under half price of the Aussie stuff ...... and damn nice fish it was! Couldn't pick the difference really!

    I feel kinda guilty but $17.00 a kilo vs $36.00???? No argument!

  13. #13

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Thanks for the in depth read, sadly its a sign of the times, as i have noticed in my 20 years fishing the decline of one species in particular , thats bonito used to be thick catching them off the rocks, now havent caught one for a long time, the closest i get now is when i read the label on the cat food tin ( succelent bonito in rich broth) mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm .

  14. #14

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    Appreciated. Not saving of 50 years back, I witnessed the fish stock declining in the last ten years. It's harder and harder to get a legal size catch now. When I released the under-size fish, I was thinking ' for my son's generation...

  15. #15

    Re: Fishing SE Qld as it once was!

    my observations down the boat ramps week in week out see people cleaning fish that were once considered yuck, hard to clean etc, gone are the slabs of silver goodness , it is my opinion that the pelagics like bonito are netted far offshore on thier migration cycle and end up in catfood tins processed in thailand. In regards to the pippies dissapearing from SE QLD in a year, other than bait supplies where else is thier market?

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