Phantom of the Kromme remembered

“LIFE is pleasant, death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” – Isaac Asimov

We have only one shot at life. Most of us don’t live to the full potential of this life. I think angling is one pastime that takes you closer to that potential. It’s God’s creation and our appreciation in unison.

I remember as a young boy fishing off St Croix Island with the then UPE Marine biology department who were studying the feeding habits of the local reef fish. Many of these species are territorial and, once fished out, that is it.

It was such a privilege for me and one I shall most probably never experience again.

How times have changed.

I remember, years ago, photographs an old chap showed me of fish he and his dad caught at Sardinia Bay in the years when fishing was allowed there. I was impressed, in my ignorance, by the huge bags of fish they had collected in a single outing. No wonder we have bag limits today!

The red or copper steenbras has been removed from our angling list of recreational fish as a result of heavy exploitation that they have endured. This is a species that has a slow growth rate and migrates northwards up our east coast as it follows the journey of life.

They spawn in the East London area and the eggs drift south along the Agulhas Banks where they hatch. At about 40kg in weight they are about 60 years old!

More than a decade ago, I was at Kromme River with the legend Marius Potgieter. We were collecting bait at night, which is totally illegal today.

Cuttlefish or “choomy” as these squid species (matchbox size) are known is deadly bait (you must remove the shell before you place the bait on the hook). The method used then was a lantern and a double-ended spear.

As I was removing a second choomy from the spear, it exhausted its ink together with the first we had caught, right alongside Marius’s ear. A jet hit him on the side of the face.

After collecting a few more choomies, we returned to the boat and continued up-river to our favourite fishing spot. I was piloting and Marius was scouting for the sandbanks that are problematic near and above the bridge.

He is a large man, and I suddenly noticed for the first time this Phantom of the Opera look from the ink on the side of his face. In the moonlight, it was a spectacular sight.

I laughed so hard I nearly landed in the river. Then I handed him a towel and said, in Afrikaans, “That thing really got you, hey? What a mess!”

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