The great salmon escape
Dear Friends – the roar of engines started early Tuesday morning; 4:30 am to be precise. Our little community here at World’s End was woken by a continuous procession of cars and trucks towing boats, tenders and even kayaks. They were rumbling past just before dawn, anxious to nab a parking spot and launch their watercraft at local jetties and boat ramps. Yes, the word had got out that there was a significant fish escape from a local salmon farm.
Apparently in the early hours – and just a few kms off our local beach - a fire had broken out in one of Huon Aquaculture’s salmon pens, burning through and melting a significant portion of the infrastructure, with the result that the company estimated it had lost up to 52,000 fish.
Yes… 52,000 good sized 4 kg fish! And as with any reputable bush telegraph, the news travelled very, very quickly.
By 11:00 pm on the night before, friends, neighbours and in fact anyone with a boat had banded together to go out in the early dawn to trawl for escaped salmon who, unfortunately, find it difficult to survive in the wild outside a controlled environment.
At 7:00 am, as I sat at my favourite window spot overlooking The Channel, I was amazed to see an incredible number of boats (for a regular Tuesday) travelling up and down, fishing. trawling and catching the escapees.
“I’ve heard the news and we’ve got to go and join in the fun!” said Klady. “Let’s just go out and catch one fish - it’s such a rare occurrence!”
And then the phone call came.
Our good friends MsH and MrM were at their local jetty just 1 km down the road from our home. MrM had been out with neighbours in the bay’s shallows since 6:00 am and between them they had nabbed a bounty. In fact, the boot of his car was full to the brim!
At the jetty some fishers had already returned to shore and were busy cleaning the fish ready for freezing for family Christmas feasts; while others had phoned their children for help with the trade-off that if they want the fish, they must come and prepare it.
I caught a whiff of Klady’s enthusiasm and excitement and for me, a kelpie who loves my seafood, the scent (or perfume) was totally intoxicating – a combination of fish, saltwater, excitement and human adrenalin (of which there was a lot!).
Klady traded a few salmon in return for her friends to use the vacuum food preserver (along with leftover salt, brown sugar and smoking chips). And that’s how we spent the day. Klady cleaning, filleting and preparing salmon and me, sitting next to her looking cute, cuddly and ever hopeful. I was successful.
The scraps were tender and delicious, and while Klady prepared her gravlax mixture as well as freezing salmon fillets, she snacked on ocean fresh sashimi.
She kept saying; “Can it get better than this?”
In the afternoon, the news reports kept coming that the escapees were in the Huon River and travelling upstream; in the excitement the local radio put together a playlist for escaped salmon with the most popular song being Queen’s, I Want to Break Free, and by 4:00 pm even more boats were on the water; kayaks and SUPs were paddling along the coast; families were fishing from the shore and along the road that runs beside the coast sat abandoned cars, trucks and bikes, whose owners had parked and run down to the shore to fish till nightfall.
Not only humans have enjoyed this fortuitous bounty – but also our seabirds and local seals who were swirling and milling around enjoying this rare feast.
I just loved seeing the seals swimming on their backs and playing with their salmon suppers!
Apart from gratefulness that no workers were injured during the fire, Huon Aquaculture said about this event: “… while a serious incident for us perhaps a more joyful experience for local fishers!”
So, so true.
And now local butchers beware - we all will be eating salmon during the Festive Season!