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Ravensthorpe Historical Society

About Fishing

In 1934 the innovative Mary Daniels who farmed River View on the western bank of the Jerdacuttup River with her seven children, took a water tank on her horse-drawn cart to the Steere River. Here she and the children filled the tank with water and caught bream. For the return journey they put branches and bags on the top of the water to stop the water and fish slopping overboard. The family returned to the Jerdacuttup River and stocked it with the caught bream. Within a few years the fish multiplied and the river has been a recognised good source for fishing ever since.

Salmon fishing began in a small way in 1943 at The 12 Mile Beach east of Hopetoun. Caught fish were taken north to a beautiful fresh water spot, Rock Pool, on the Jerdacuttup River where they were cleaned and processed. It was a small, basic plant in a corrugated iron shed established by Ted and Bill Young. Offal was thrown into the Jerdacuttup River to feed Mary Daniels' bream.

A flourishing residential camp of families lived at the 12 Mile beach. They collected rainwater in tanks, grew vegetables and guess what?..... they lived on fish! Schools of fish were netted by night using ex-military camouflage nets. Initially fish were carried from the beach up the very steep sand dune, nine or ten at a time (weighing about 30 kg) in wheat bags. Eventually friendly neighbouring farmers Mary Daniels and Arthur Archer loaned the fishers horses to do the hard work. The concrete floor and a few artefacts remain at the site of the plant.

In 1947 Hopetoun Fisheries Co-op was registered when fish were conveyed by truck into Hopetoun to a cannery set up on the former railway station site. From there the canned fish was transported to Perth. Dept of Fisheries records for 1948 show that a total of 182,660 fish were caught and processed during the May/November season. By this time there were 53 licensed fishers and 9 boats. At some stage railway lines were laid and the fish were winched up in wagons.

Curly Forth was living in Hopetoun and to find out if fish had been caught, before he set out to cart them, he would drive his truck up on to a sand hill opposite the Port Hotel at 7.30pm and flash his headlights eastward straight across to the 12 Mile Beach. Using an old American signal lamp Norm Price would flash in return, one flash for every 100 fish caught. One night at 7.30pm there was no signal. At 9.00pm Curley tried again and back came 30 flashes! Curley carted all night. Later on the fishers erected a telephone line from Hopetoun to the12 Mile and 13 Mile beaches. That way, as soon as a haul was made, the cannery was advised of the tonnage and time of delivery.

The salmon fishing industry flourished until 1951 when fish stocks ran low due to lack of plankton in the salmon’s feeding grounds. The flash-in-the-pan industry was very productive while it lasted and provided much needed employment for servicemen returning from the war. (A more detailed history of this project is available at the Ravensthorpe Historical Society archives).

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