Fishing Industry at Hastings - Oral History
Interview with John Mirabella about his life as a fisherman on the Mornington Peninsula.
You had gill netting where you just put the nets out at a certain time and the fish would move backwards and forwards and get caught in the net by the gill – that's why it was called gill netting. Then it was seining where you put out the net in a half circle and you pulled it in – you had to get over the board in the water, like in the mud banks – and you'd bring it in and the fish went into the centre part where you had a bag and the fish went into that and you'd hook the fish out then and put them into your boat.
There was long lining where you caught Gummy Shark and Snapper and sometimes when I first started working you'd work 1000 hooks. You'd have to bait the hooks up and we'd have baskets that you put the hooks around the edges and you'd play the line out, you'd run your motor slowly and run your line out in a straight line or wherever then you'd leave it for quite a few hours then you'd have to pull it back in. One would be pulling the line back in and the other would be sticking hooks in the basket and taking the fish off when you've got fish. That was the way of fishing.
And then another thing we had to do with the nets was tanning them. Because in those days it was all cotton nets, not nylon like it is now. And you'd go out into the bush and collect the wattle bark off of the trees – you don't see many of them around now – and then you'd dry it, then you had big wooden barrels that you'd put the wattle bark and the tan would come out of it, it would become like a tan-y colour. Then you'd have your nets dry and put your nets into that and it sort of hardened them up but it preserved them. You had to do all sort of things like that, a lot of work in doing it.
Fishing in the early days was hard. When I started, it wasn't bad; motors were starting to come in. But in the olden days, the grandparents, they used to have to sail everywhere. And then if it was not much wind and they weren't getting anywhere, they'd have to row! That was a hard work that would've been!
Your tides were the thing in this bay. Lots of times you might have to go out at 1 or 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning or whatever, or you might go out late afternoon. Yes you'd go out for sometimes a couple of days – but you couldn't be any longer because you didn't have anything to keep your fish with, not like it is nowadays.
When I first started fishing our mattress was made of you'd have a chaff bag and it'd be full with straw and then for a blanket you'd have, you'd perhaps have an old blanket but we used to sew it on bran bags, because they were heavier. So that was your blanket. And then for cooking you had what they called the fire pot. You'd have a drum – it'd be about a 20 litre drum, something like that, and then you'd have sand in the bottom of it, a little bit of sand about 3 or 4 inches deep and then you'd have to take your fire wood, and then you'd have your fire going and then most of your fish, you had a grill iron so you'd cook your fish or your meat or whatever on the grill iron. That was the cooking in those days that you had.
I just loved fishing, even though it was a stress on you at times, as I said it was in my blood and even now, like I said you know I just love the water.