"I bet you're gonna miss the markets," Old Salt said to me as we set the nets in the evening.
"Yeah, I will. But I'll miss being out in the boat more."
Old Salt and I have been fishing for the Sunday seafood markets for three years now. We start on Thursdays, baiting crab pots with trumpeters or the filleted carcasses from the previous week, setting nets for herring and bream and whiting. Saturdays I clean fish on the stainless steel table in my backyard to the strains of Johnny Cash or the Sundowners radio show (Not! According to health regulations we have to clean fish on the boat. But no soul would buy it if they saw the state of that boat, so it is a bureaucratic nod to the healthies that we theoretically fillet onboard and realistically fillet somewhere cleaner.)
Before the seafood markets we sold fish to the Perth markets for two years. But the Sunday markets are now my favourite financial staple, my one social networking event and the source of such joy juice as great musicians, clean, locally produced food and really, really good coffee. It's all in one place! Right on the sea shore, where the fishing boats are moored next to million dollar yachts. On Sundays we eat like gourmets - fresh Albany oysters (the Oyster Boys love crabs), asparagus (she loves black bream), local beef, strawberries (they love black bream too), obscenely yummy marinated fetta (he loves fishmeal for his biodynamic compost operation) and fresh pink lady apples (I think they like cash more than fish, though they do dissolve at the prospect of King George whiting).
Stormboy has learned his addition and subtraction as the cashier. I weigh and wrap up the fish and crabs. Old Salt leans against the table and, by the pure power of his charisma, attracts conversation with other old salts or lovely ladies in the queue.
We rarely have left overs. People complain because they come in an hour after we open and Old Salt and I have sold out. This happens most Sundays and I have to explain to cranky punters that we don't buy fish in from other fishers. We catch it all ourselves and we don't freeze anything either. Get in early and you'll know that your produce was still wriggling twenty four hours ago, so fresh you'd slap its face.
As you may gather, I'm quite proud of our seafood stall. It's unique in our corner of the world, where fish can end up in supermarkets a week (weeks?) after it is caught and still labelled as fresh. (Believe me, I know how that system works and it is not nice.) That's before the imported seafood comes in from from dodgey international fisheries. Our fish shop is a good argument for sustainable fishing practices as well, servicing a small market, heavily regulated by such handsome characters as our fisheries officers and concentrating on 'run' fish, rather than the sedentary fish which tend to get hammered by anyone with a boat.
I'll get on to why I am going to miss fishing so much. This post began as a story about a squabble between Old Salt and I, and morphed. Sorry about that. As the drunken gravedigger said to the coffin, "I'll fill yer in later, mate."