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.

Some Like It Hot!

When it came to fitting out the boat, both for general use and longer-range travels, it almost goes without saying that the cooking capacity was important to me.

The vessel has a well-equipped galley and top deck electric BBQ but this means running the generator and potentially annoying the neighbours as well as ruining the peace and quiet we are trying to achieve. It also meant being downstairs and trying to be upstairs at the same time.

The little butane gas cookers everyone uses these days sorted out part of my problem but I still wanted a BBQ type arrangement. I wanted heats, lots of heat. As a chef it is always easy to turn it down but so often non-commercial equipment lacks the real punch to cook properly.

I also wanted portability and not to have to carry large gas bottles and have the hassle of refilling in remote locations. Something I could carry into a beach and use if I wanted to and a unit I could pack up and put away rather than the usual railing mounted BBQ’s common on most boats.

After a bit of homework and some day care for boys (AKA BCF) I settled on a “Char-Broil infa red”. A great sturdy little unit which operated on a medium size butane cylinder, has all the portability I need and really builds up some great heat, especially with the lid down. As this story is not a sponsored spot I am happy to review the unit over time and if it ends up a dud I will be happy to say so, but, so far it is fantastic. I have baked Coral Trout, cooked some great steaks, burgers and even used it as a hot plate to poach some eggs and make a smoked salmon and spinach eggs benedict, including the fresh made hollandaise sauce.

It is operating in a marine environment so durability and rust resilience may become an issue over time but for anyone going bush, these are about the best little portable 2/4-person BBQ I have ever come across. Portable, easy to clean, no big gas bottle to carry around and above all HOT. I am going to get a pizza stone because I actually think it will be hot enough to easily cook a pizza, and THAT, will be a treat on a boat.

When we travel, away from the day to day time constraints of work, food can and really should be a big part of our day. We have time. Time to gather good raw ingredients, be it at local market stalls, farm gates of local harvesting, which can include fishing when we are on or near the water. It really is and should be a chance to reconnect with food, away from the supermarket shelves and help our kids understand the food heritage we are blessed with in this country.

A whole fish, baked in foil, with just some lemon, butter and a few herbs is one of life’s great simple meals. Up the ante and make this fish a Coral Trout, which regularly fetches upwards of $50 a kilo these days and it can be a meal which would be eye wateringly expensive in a restaurant but a cost effective and amazing food experience to share with family or friends.  On a trip through Hong Kong some years ago I saw a Coral trout in a live fish tank in a Hong Kong restaurant where the conversion rate put that single fish a little north of $1000 Aus. dollars, and here we are, for the cost of a packet of pilchards and a bit of time able to do it just about any time we get on the water.

I do get asked a lot but people hiring bareboats, how do I catch fish like these?  The simple answer is to moor the yacht and get into your tender to fish. The clear waters around the reef islands means it is easy to see the edges of the fringing reefs and drifting along the bombie edges or even trolling some 3-meter-deep lures along the reef edges at or near low tide is just about a sure-fire way of picking up a trout for dinner.

The fish used in this story came from Shaw Island, and fantastic protected anchorage to the South of Linderman. We caught some lovely Coral Trout and a heap of Grassy Sweetlip on the North Eastern end of the little island located 20 29 05 S and 149 03 16 E fishing in about 12 meters of water, just of the fringing reef edge.