|Noosa Heads and Noosa National Park|
|Jewfish/Mulloway...The One That Got Away..|
|Bream...Ones That Didn't Get Away|
|Tailor...Another That Didn't Get Away|
|Access from the beach to Happy Valley, Fraser Island |
|Portion of Ocean-side Beach on Fraser Island|
|Jetty at Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island|
|Again...No Explanation...There Never Was!|
Obviously after Billy Ray Cyrus paid a visit to the
However, that’s not the kind of mullet I’m writing about
today. The ocean-dwelling kind is my
prey, not Billy Ray.
Many folk knock mullet, but freshly-caught or netted sea
mullet is hard to beat. Similar applies
to any freshly-caught fish, in my opinion; whether it’s highly-revered Red
Emperor, Coral Trout and other prized fish; or the much-maligned lowly mullet. Ill-informed and misplaced snobbery presents its
contrary presence at every turn. Snobbery of all types sticks in my
I admit I never buy mullet. It’s not a good “keeping” fish. It’s best eaten soon after catching. Similar
applies to tailor. Freshly-caught, bled
and cleaned tailor is excellent eating, but like mullet tailor is best eaten
the day of catching. If not handled correctly both mullet and tailor become very "fishy"; and are not, in my opinion, good eating.
When, in early 1979, my husband (now ex) and I swapped city
life for coastal living and the pleasures it had to offer, we mutually decided
we’d take a month or two holiday time before settling into our new life on the Sunshine Coast. We wished to take advantage of
our new (but familiar) surroundings for a little while; to spend time catching
our respective breaths. Both of us had
been working long, busy hours in the city.
I’d worked for the one company for 14 years, from 1965
through to 1979. During those 14 years, in total, I had only approximately two
months off from work. It was of my own choosing. I was never much of a “holiday-taker”; plus
my job was very interesting and all-consuming.
Before returning to Australia
in November, 1974, my ex, Randall, had been living and working in New York City. Almost 10 years to the day in late November, 1965 ge'd left our Aussie shores . Randall and I originally met as teenagers in 1963; our
relationship, compared to that of many of our peers, was unconventional, to say
the least. And, in this present story,
I’m saying the least about those chapters of my life, for no other reason than
it’s not the core of this story.
Approximately 18 months after his return from the US Randall
and I married in a simple, but relaxed, happy civil ceremony at his parents’
home one Sunday afternoon with only a few immediate family members and close
friends present. They weren’t going to
miss out on a good party; and they weren’t disappointed!
Just a little background…you know how much I like to give a
background to the real-life characters in my tales.
Almost immediately after our arrival on the coast we were
ready for the next stage in our lives. With spare time up our sleeves; a sea
breeze on our faces; sand between our toes and salt-spray on our bodies we
chose fishing as one of our temporary pastimes. Before leaving Brisbane we’d armed ourselves well with
12-foot surf rods, Alvey reels and all the tackle necessary to catch a
fish. The only things missing were the
bait and the fish! It didn’t take us long to remedy the situation.
We studied the tides; the moon phases; when the best
time to catch a fish was (preferrably more than just one fish); and we went on reconnaissance
missions to find the most fruitful – “fishful” – spots. We found a great spot at the mouth of the Maroochy River; on the northern side of the river
mouth. The next most important thing on
our list was to choose the right bait.
For about a week we’d fished our chosen area with little success. To our annoyance, a young fellow who fished a
few yards from us, every afternoon, reeled in fish after fish; beautifully,
glistening silver bream.
When night fell, even though we couldn’t see him, we could
hear his squeaky reel. His damn reel squeaked frequently. It’s squeaking added
to our frustration because that sound heralded his success in the catching of
fish; and showed up, in squeaks, our lack of it!
After a few days we’d had enough off feeling inadequate at
this fishing game so we befriended the young chap and began to pick his brain; and fillet the helpful information from that which did not help our cause.
The young fisherman, willing to impart his knowledge, generously pointed out we
were using the wrong bait; or at least I was using the wrong bait for catching bream; and
bream were my targets.
I was there to
catch bream. Randall had more expansive ambitions. He was after the elusive
“big one”. His dream; his never-ending goal was
to hook onto a giant jewfish/mullaway. He was rigged up for the possibility.
After learning from the young fishing guru chicken gut was the only
enticement the bream in the particular area we were fishing were interested in, the next day I switched over to chicken gut; and immediately, I began catching
bream after bream. They feasted on it and while their minds were occupied in a chicken bait delirium I hooked and pulled in bream like there was no tomorrow.
