The best thing about emerging from the Oondiri Plain (Nullabor), headed east is that you inevitably arrive into the Eyre Peninsula. It is a seafood heaven, a place where the cold waters of the Great Southern Ocean deliver a bounty of seafood. We are camped up in Streaky Bay on the western coast of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.
For the landlubbers it is a region of agriculture, sheep and mining but for those amongst us who are salties it is nirvana. We celebrated our arrival with a bag full of the beautiful Smokey Bay oysters straight from the racks, as we ducked into the seaside town. These primed us for our camp at Streaky Bay, next bay south and while we had planned on staying only a few days… this stretched into a truly wonderful sojourn celebrating the sand and sea.
From sea lions to whales, the later being a seasonal event, we too enjoyed the morning calm of the seas daily. In the afternoons the wind came up and as our camp was sheltered behind the dunes it was a small affair. Others camped along the beach had to consider the winds raising the sea level of the tide but that is a risk the beach campers take in the highest of tides. It simply is just a beautiful region though and the risk seems minimal, that is until the tide comes up.
The forage for our daily fare was an added delight and you never quite knew what to expect for dinner that night. All manner of fish from herring and King George whiting were on the menu, but first there was the issue of bait. My personal favourite is prawns, but The Man, he favours the local harvest and he often has a much better result fishing than I do. So this time around it was razor fish bait to lure the King George whiting to take the hook.
One of the best advantages to razor fish bait is that I get to eat the heart of the beast. Australian razor fish is not like our European cousins that are tubular wormy things. Ours is more a clam, though they aren’t called razor fish for nothing. I found a video on how to hunt for these spectacular beasties and it does require sturdy gloves and sound sea shoes, a knife and bait bucket or something of a sort to hold the things. There is an art to this also and I was intrigued to watch a well schooled local whip his way through an enviable catch of the tasty mollusc like treat that is highly prized.
So here is a sample on how to harvest the Australian razor fish.
Cleaning the slippery big beggars is another skill and you can’t hunt without the kill so with the magic of the internet and Youtube we once again have a view of how to clean the blighters and extract the delectable heart which is cleaned, flattened out and for me… crumbed, fried and served with lemon and pepper … agh the mouth waters even now. Simply spectacular!
Cleaning Australian Razor Fish:
Now aside from razor fish there are many other treats to the Great Southern Ocean in this region. Streaky Bay has the enviable privilege of being nestled near some of Aus’s primary marine breeding reserves, which makes it something of high spot on the Eyre Peninsula’s foodies seafood trail. Once we had sorted out the ‘native’ bait for the King George whiting, we dragged out the kayak and hit the calm and beautiful blue seas of the mornings. We were off on our hunt. Dinner that night was whiting, and the freezer saw a restock of flathead, herring and grunter.
The grunter was particular fun as we generally take the two pups with us in the kayak. Grunters grunt, and Scotty Dog took exception to the barking fish. I swear… if that dog could hold a line we would be in serious trouble. More than once we had to retrieve him from the bucket where he dived in after the challenging sound and it is a good thing that he didn’t leave bite marks all over our dinner or that we all didn’t end up in the drink. Though when he got his teeth around the prize in the whiting stakes, it was a different reaction we got from The Man.
Scotty Dog has been a bit of a trial of late. He has taken to challenging other dogs, particularly if they turn up around any female neighbours he’s taken an interest in. In his own mind he has a movable harem, not that he knows what to do with any of them, in this constant parade women. We of necessity have had to keep him on leash lately. But it’s his new habit of claiming his territory by peeing on the shoes of people who he considers to be transgressing the ever shifting boundaries of his newly claimed territory, which is the most disturbing.
It has become a real embarrassment and one we have to watch more closely the longer we stay in any given camp. Due to his small stature it is usually that warm wet feeling that first raises the ire of the fellow camper. This is followed by a bellow of disgust as Scotty Dog turns and makes his way back into the boundaries of his perimeter and we either begin tendering abject apologies or duck for cover.
Back to the catch… Next on the agenda of tasteful treats were the harvest of squid. Calamari has to be a favourite and fresh calamari is simply spectacular. I have yet to find a commercial brand of squid that even approaches the delights of fresh calamari and jigging for squid is particular fun.
Squid is also a kids delight and it was a real fun watching our camp neighbour’s kids discover the little suckers anew … they are slippery, messy, entertaining and simply beautiful creatures. They provide a bounty of food, both for the fisherman and the birds, which invariably huddle around any cleaning table set up on the beach. Calamari ended up being the favourite on the menu not only for us, but for some of our fellow campers, simply nothing is wasted.
In all it is sad to turn our headlights inland again as we travel further in towards the sunrise side but you can’t live in nirvana forever. Besides, with the last flush of summer slipping away, the chill winds of autumn here and winter just over the horizon, the place is also getting a little crowded. People are clambering for the memories that will take them through the Aussie winter down in these southern climes. We have already had enquiries as to when we will depart our freecamp, sheltered behind the dunes as our camp is. There’s going to be something of a scramble for our spot when we drive off later today and ‘such is life’ on the wallaby.
Preparing squid: River cottage :
Jan is an author and blogger.. you can find an anthology of her recent travels available in e-book (for the price of a cuppa’) and also in print, Discovering Australia and Her Lore. Or a collection in a travelogue series at “Around the Campfire”.
If you are interested in learning more of Australia’s ancient Lore, you will find more information on “Australia an Ancient Land” a page dedicated to studies in Aussie Lore.