The rivermouth set on the first day of the commercial season is the prize. When I arrived at the inlet, the three fishermen were standing around their boats ready to draw straws for it. Nails had the twigs of a paperbark tree in his hand and they were arguing about who should draw and who should deal.
"I'll deal," I said. "Seeing as I'm the vaguely impartial one here."
Old Salt's heathen female deckie. Right.
Still, Nails gave me the sticks and I turned around into the wind, breaking them again in my palm because one was so long it travelled to my wrist and they would have seen it.
Unruly got the first one. Long.
Old Salt drew the shortest.
"So that's it then. Old Salt and me get the rivermouth."
Unruly reeled away in disgust. Nails looked at me. "What about the longest one?"
"I made it the same length as the other long one. There was only one short straw. You and Unruly can work out between yourselves who sets the rivermouth for the rest of the week."
They were shaking their heads but I gave them the sticks as proof and they refrained from starting a fight. The draw was fair - it was just dealt by a withershins woman.
An old man sat with his dog on the shore fishing for bream, opposite the island. He said he'd had no luck and soon they'd be taking their caravan back home to Mandurah but "seeing as the track is washed out, I told the wife that I dunno if we're going to get out. May have to stay a few days more." He laughed then. "I love it. Haven't caught a single fish, but what a place."
While I was waiting for Old Salt, I picked swivels and beanies out of the coral and dropped them in the man's bucket.
We set the rivermouth just past the angler, and then ventured out past where Unruly and Nails were setting their nets to put out some four and a half inch mesh. I chugged through the waters, the motor cavitating over wind waves and getting stuck in sandbars, past the trees swept down in floods past and covered in domes of coral, looking like lines of stromatolite school kids on a glass-off footpath. The tide is low in the inlet, lower than sea level. I could have stood in the water and held up the cork line. Old Salt stood at the bow looking for floats or nets or buoys.
We set out by the red sandstone cliffs. On the eastern end of the inlet there is a sand bar and beyond it the open sea roars and roars. I saw Unruly's boat heading back from the bar and stop beside Nails'. They had some kind of mid inlet discussion. Then he motored over to us, fast. He headed straight for the dinghy and swerved at the last moment, sidling into our gunwale with barely a wake.
I wish I'd had a camera to photograph this image: Unruly in his orange wet weather gear, a bluff, tall, strawberry blonde man with a craggy, cracked face, standing in his aluminium flattie and holding up two of the biggest sea mullet I've ever seen. These fish were as big as salmon, silver and gleaming in his hands and his grin was ecstatic. "Got them twenny minutes after I set net, Old Salt," Unruly always talks slow. "Looks good for the mornin'."
We are back at Pallinup, I thought, fishing for Pallinup mullet. This is gold.