The bream that feed
off the sand bank at the northern end of the Maroochy River
loved chicken/fowl gut. It was their
delicacy of choice. Naturally, it became my bait of choice.
Randall and I were fishing our favourite spot one morning when a
couple of boatloads of professional fishermen came by with their nets out in an
endeavour to catch mullet. Myriad mullet
were on the run; the wave swells were black with them; and the fishermen were
on the run after the mullet that were on the run!
The pros didn’t care that we had our lines out in the water;
they just barged on through, dragging their nets, and our fishing lines with them. They hauled in a massive load and didn’t even
offer us one measly mullet. We felt that
was the least they could have done seeing they’re wrecked our chances of
catching any fish that morning.
To catch mullet a very light line is needed, along with
either a lure or a very small, fine hook, baited with dough; or by using a cast
net. Jagging is illegal here, and
rightfully so. Although we did try jagging one night; just the once. Once was more than enough. Jagging is a very dangerous activity; not for
the mullet; they’re too clever; too fleet of scale and gills to be caught by
that method. We cast out our line, and it flew back at a rapid, dangerous rate
of knots - if it had hit the mark we’d have either lost an eye or two, or
hooked onto the nearest power line – kaput – good night! That one time was enough for us. No amount of fish, whatever the fish was worth losing an eye; being electrocuted or fined; or all of the above!
Because time was our own for a while until we started working again, Randall and I fished
the tides at all the right hours of the night and day. We soon learned from 4 pm onwards
through the night up until 8 am were the best times to catch fish. Forget the full moon; the three days leading
up to a full moon and the three days after the full moon were the productive,
conducive times for catching fish, particularly my prey, bream.
During the years Randall and I lived at Sunshine Beach
we visited Fraser
Sunshine Beach is separated from Noosa Heads by the Noosa National Park;
Sunshine Beach is on the southern side of the
Randall’s aunty lived on the island permanently at Happy Valley. Ethel lived on Fraser for nine years before
moving to Hervey Bay on the mainland across from the
Heritage-listed, Fraser Island
is the largest sand island in the world. It’s 1840 square kilometers (710 sq.
miles) in size. It’s approximately
120kms (75 miles) in length; width approximately 24kms (15 miles). It’s permanent resident population is
approximately 200, give or take. Of
course, those numbers swell with visiting tourists. Camping in designated areas is the main form of
accommodation on the island. There are
only three settled areas; Eurong and Happy
Valley on the
ocean-side; and on the western, still-water
side with Hervey Bay across on the mainland - is Kingfisher
Bay Resort. The resort wasn’t even a
twinkle in its developers’ eyes when we used to visit the island back in the
Fishing and spending time with Ethel, our favourite aunty,
were our aims when visiting Fraser
Island. Ethel lived in a three-bedroom home with all the "mod-cons". Her power was linked to the Happy Valley's store generator; and she had a smoker built-in beside her barbecue on her back paved patio area.
We’d load up Ethel's
little Suzuki four-wheel drive and off we’d go along the beach; sometimes up to
Indian Head and all places in between. Other times we'd drive across the island, along its rough, sandy tracks to the still waters of the western
side, on a hunt for whiting on low and incoming tides.
On the oceanfront of Fraser Island we’d hook tailor after tailor when they
were on the “run”. My 12-foot fishing rod and Alvey reel to which I was very
much, and often, attached served its purpose admirably.
Tailor is good eating if handled correctly. It has to be bled and cleaned upon catching.
We used to catch
a lot of dart, too. Dart dart about
everywhere up that way, and they’re prolific in the waters of the Sunshine Coast, as well
Dart aren’t difficult to catch. They’re inquisitive, gluttonous little
devils. Again, if treated properly they’re good eating. We used to smoke the
carcasses after filleting (no…we didn’t make “rollies” out of them!). The
smoked carcasses were tasty nibbles to nibble on during our Happy Valley Happy
Hours on Fraser Island.
Fresh is best, as in all things; and this most definitely
applies to tailor; and to mullet.
I’ve never turned my nose up at freshly-nabbed sea mullet.
Not only does it taste good, but it’s also nutritionally very good for you (and
me). Mullet are packed to the gills with Omega-3.
One time when I was managing the resort at Cape Richards
on Hinchinbrook Island a Bowen couple came to stay for a
week or so.
During my “greet & meet” they told me they owned a
little corner store in Bowen. They were shy, humble folk. From what I gathered it was their first
holiday in many years.
