I have been considering the impact that I make on the fish stocks of Tasmanian waters when I’m down there with my favourite rod that I bought from Target, Rockdale, Sydney in 1981.

Fish Stocks - Fresh Bream
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Fresh bream from the Douglas River caught and used for my dinner

Tasmanian Fish Stocks: Sardines for Dinner!

by Roger Findlay

Like most men, I’ve got all the tackle with a full selection of sea line, hard-bodies, soft plastics, swivels, sinkers and all sizes of hook. Most of them are only there for the trip and never get a guernsey as I tend to stick with a conventional rig with running pea-sized sinker and a Number 2 suicide hook baited with prawn. Why is that we are so prepared to rape the ocean but often fail?


On my last trip, I needed to catch fish for tea. I stood on pebbles at the side of the Douglas River praying that an unsuspecting bream would be tempted by the delicious prawn on the end of the line. This temptation could be likened to a potential client walking the streets of Kings Cross doing a lot of gawping at what’s on offer but that’s all.

Fish Stocks - Douglas River
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The Douglas River, where I reduce the fish stocks of Tasmania by two bream!

The light was fading fast forcing me to leave empty handed and the bream wishing they’d gone for it. Back at the house, I activated the contingency plan by taking a tin of Santamaria sardines from the pantry and spreading them on buttered toast. By choosing a Portuguese product, my impact on Tasmanian fish stocks was negligible.

Fish Stocks - Post Super Trawler
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Imported sardines might be the only option once the super trawler quota is filled


Chicken v Seafood

The next day I bought a Nichols chicken and it was obvious that I had already adopted a negative attitude towards estuary fishing. Before I went to fish, I prepared the chicken with seasoning and by cramming one of Elliot’s finest brown onions into the cavity. I then placed it in a flour-dusted oven bag with potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower and pumpkin. All I had to do when I came back from fishing was to load it in a hot oven and leave it for about one and a half hours.

When I arrived at my favourite spot, four adults with several children were already there. The Douglas showed disapproval by only offering weed to the baited hooks. I watched for a while before getting my tackle from the car. Being unsuccessful, the two families upped stumps and decided to go four-wheel driving along the beach leaving myself and three children as the only fishers.


My routine was much the same as the day before but this time I struck the jackpot! Within ten minutes I had the first followed by a second fish a few minutes later. Children gawped in amazement at the maestro who caught fish with ease. “Catch and Release” played on my mind but I chose to convey the message a different way by telling the children that I only catch fish to eat and that two were plenty!

With my two fish swimming in a bucket, I arrived back at the house and now had to make the choice between them or the chicken. Fish it was to be (heads, eyes, roe and all)! At last I’d made an impact on the fish stocks of Tasmanian waters.

Triabunna Super Trawler

After having a bream for breakfast prior to departure, I made my way down the east coast to Triabunna. It was good to be back so soon. Just over the bridge, facing the town, is where Craig moors his cray boat and I was hoping to say “g’day”. I was in luck. Just like before, Craig was preparing to go.

Triabunna was much busier now than on my winter visit. Lots of boats crowded the harbour and there was plenty of activity. One boat in particular took my eye and, once I’d Googled it, I realised the multitude of light globes were used to attract squid.

Fish Stocks - Triabunna Squid Boat
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Triabunna fishing boat: a multitude of light globes are used to attract squid

Looking like a tourist with NSW number plates and a Think Tasmania spare wheel cover I was well received by two commercial fishermen and I took this opportunity to debate the Super Trawler and the impact on fish stocks in (yes, you’ve guessed) Tasmanian waters.

Dad and lad had returned from the southern waters where they had been fishing for blue throat wrasse. I was told that these gruesome fish are a favourite to the Chinese people of Sydney and Melbourne and the attractive price makes it worthwhile freighting them ‘live’ in tanks.


While Dad watched his lad fillet several perch for their evening BBQ, I couldn’t help thinking that some of the best bits were being wasted to the gulls and the scavenging fish. Skin, heads, eyes and all (I eat) making me a very efficient, low impact fellow.

Fish Stocks - Filleting Fish
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Dan Hursey doing the work while father, Kevin, imitates a council worker.

Hursey’s Seafood

Kevin Hursey has a shock of white hair. He’s been fishing off Tasmania all his life and so have the rest of the family. Next time you’re in Stanley, have a look at the photos in Hursey’s Seafood café and you’ll see what I mean. Dan Hursey is Kevin’s son. He’s also been fishing for many years and will continue when his dad retires.

Fish Stocks - Ben and Kevin Hursey
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Dan and Kevin Hursey fish from their boat in Triabunna, east coast of Tasmania

Like most others that watch the news and read the papers, I had formed an opinion on the Super Trawler and what damage it would do. Now I know the thoughts of professional fishermen and how they see it affecting them.

Seafish Tasmania: Fish Stocks Quota

Triabunna based Seafish Tasmania were given a quota of 18,000 tonnes for the Super Trawler. Kevin and Dan Hursey feel this quota is too high but they know that Seafish Tasmania can still use the quota in a different way.

To catch the quota a fleet of twenty, thirty or seventy small fishing boats could be put to sea without any control or monitoring of what went into the nets. If this happened, the outcome would be far worse than with the Super Trawler where independent inspectors would monitor the catch throughout.

Unlike Craig who tends to cray the east coast, Kevin and Dan set their pots on the wild, west coast where the big ones live. These are hardened sailors who risk their lives. They know the game and they respect the fish stocks that provide their living.

For me, it’s sardines for tea!

Roger Findlay spends all his holidays in Tasmania, then writes about the
experience for Think Tasmania. If you’d like Roger to visit you in the name of
research (so we can publish information about your business), please contact us.

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Map: Douglas River & Triabunna Tasmania