Thursday, April 10, 2014


Sunshine Beach
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
Smoked Mullet
Mango-Avocado Salsa
Again...No Explanation...There Never Was!

Obviously after Billy Ray Cyrus paid a visit to the barber!  

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 gullet. 

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 Island often.

Sunshine Beach is separated from Noosa Heads by the Noosa National Park; Sunshine Beach is on the southern side of the National Park. 

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 island.  

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 early 80s.

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 the jetty. 

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 invitation.

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 Island.

Smoked Mullet: 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 flakes easily.  

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


  1. You are such a lovely woman Lee. I suspect that the vast majority of the people who stayed with you hug fond memories of that time to themselves.
    And where fish is concerned fresh is always best. We used to follow my father along the river bank with a frypan. When he caught - we ate (rainbow trout).

  2. Thank you, EC....that's very nice of you to say.

    Fresh fish is wonderful...and it's some I've not had for a long while. I've had fish but not fresh, straight for sea or streams. I've had rainbow trout, but not fresh...and I can just imagine how great it is fresh! Yum!

    Following your Dad along the river bank sounds like terrific memories to hold on to and cherish.

    Thanks for dropping in, EC. I hope you and the Small Portion have a wonderful weekend. :)

  3. Years ago I ate what I was told was mullet, but back then I didn't know one fish from another, truthfully, I still don't. I didn't like it. It tasted...muddy?....dull and oily....I can't quite describe it. It was at someone's backyard barbecue.
    I do like deep sea bream, dory and rainbow trout. I've had those at restaurants and they've been delicious every time.

  4. Hi River...that's what happens when mullet isn't handled correctly and when it's not fresh sea mullet. Sea mullet is a cleaner, fresher taste to it. What you had was probably from an estuary; they have a muddy taste.

    Bream is a good eating fish.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  5. I remain unhooked on this tale, it appears a wee bit fishy to me.

  6. Whoa, this is the second feature of mullet I have seen/read/heard in the last 12 hours! The other one was on the first round of the fairly new Canadian edition of Chopped on the Food Network. By the way, none of the competing chefs made anything that sounded as good as you what you have talked about here.

  7. There's something fishy about you, Adullamite!

  8. Maybe a trend is starting, Jerry! If no one answers there phone...they've all gone fishing.

    Thanks for coming by Adullamite and Jerry...nice to see you two getting out and about together! :)

  9. Excuse me, I don't wish people to think he was with me....he is your problem...

  10. You knew him first, Adullamite! Don't toss the ball into my side of the court! Jerry is your responsibility! lol

  11. Methinks I might be being disparaged here.

  12. No way, Jerry...Adullamite and I will play ball with you anytime! :)

    Just ask the Ad-man...after he finishes his bike ride! ;)

  13. Now! Now, boys! Settle down!

  14. Being vegan, I thought this post was going to be about, well, hair! Good question why they picked that word for the obscenely bad haircut AND a fish.

  15. Here are a couple of answers for you to mull over, RK! :)

    "19th century fishermen used to wear their hair long in the back to keep warm when cold and avoid being sunburned when hot and short up front to keep it out of their face. Mullet is also the name for a type of fish they fished for, hence the name mullet."

  16. I adore fresh fish and mullet, as you said, is absolutely beautiful if prepared by bleeding and gutting immediately. Being an "oily" fish, it's perfect for smoking as it doesn't dry out.

    I love bream gutted, scaled and cooked whole then eaten straight off the bone. My mouth's watering just writing about it!

    White are another favourite...especially freshly cooked whiting and avocado on toasted bread...yum, yum.

    It's beautiful up that way and we're so lucky to live where we have so many beautiful beaches on our doorstep.

  17. Hi there Robyn. Whiting are a delicious fish; and another I love are garfish. They're sweet like fresh whiting.

    I'm glad I've found someone else who agrees with me about fresh mullet. So many people turn their noses up at mullet; but they are the ones who've never tried it fresh straight from the sea...not from estuaries...but out of the ocean!

    I'm a big fan of bream...I loved catching bream...I caught a lot of them back in those days. It's good eating, that's for sure.

    Flathead are good, too; not if you get spiked by one, though! I learned that lesson when I was a kid...only needed the one lesson! lol

    Thanks for popping, Robyn. :)

  18. Seems like those recipes could be used for most any type of fish, just saying!
    I spent so much time fishing with my Dad that whenever I smell water beside a lake or river I am transported back to my childhood. Seems like I remember being told to be quiet or I would scare away the fish (they must have said that just to shut me up!)

  19. Hey there Kay! Yes, you are correct - you could use any fish you like in those recipes. Some fish, however, are better for smoking than others.

    Fishing becomes very addictive. I think a lot of the times we just go quiet when fishing...a kind of lull comes over us...a great time to ponder and meditate...on one thing, and one thing only...catching a fish! :)

    Nice to see you.

  20. You can't beat fresh fish. Nothing like it! I'm sure it's been frozen for six months when you buy it from a supermarket. It looks like fish ... but that's about it.

    Another thoroughly interesting post.

  21. Hey Wendy! Good to see you. I won't buy any fish unless it's from our Aussie waters; but nothing matches freshly-caught.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  22. So the mullet haircut exists everywhere, I guess. :)

    We have mullet fish, too. I usually see it more in Florida though - it's good.

    And you are so hospitable - I loved that you made a show of carrying the fish through the dining room.

    (So sorry to be late commenting - I thought I had!)

  23. Hey need to apologise; but it is always good to "see" you.

    I got much joy carrying that platter, low, through the restaurant as if it was a normal occurrence. ;)

    Seeing the other guests look on inquisitively and enviously...and knowing that the couple out on the deck were pretty thrilled about their special was fun. It was a good morning.

    Another example of spontaneity beating plans of mice, men, women and mullet! ;)

  24. I can't eat any kind of fish, as you probably know, Lee, but your recipes sound delicious! Happy Easter.

  25. A very Happy Easter to you and Simi, too, Pat. Stay safe...and eat lots of chocolate! Thanks for coming by. :)

  26. I haven't fished in decades but we definitely had different fish here in Michigan. Perch, bass and pike were about it here. All were tasty when fresh caught.

    Hey, my son's fiance is over there in Australia somewhere. Near the "gold coast"--not sure if that is the same as the "sunshine coast." She just posted on Facebook that she has yet to encounter and hostile snakes or giant spiders. Her sister is taking classes there.

  27. Hey there Dave...we have Bass here, too. We used serve it in our restaurant up at Noosa back in the early's a beautiful eating fish. Perch are available here, too.

    I live in the hinterland of the Gold Coast, Dave. The Gold Coast is south of Brisbane, Queensland's capital; and the Sunshine Coast is north of Brisbane. I prefer the Sunshine Coast to the GC...but that's just my preference. I grew up going to the beaches on the Sunshine Coast and also lived there for a number of I could be prejudiced! ;)

    Good to see you...have a nice Easter.