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The Northern Myth

May 23, 2013

Fish of the week: Flathead Mullet Mugil cephalus

Time passes but on the southern Gold Coast men still go down to the sea in small boats to catch the Flathead Mullet. Peter Shaw remembers.


This is a guest post from my mate Peter Shaw, who for his sins now lives on the Gold Coast of Queensland.

“The plentiful stocks of fish encouraged the development of a fishing industry in the region [Tweed Heads/Coolangatta] in the early 1900s and it was soon booming. Perhaps the most famous and successful fishermen in the Tweed were the Boyds. The six Boyd brothers, Jack, Herb, Fred, Charlie, Bob and George grew up in Tweed Heads and became legendary beach net fishermen. They fished for sea mullet, tailor, king fish, [white bait/pichards] and jewfish and some of their hauls were enormous. In the 1930s a single haul from Kirra Beach filled over one thousand 18lb cases of sea mullet.”

This is an extract from the Tweed Shire website that sets the scene in a rather colourless style.

Time for me to add some colour.

I grew up in Enid Street Tweed Heads in the 1950’s when the Boyd Brothers were still very active beach net fishermen.

The steam train still ran from Brisbane to Tweed Heads and the line terminated across the road from my house. My mother would curse the trains on washing day when the wind was blowing from the north west.

Across the road lived a bloke called Jack Martin, with a tribe of kids and the hard working missus. In those days none of the houses were closed to us kids so we roamed around in and out of each others’ places as if we were one of the family. The parents did not mind and so it went.

Well, Jack worked for the Boyds and sometimes took me and his kids with him when they were shooting the nets and hauling in the fish. Felt like we were working with the men even though I bet we were more in the road than help. Come home covered in scales and blood.
The smell sending the neighbourhood cats mad.

Of course most of their time was spent “lookin’ out for fish” and us kids were never invited to that.

This was a grand name for sitting in the shelter sheds on the Snapper, Greenmount and Kirra headlands drinking goon, smoking and generally having a jolly old time telling stories and playing cards.

Mind you they were dedicated and sat there enduring the conditions rain or shine just in case. Things took a bad turn for Jack when he stepped on a cat fish and it got a bit touch and go for a while there. He came good and we were all relieved.

So now they still use winches and four-wheel drives to haul the nets full of fish in on the beach but it is not the same.

In those days it was a community event. Doing things by hand meant it took time to shoot the net and haul it in. Time enough in a small community for the word to spread. Time enough to get down to the beach and watch or lend a hand. Time enough to shoot the breeze with one of the Boyds.

Now it is done with motor boat and the nets are hauled by winch and 4WD. Time has moved on. Even though the fish are still caught in nets hauled onto the beach it is not the same.

The community is poorer for the passing of this tradition but time stands still for no-one.


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