Bait to Plate

Kev Collins

Well known Restauranter and co-owner of Fish D'vine & The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach. When Kev's not working he's out fishing in the amazing food bowl of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or in his tinnie in the estuaries crabbing! His blog imparts wisdom, tales and info on all things fishing and food.

The Bucket list

The movie “bucket list” has helped invent a term now used commonly in the modern vocabulary and helped crystallise future planning for many of us “baby boomers” and none more so than fisherman. Having fished (and cooked) a lifetime and nearing retirement there are “bucket list” experiences planned for the next few years, just as there have been bucket list experiences ticked off along the way. Things like jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane. I have always equated that experience to experiencing a serious cyclone up close. A little bit frightening, a little bit exciting, really glad to have done it, but never want to do it again. In the world of food my most vivid experiences over the last few years revolve around some of the great taste icons. Truffles, caviar, fresh Porcini mushrooms. 20 year old Grange Hermitage wine and Absinth and while some of these experiences have come with big price tags, some have been more modest and all of them underpinning just why these food icons have actually achieved their status in the food world.

On to the “real deal”, the fishing, or more specifically the fish I have on my bucket list, I have been lucky enough after a lifetime of angling to catch most of the amazing species of fish we have in Australia but have a few to go with one fish at the top of the totem pole. Still on my bucket list are dog tooth tuna, a brown trout on fly, a permit and a King George whiting  but my all-time number 1 is (or should I now say was) a Bonefish. Not a fish for the pan this iconic sportfish is the number 1 fly fishing target almost the world over. An inhabitant of sand cays and reef flats it is a fish pursued almost exclusively with a fly rod and a fish which has spawned entire tourism industries in places like Artutaki Lagoon in the Cook Islands and Kiribati in the pacific. Fly fishers travel from all over the world, just to chase “Bones”. A few weeks ago, in pursuit of my own bucket list dreams I booked 6 days at Kiribati on a bone fishing holiday, finally ready to join this club. They are present in the Whitsundays but a fish of rumour, legend and no specific pattern and my times trying to find them have never even resulted in me seeing one. I have only ever seen one dead one in the flesh, caught on a hand line, baited with a piece of kabana, off the back of a yacht moored on Whitehaven beach.

As you will have now guessed I have lost my “Bonefish Cherry” but in the most remarkable circumstances and deep down feel a little cheated by the experience. A fish of the shallow sand flats, hunted with stealth and some level of fly fishing skill, requiring tiny shrimp and crab fly’s to compensate for their tiny mouths my “Bone” was just bizarre. It came at 2am in the morning, in 180 feet of water with a 10/0 (read LARGE) hook and ½ a big squid for bait. Caught with a 6 ounce snapper lead, 60 lb trace and 80 lb braid on a heavy reef fishing rod.

My wife tells me I now don’t have to do to Kiribati, I have caught my Bonefish. Nope, I was cheated. Like winning lotto the day before you fall off the perch. To see this ball of amazing sleek muscle, up close and personal, to marvel at the sheer strength and density of the fish, like holding a lump of hardwood timber, has only made me keener to catch one “properly”. Maybe. With some luck I can even try some Coconut Crab on the way through Fiji and tick off a foods bucket list on the way.

I am going in July and will do a blog post on the fishing, the food and the culture of Kiribati and Fiji along the way.