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When we first started rock fishing at Dover Heights, we often made the trips overnighters. Being pretty new to fishing the rocks, we took pretty much everything we thought we might need, which lead to carrying far heavier backpacks than we really should have when navigating down cliffs and around the rocks. Like many young fishers, regardless of all the equipment we took, we rarely took enough food with us, rather relying on catching something we could cook instead.

At first, most species of fish were a really welcome catch, so you took everything from Luderick gear through to gear for spinning, bait fishing etc, in order to make sure you took a bag of fish home- as 'evidence' was needed in some households to justify the effort put in. Due to the location being such a productive area, if your initial targeted species weren't around, you could change approach and still get into some fishy action. Over time however, with more experience, we learned to target fishing styles more 'specifically' which of course resulted in better bags of what we wanted to catch.

With the exception of live-baiting for big fish, (which came a lot later from our initial forays) we concentrated our daytime efforts on either Luderick fishing or "cunje" fishing. Cunje fishing involved using either cunjevoi or crabs (I know we called it cunje fishing- but it's a 'style' of fishing) and fishing mainly with the simple rig of a small ball sinker running between swivel and hook, targeting Bream, Drummer (now called Rock Blackfish) and Luderick. Bi-catch were Groper, Tarwhine, Leatherjackets and various rock dwelling species. Very occasionally a Snapper or Salmon would be landed, but generally throughout daylight hours, it was the first three species that filled our keepnets. This basic rig catches all the different species found around the Sydney ocean platforms, it isn't 'hi-tech' but you could pretty much only use this rig for any species and expect to do well.

On flat sea days, with access to a big variety of different spots to drop a bait, cunje fishing was usually pretty productive, but always came after the 'usual' start of fishing for the day. Main reason for this being, that all fishers realise the value of fishing the pre-dawn/dawn period, so throwing a ganged Garfish, Pilchard or lure around would get you a few Tailor or something even bigger, besides, you had to gather your crabs and cunje before your cunje fishing could commence.

As it was pretty easy to catch a few Tailor first thing in the morning, they were often the fish we'd cook up for breakfast on the rocks. For many years there was a basic BBQ, made up of a hot-plate cemented above 4 beer can supports over a depression in the rocks and it got plenty of use. Fresh caught Tailor is always tasty if cooked soon after capture and was often shared around with whoever was there fishing. With Tailor being a fish that doesn't freeze well at all, 'cunje fish' were better to take home.

Usually if we cooked fish, it wasn't any fancy method, just a whole fish or a few fillets cooked skin side down on the plate, I always had salt and occasionally a lemon, otherwise it was just plain fish. It was nice to have a hot meal, especially if we'd been there all night, as by morning, you'd have pretty much eaten all your food and often only the space food sticks in the 'emergency kit' were all that was left. Space Food Sticks were a great thing to have in the kit as they were small, nutritious and reasonably filling, and I've often wondered why they stopped selling them.

Fire wood of some sort could be found if you went for a walk up amongst the large area of boulders a few minutes from the camp area, as there was nearly always enough small branches to start your fire and there were usually a few pickets from the cliff-side fence that had found their way to the bottom of the cliff, along with the odd piece of driftwood- not enough for a big fire, but just enough to cook your fish.

When it came to cooking fish we had a rule- if fish were going to be done on the hotplate, whoever caught the second fish had to get the fire going and do the cooking. Why the second fish? Didn't seem right to make whoever caught the first one do the cooking, so it made for healthy competition to get the first fish of the morning. Having said this though, no cooking was done until the first session either ended or tapered off enough to send the cook away from any action.

Even though we often stayed overnight, sometimes, due to the sea making it too dicey to fish most of the lower platforms, we hadn't caught anything or anything that was going to be sacrificed to the hotplate. So the early morning Tailor session was vital for catching breakfast, as you could rely on getting at least a few Tailor most of the time.

Depending on how much moon there was, would usually determine how long the Tailor would bite. On nights with a lot of moon, the fish would bite throughout the night, often in bursts at different stages of the tide. These nights, you had to get your fish before first light or you'd miss out, due to the fact that the fish had been feeding over an extended period and finished before the sun came up. Conversely, on nights of little moon, the Tailor bite would last much longer in the morning and whether bait fishing or spinning, the fish were still active even after the sun had risen. The only exception to this was if there were visible surface-feeding fish around.

Every so often though, even the reliable Tailor would fail to appear, or if they did, it would only be for a minute or two as they were on the hunt for bait fish around the edge of the wash and raced through on only one quick pass. This was more likely to happen if there were only two or three of us fishing, as with more fishers and more baits in the water, it would capture the school's interest enough to have them search around for the rest of the 'school' of baits. These were the mornings when bait fishing rather than lure fishing was a far better idea, a good thing to remember when fishing in groups.

With the odd day without a Tailor for breakfast, it was usually a couple of Luderick that ended up on the BBQ instead. By the time the Tailor gear was swapped for the Luderick gear and then a bit of work burleying the Luderick in, hunger would really kick in and the first couple of Luderick would be destined for the fire.

After taking a while to get the first couple of Luderick one 'Tailor-less' morning, the three of us fishing were pretty happy when the second fish was washed up and secured. As Fraser had caught fish number two, Rob and I urged him to cook. Due to our arrival in the dark, no firewood had been collected, so off went Fraser in search of something to burn and after scouring the area, came up empty of fuel. He yelled out that he'd take the walk back to the bay of boulders to find some and was off on the ten minute walk.

About half an hour or so later he appeared again, clutching a few bits of wood and proceeded to get the fire going. Another half hour or so went by, in which time Rob and I caught a couple more Luderick, but still no call of "come and get it" from the cook. Rob said to me he was worried that something had happened to breakfast, as it had taken far too long and yelled out to Fraser who was about 100m from where we were still fishing. We got a wave back, but as the sea was noisy that day, no reply could be heard over the sound of the waves.

Rob then said to me ''he's burnt the fish for sure, we'll end up having to cook these two and he can come and catch himself one"- then Fraser was back, rod in hand and we said "where's the fish?"- "Oh they fell in the fire and got ash and crap all over them- we'll have to get a couple more".

We called him hopeless and laughed saying we've got ours, he'd have to catch one now if he wanted a feed, before pulling up and grabbing the two fish from the keepnet, which we then gutted and took up to the fire. 

We poked around in the ashes to revive the fire and surprise, surprise- partially hidden under the only decent sized bit of wood were two perfectly picked clean Luderick- the bugger had eaten them both! To this day if he misses out on something food-wise, we simply say "Oh it fell in the fire!"


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Ha, been there done that Waza.

On the few overnighters I went on, camping was usually back up by or in the cars and the one thing we always packed first was the metho fuelled, smoker box. Such a simple way to knock up a quick, easy meal. Damn tasty too.

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