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This Is Northern New South Wales

Tales from the sea



Back in the early days in Byron Bay, none of us had much money. My workmate at Norco Co.Op, Harvey Goldsmith’s wife’s 21st. birthday was coming up, so we decide to go out in the boat to try to catch a feed of fish for the party because he couldn’t afford to cater for it. We decided to take a friend’s old boat out from the Pass. This was a time before outboard motors here in Byron Bay and the old boat only had a single cylinder Blaxland Pup motor and was slow to say the least. A lot of skill was needed to get in and out of the Pass. We headed out off the Cape about a mile and I was sitting on the transom steering with my foot on the tiller with a 150 Lb. breaking strain line trailing a “Smith’s Jig” with the line kind of wrapped around my fingers while I was doing something else. Suddenly bang! something took the jig and over the back of the boat I went. This was just on sunset and getting quite dark. I distinctly remember treading water with nothing to hang on to but a wooden fishing reel waiting for Harvey to come back and get me. I’ll never forget the chug,chug,chug sound of that old motor as he managed to turn around and it seemed like an eternity.

I know it sounds like a typical fish story but after I got back onboard, we realised I still had a fish on, and it turned out to be a 37Lb. (17 Kg.) Spanish Mackerel which we took down to the local fish and chip shop owned by Bill Hall (who also worked with us at Norco).

Bill chopped it up and deep fried in pieces which fed the whole party of guests…Believe it or not!



The net crews and beach netting are a thing of the past now but they are part of Byron Bay folklore. They once were a common sight for us when we were kids growing up on and around the beach here and many other coastal towns on the East coast.

Thee crews were a tough bunch of guys, they worked hard and played hard. Fights on the beach weren’t uncommon, particularly between rival crews, especially if a rival crew from up the coast tried to muscle in on the Byron Bay guy’s territory.

We were always allowed to go up and help with the nets and get a free feed of fish.

I distinctly remember one year, around 1950, when the crew made a record haul of around 128,000 lbs. (57 Tonnes) of sea mullet. They worked all day and into the night loading them onto trucks to take down to the local Co.Op. which was located down near The Belongil where the abattoir used to be. There they were to be iced and sent off to the fish markets.

All the way down Shirley St. there were mullet flapping on the road where they had fallen off the overloaded trucks! people were simply walking out their front door and picking up a feed of fish off the road!