The birthday boy of the Australian half of the family wanted to go for a snorkel with a spear-gun back at the Vivonne Bay jetty. The original plan was to fish another jetty in Kingscote – ‘Capital’ of Kangaroo Island – in the evening. However, when I arrived, I could see the rods were off the car roof-rack and were being already in use. Like me, my Australian relatives just couldn’t resist wetting a line whenever there’s opportunity.
I picked up the small toy-like rod I’d been using yesterday, threaded a cockle onto the small hook, and dangled the bait next to a jetty pylon. The others in the party were again patiently float-fishing for Tommy Ruff and ‘Salmon’. These ‘Salmon’ are completely unrelated to the Atlantic salmon we’re familiar with in the UK. The Western Australian Salmon, Arripis truttaceus, can grow up to nearly a meter long and is targeted more for its fighting ability, than its worth as a table fish.
A shout came from the end of the jetty as a shoal of Salmon approached. The bright blue sea turned dark from the sheer number of fish. I cast my cockle bait amongst the shoal. “Wind slowly” I was told. The huge quantity of hungry fish could only mean one thing: a near instant hook up. The tiny rod made for hard work in taming such a powerful fish. It made several strong runs before it was exhausted at the side of the jetty. My scaled-down tackle meant I could never have reeled the fish out of the water. I reached down, took hold of the line, and swung the fish up. I misjudged the swing. The line caught the wooden boards; the fish dangling above the water. The line snapped.
Hugely disappointed, I tied on a bigger 1/0 hook, rebaited, and waited for the shoal to reappear. My second salmon stayed on for a few seconds only.
A third fish took the bait. I was dreadfully under gunned; the fish’s surging runs made me wish for a bigger rod. The reel’s drag setting luckily seemed just right to tire the fish. The 3 to 4lb fish went airborne several times, but the hook held. I thought I’d bested the fish and then…it was gone. The hook hold had loosened and my last chance of a salmon was gone.
With the stock of cockles diminished, I re-baited and stood with rod in hand, watching for the return of the shoal. More experienced heads suggested the shoal was spooked and wouldn’t be back.
We packed up. A large dark shadow swam ever so slowly along the seabed alongside the jetty. It didn’t swim like a typical fish. Octopus? Wobbegong? No one was quite sure. The sea can always throw up surprises.
Despite my failures, there was still Salmon on the menu that night, caught by a luckier angler. It’s not a fish that would be to everyone’s taste; it has the texture of tuna and flavour of mackerel. Bled immediately after death, and fried in breadcrumbs I was happy enough with it.