Our plan for Sunday was: 1) check out the Markets on the Mall, at Marine Terrace. 2) Grab some breakfast. 3) Drive to the Chapman Valley Fishing Park.
So first, the Markets on the Mall. I overheard one of the stallholders saying that he thought the markets were a little quieter than usual – his theory was that people may have forgotten to adjust their clocks for daylight saving. There really weren’t very many stalls, but Jac found a few items to purchase – a new hat, a very cheap bag of nectarines and a door stop shaped like a lizard (as I thought she would, Pixel stalked it when we first placed it near the front door). We also bought some items from the souvenir shop around the corner from the mall. Jac bought a Geraldton top and stubbie holder for herself. I wanted a Geraldton T-shirt with a cartoon shark on it that said “Bite Me” but they only had them in kiddie sizes (sadly, all the cutest, least touristy looking T-shirts were only in kiddie sizes) – we bought one of those for Jac’s nephew (he loved it!). We got a bright pink Geraldton T-shirt with a brightly coloured fish on it for Jac’s niece. It was then time for breakfast. We found the Wonda Bake bakery on the mall (98a Marine Terrace) and felt compelled to have pies. We really love pies, and when we come to a new bakery we just have to try their pies.
Jac would’ve had a steak and kidney pie from Noble’s Bakery two days ago, but they had run out of them at the time, so she did not hesitate to try Wonda Bake’s steak and kidney pie.
She loved the filling – the gravy was tasty and there were huge chunks of kidney in it (I thought they resembled mushrooms). She wasn’t so keen on the pastry, which she thought was a little too thick. But yes, she was very impressed with the amount of kidney in the pie.
The pie had chicken, carrots and peas in it. The gravy was thick and yummy, though dangerously close to being too salty. I would’ve liked slightly bigger chunks of chicken – the chicken was rather finely minced. Still, I enjoyed this pie after not being able to have a chicken pie two days earlier.
Jac felt like something sweet afterwards and bought a chocolate-topped, cream-filled pastry thingy. She was a little disappointed when she bit into it and realised the cream was mock cream and not real cream.
With breakfast in our tummies, we set off for Chapman Valley. We found a brochure about this Fishing Park while we were at the Geraldton Visitor Centre. Basically, you pay an entry fee ($7.00 for adults, $5.00 children or $20.00 per family) and hire a rod if you require ($5.00, including bait and bucket). You can then fish for silver perch or barramundi at one of the ponds on the property. The fish are grown in a number of purpose built ponds which are fed from natural springs on the property. If you catch a fish, you can buy it at $14.00 a kilo and take it home, or cook it on one of the barbecues on the property. You can bring your own picnic or meat to cook on the barbie or buy pies, pasties, sausage rolls, ice creams and cold drinks at the kiosk. After our previous fishing excursion had yielded no fish, I thought it might be fun and beneficial for our fishing experience to have a go at this Fishing Park.
We paid our entry and rod hire fees and chose our rods. We were given buckets and containers of bait – not real bait – it was a paste made from the special fish pellets that the fish are fed on. There were two ponds we were allowed to fish from – we were told that one pond contained about 1000 silver perch and about 20 barramundi, and the other pond contained only 1000 silver perch. We were advised that when we caught a fish, we should unhook it, pop it into one of the buckets half-filled with water and bring the fish back to the verandah where it would be placed in water in a holding area while we continued fishing.
The bait smelled like cat food. We had to grab a small quantity and roll it into a ball and stick/squish it onto the hook. It was a really hot day, in the mid-thirties – we had sunscreen and hats on and both wore our long-sleeved rashies for additional protection. As the day went on, the bait started to dry out and it became increasingly difficult to get it to stay on the hook. For that reason I think I prefer the messier, meatier stuff like squid to these ‘pudding’-type baits.
We had a few hiccups with our rods – there was a hose/rope thingy that stretched right across the middle of the pond, fitted to some sort of pond machinery, which I presume keeps the water fresh (a silly design really, to have it right in the middle like that), and I somehow managed to hook the hose. I had been trying not to cast too close to it, but as it was in the deepest part of the pond I had been casting near it in my quest to get to the fish. Unfortunately my hook became stuck in the hose and in the end the fishing park’s caretaker (we kept him pretty busy) cut the line and told me to just go back inside and grab a different rod. Jac managed to hook something at the bottom of the pond (apparently there was more plumbing, pipes etc. at the bottom of the pond) and once again, the hook was stuck fast and she had to cut her line and get another rod. We each also managed on separate occasions to get our own lines embarrassingly and unrecoverably tangled and had to get new rods. The caretaker wasn’t fussed about any of this. We just grabbed new rods and he fixed up the botched ones.