Whenever new guests arrived, while their luggage was being
transferred to their cabins, I’d usher the new arrivals out onto the deck
surrounding the pool where I'd sit with at table shaded by a giant fig tree…or
inside, if it was raining. Relaxing over a coffee, tea or a chilled juice I’d familiarise
my new guests with what the resort/island had to offer.
It was obvious from the beginning the Bowen couple felt ill-at-ease
in their surroundings amongst strangers.
There was no reason for them to feel so. Their shyness hindered them. It
became my challenge; I made it my purpose to ensure their stay at the resort was
as pleasant and memorable as possible.
Early one morning when my late brother, Graham, who worked
on the island as one of my maintenance men, tossed the restaurant’s food scraps
into the water off the end of the jetty; a practice performed every morning, much to the
delight of the local fish, the couple from Bowen joined my brother and me on
I drew their attention to a school of mullet swimming about
in a feeding frenzy. I asked the husband if he could use a cast net. He nodded.
Conveniently, one was in the nearby shed. I handed the guest the net and stood back out
of his way.
Within minutes "Mr. Bowen" had a haul of mullet. Immediately we went to work at the water’s
edge. Scaling was easy; the scales came off effortlessly in our hands. Other than
gutting the mullet, we left the fish whole.
I asked my guest if he and his wife would like to join Graham and me for
breakfast…a breakfast of freshly-netted, freshly-cooked mullet. Without hesitation, they both accepted my
The restaurant was filled with guests eating breakfast
when we walked in. Entering the kitchen with our bounty, I asked my chef to
cook the mullet, whole, in butter, lemon juice and chopped parsley.
Graham guided the couple to an outdoor table beside the pool
before he returned to the restaurant where I was filling a jug with orange
juice, gathering together cutlery, glasses, plates and napkins in readiness for
him to take out to the table.
When the mullet were cooked to perfection, I mischievously
and purposely carried the large stainless-steel platted adorned with the fish
through the restaurant area, amidst the breakfasting guests, at just lower than waist-high
level. I was showing off...and enjoying doing so! The other guests dining on their regular usual breakfasts of bacon,
eggs, grilled tomatoes etc., couldn’t miss seeing the delicious fare the shy couple
from Bowen would be dining upon. An enticing aroma filled the air, also!
The diners in the restaurant area looked on enviously from afar while the
Bowen couple, my brother, Graham and I sat beside the pool enjoying a breakfast
fit for a king and his queen.
It was a special, ice-breaking moment. From that point on
the reserved couple no longer felt out of place.
And I’ll bet the couple never forgot that breakfast, or
their holiday on Hinchinbrook
Rinse 2.25kg split, cleaned mullet. Combine 3785ml water, ¾ to 1c salt, 1c
firmly-packed brown sugar, 1tbs onion powder and 5 crushed bay leaves in bowl;
stir until salt dissolves; add mullet; cover; chill up to 2hrs, or to desired
saltiness; longer the soak, the saltier. Rinse fish; discard brine; pat fish
dry; place on wire racks in roasting pans. Cover with paper towels; chill until
dry; rub 1tsp pepper on both sides of each fish. Soak hickory wood chips in
water 30-60mins. Prepare charcoal fire in smoker; burn 15-20mins. Drain chips;
place on coals; place water pan in smoker; add water to fill line; place fish
on upper and lower food racks; cover with lid; smoke 2hrs or just until fish
Grilled Whole Mullet with
Mango-Avocado Salsa: Preheat gas or charcoal grill to high. Scale and gut 4 whole
mullet; drizzle with x-virgin olive oil; season both sides and cavities. Brush
grill with oil; place mullet on grill; cook 6-7mins per side. In jar, combine
1c x-virgin olive oil, juice of 1 lemon and season taste; shake well; add 2tsp
dried oregano; shake well. When fish is cooked you may remove the skin, and
pull away the bones etc; or eat as is.
Pour the oil/lemon/oregano over fish. Salsa: Combine finely-diced large mango, 1/2 avocado, diced, 1/4 red onion, diced, 1 shallot, green part
only, finely-sliced, 1tbs chopped coriander and 1tbs lime juice, salt and pepper.
Baked Tailor: Combine 2tbs lime/lemon
juice (or 1tbs yoghurt) with 1.5tbs each chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste,
1tsp curry powder, salt, 1tsp cumin and 1tsp turmeric. Apply to 250g tailor
fillets; set aside 30mins. Line baking tray with foil; drain fillets; put on
foil; bake in preheated 180C oven, flipping fillets to brown equally; brush
with little marinade if needed; don’t overcook