Zen and the art of whitebaiting

Before coming to Tasmania this trip, I had not been introduced to whitebait fishing, or even this type of fish.  First thing you learn is, fishing is more than just standing around with a rod drinking beer. It really is a sport.  Why else would it be broken into seasons  (Opening of the Whitebait season — IFS Portal  -27 October 2009 – http://www.ifs.tas.gov.au/ifs/opening-of-the-whitebait-season)?

This season, Fred (Elle’s father) had bought an illustrious whitebaiting license. From his daily Facebook status updates of whitebait trials and tribulations, it certainly seemed like an activity I must see.

Unfortunately or probably fortunately, it is an activity non-license holders can only see and not do. To manage the whitebait there are also a host of other restrictions placed upon the dedicated whitebaiter, covering things such as the size and design of the net, how far from the net they must stand, and what colour and fabric underwear is worn.

Fred with net

Fred with net

There are also numerous rules that have been learned over generations and passed down. Don’t cast a shadow on the water, don’t chase the fish, don’t change direction of the net.  We disproved all of these, and managed to bag a quota.

Tasmanian whitebait

Two Tasmanian whitebait magnified about a billion times

It was interesting how much effort is required to catch even just a handful of  these tiny lovettia sealii – which judging by their size they must have the nutritional value of a good belch.

But it’s even more interesting to see the passion and appreciation the humble whitebaiters have for their “sport”. Despite the freezing conditions, and what seems to be huge frustration at the whitebait not doing what they should, these fisherman (and one fisherwoman) are always happy.  The beautiful surroundings have gotta help.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said a bad day at golf is better than a good day at work.  The sentiment surely applies to whitebaiting as well. On the first time we only managed to capture enough little fish for two patties. On the second we got a daily quota – which sort of translates to a jackpot for the gamblers.  But both days were equally enjoyable.