Despite the rod dramas, it was really good fun. I caught the first fish – a silver perch. I was so excited when it got hooked and I felt that definite tug on the line, when I started reeling it in, feeling that persistent weight and movement as the fish fought back. When I saw the fish flipping around in the water I felt really thrilled, realising that I had at last hooked a real fish – there were no greedy crabs here! Once I’d landed the fish however I found unhooking it rather difficult. I didn’t like thinking that I was hurting it more in the process of my attempts to remove the hook. I probably wouldn’t have felt so bad if I was going to kill the fish right away and stash it in ice for later – but thinking about the fish swimming in the holding area or back in the pond with an injured mouth made me feel guilty. I suppose I hadn’t thought about the hooking part of fishing until I’d actually done it. I wanted to remove the hook as quickly but also carefully as possible. The fish flopped around as I tried to hold onto it – and due to inexperience or stupidity I grabbed at the top of the fish and had my palm promptly slashed by its dorsal fin. I hadn’t realised it would be so sharp – well, I won’t forget in a hurry now, will I? I wore gloves the rest of the time after that.
I caught the next two fish – another silver perch and a barramundi (that was really cool – but pure luck of course, seeing as I used the same pudding bait the whole time), and then I went back inside to choose a new rod as a result of yet another rod mishap (I think I got through four rods in just a couple of hours!). Jac had been standing there for ages with no bites and while I was away from the pond, she laid her rod down on the ground while she had a cup of tea from our trusty thermos and then she realised that the rod was slowly being pulled towards the pond! She grabbed it, started to reel it in, and that was how she caught her first fish, a really big silver perch.
The wind picked up and made casting trickier, and by the time all the bait was gone, the sun was stinking hot – it was the middle of the day. By this time we were unbearably hot and thirsty and tired and very dirty (my hands smelled like cat biscuits, caked with a layer dried bait) – we’d had enough. Friends and family can see a few photos on Flickr that Jac took of me fishing and baiting a hook (cheap thrills for you).
Here are the fish we caught, in the holding area. I was relieved to see they had recovered pretty well from the trauma of being caught. The fattest one, on the left, is Jac’s silver perch. The next two are the silver perch I caught, and the barramundi is the pointy-faced one on the right with the white stripe on the top of its head. Just so you have an idea of their size, Jac’s fat silver perch was estimated to be a little over a kilo. We could’ve bought at least one of the fish, but we just too knackered to contemplate dealing with messy scaling and cleaning, so we decided to leave without any fish. We were both satisfied that we’d caught fish – that was enough. Later, we thought about it some more and realised it was better value to buy already cleaned, scaled, filleted fish from the supermarket or fishmongers – after all, the $14.00 a kilo would’ve included the whole fish, including the bits we wouldn’t eat, such as the head and the tail. It was worth the trip for us – we’d had fun and experienced catching fish, and we’d gotten more fishing practice. I’m looking forward to the next fishing trip – my brother’s even said he’d love to go fishing with us sometime – he has lots of tricks and cool things to teach us. I’ll become a fisho yet!
We bought souvenirs on our way out – another stubbie holder for Jac, a black “Chapman Valley Aquaculture” baseball cap for me – and then got back in the car to head back into Geraldton.
The Chapman Valley Fishing Park is located at 388 Hickety Road in Chapman Valley, which is approximately 25km North of Geraldton. They are open on weekends and public holidays, from 9:30 to 4pm. Bring a picnic or your barbie stuff – there are sheltered picnic and barbecue areas, but make sure you have plenty of sunscreen, hats and long-sleeved clothes – there isn’t any shelter around the ponds where you’ll be standing or sitting as you fish. Jac had a chat with one of the owners while I was fishing with the last of the bait – she told Jac they are planning to make more sheltered areas around the ponds.
Ugh, look at the time. I’d better get to bed. I’ll post more tomorrow, I mean, later today.