Winter in Southern Australia is Salmon Season.
These are not the Pacific Salmon you buy smoked in the best stores, these are Australian Salmon, a poor excuse for a table fish. Up until recently they were used as Crayfish bait and cat food, but since quality table fish are becoming harder to get the Salmon has been pushed forward as suitable for the dinner table. (It's not)
I cant stand them and we have tried them every which way to improve their flavor but to no avail, they're horrible. The only exception is Fish Cakes…if you leave out the fish. (Bread crumb patties)
The terrible South winds that whip off Antarctica don’t stop until they reach me standing on the cliffs at Elliston or Talia or Locks Well. The waves can sometimes be more than 50 metres high and when they crash into the cliffs it feels like horizontal salt rain. Conditions have to be terrible for Salmon and the weekends are usually pretty miserable affairs.. but you do catch a lot of fish.
This season I've made the 300km trek (each way) three times already and hope to make one more before the colds, flu and bitter cold drive me back to sit in the warm glow of the heater to sit out the rest of Winter.
The winds are relentless and rarely below 25knots, so windy in fact that you cant pitch a tent or if you do they blow away when you get out of them. A couple of years ago a mate of mine got out of his 3 man dome tent during the night to bang the pegs back in and the second his foot left the edge of the tent it took off tumbling across the field. Next morning I found him asleep in the car and he had to walk a mile to the tent tangled in trees at the far side of a huge field, along the way he had to recover his possessions where they fell. He got most of it back but the tent was trashed…first time he'd used it.
I used to sleep on the ground alongside the car for protection but I'm getting too soft for that now, a couple of years ago I bought a Toyota Ute and I now sleep in the back with a nice mattress and covered in a heavy tarp, not very comfortable but way better that the other options.
You have to battle Sharks to get your fish in and for good measure Australian Sea Lions and New Zealand Fur Seals all join in to snatch as many of your fish as they can. A Sea Lion can be the size of a medium car and you don’t get between them and anything they want, they lay peacefully on the beach near you until they see your rod bend and then they start moving toward you. If you unhook the fish and throw it to them they go back to their previous position but if you keep the fish to yourself they attack your line as you bring in the next fish meaning you lose a lot of gear. (and don’t get anymore fish)
This catch of small to medium Salmon was taken by a friend of mine in just one day.
If the fish are healthy and not bleeding I release them straight back into the water but if they're bleeding badly I keep them until I find a sucker to give them to.
This year I've caught around 100 fish and taken about five, all of which I've given away at the cleaning tables.
Two years ago I entered a Salmon Competition and took a fish nearing 8 1/2 pounds, thinking it stood a chance of winning I didn't bleed or gut it until I got back to the comp hours later. I was way off the winning weight so I was cleaning it when a boy came to admire the fish, I sent him back to his parents caravan with my fish...he was so pleased.. I'll bet his parents weren't when they all tucked into it that evening. (First thing you MUST do with Salmon is bleed and gut them within minutes)
My photos all show the area at it's best because when the wind is up there really is nothing to see, white foam and rain… and the salt ruins my cameras.