Friday, May 19, 2017

The Careful Fisherman

We had a fine delivery of fresh fish for the restaurant today. The whole region is blessed by being 'remote' so that veggies are most often grown within cooee and the fish is on your plate within a few hours of being landed. Or grown - as we have the most amazingly successful salmon farms in the world down here. 

When the boats come in there is always a welcoming crowd. Some, well before others.

And we know the men (it is always men) who do the hard work of going out on the seas, in all weathers, to find, catch and bring home the fish we like. Men like the fellow down in Dover, a few hours south of the Tavern in the lee of the peaks of the southern mountains.  He is as careful of his customers as I am. Despite his name.

Elaine Reeves wanted everyone to know of John Careless, so I shall oblige and do my bit.
Dover fisherman John Careless delivers his catch ‘alive, clean and fresh’

 Captain John Careless aboard the Bryallen.

IT’S a small scale operation: a fisherman selling off his boat to the most exacting of clientele — local people who will quickly spread the word for good or ill.
Nothing makes it to the Sydney Fish Market and very little makes it to shops at Geeveston, Cygnet or Hobart. Most of his customers have looked him in the eye over their purchase.
(Some does make it to the Tavern though) 

The fisherman with the made-for-the-movies name of John Careless says he can’t sell anything that’s not good when he is this close to his market.
The clientele also is rather exclusive. John goes out fishing by himself for as long as five days in good weather or in two-day windows of opportunity in winter (in which season he spends a goodly amount of time making nets).
As he is coming in, he lets his mum, Astrid, know, and she sends out a text message to his customers saying “John is coming in with stripy trumpeter, perch and gummy shark, he’ll be at the wharf about 4pm”. And she puts a couple of signs up on the road.
Even if the arrival is 10pm there will be plenty of people on the wharf at Dover with their wallets ready, and probably kids in tow. Kids love to see the fish swimming about in the well where John keeps the fish alive until they are sold or filleted.
“I think that’s why they are selling really well — customers can see they are alive, clean and fresh,” he says of his wares.
John’s father, Milan, is a fisherman, and so was his grandfather. Astrid comes from a family of Norwegian fisherman, and it’s all John has ever wanted to do.
Dover is a beaut little village. Beaut beach. Beaut hills around. Beaut inlet.  We keep it secret. 
For some years the 32-year-old worked with his father off his boat Barbara. John has a licence to catch scale fish and Milan could catch crays. After a couple of years, however, the authorities no longer allowed them to run both operations from the one vessel, and three months ago John bought his own boat, Bryallen.
Barbara is 20m long and the Bryallen 11m, but the considerable difference between them might be better appreciated by their fuel consumption — 30L versus 5L per hour to run them respectively.
Before he leaves, John must decide whether he is going to set nets or lines. He tows a dinghy if it is to be nets because he does not have davits fitted to his boat yet.
If he is line fishing, he will bait his 200 hooks at night and put them out at 4am. For the rest of the daylight hours he will work as many as 10 lines, pulling them in every hour or so.

Come evening, he will bait his hooks again, clean the boat down and cook something quick to eat and grab a few hours’ sleep before he starts over.
I talked to John on a Wednesday. He was planning to leave that night for a couple of days that promised good weather, and expecting to be home for the weekend — not most young men’s idea of a good weekend.
“I’ll get into the wharf at Dover and start cleaning fish Saturday night,” he says. 

“I’ll sell the fish on Sunday then clean the boat down and do it all again.”

He cuts fish however customers want it. Any not sold immediately are cryovaced, and might be snap frozen. Stripy and shark freeze particularly well, he says.
His mum, girlfriend Kylie Clark and others help with the packaging and selling.
I discovered John’s fish not from being at the dock, but because he is one of the sole-operator fishers who have begun supplying the Cygnet Garden Larder.
He also sells to The Fish Man at Constitution Dock and the Red Door Larder at Geeveston (open Thursday and Friday 10-4pm and Sunday 10-2pm) and his fish is on the menu at Franklin Grill and the Railway Cafe at Ida Bay.
And in the Tavern.  
And if you are in dashing distance of Dover wharf you might want to get on Astrid’s list to receive a text. Contact her on 0429 981 373.

Raise your glasses and drink a toast to our local fishermen. 

Then dig in with your fish knives and forks.



  1. Such a true Tasmanian story but written by a mere pom.

    1. Many, many years ago, I stood upon a town-hall stage, raised my hand and said 'G'day'. :)

      Glad you enjoyed that. I know it brought back pleasant memories.

  2. As a lover of fish dishes the thought of fresh fish off the boat makes my mouth water :-)


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..