Watch out for the beach haulers

Locals may not bat an eye when it comes to beach haul fishing, but for those visitors to our region who have not witnessed the practice, it can be quite a spectacle.

Beach haul covers the whole of the NSW coast and has crews of two up to 12.

In Eden beach haul has been a tradition among some of the town’s well-known fishing families for many generations and an important part of Eden’s fishing industry history for more than 100 years.

Changes in the industry have unfortunately seen beach haul dwindle in the Bega Valley, but it is still a popular method of fishing further north.

Local fishers Roger and Julie Fourter still beach haul, as do two other local families – the Bells and Warrens.

Ms Fourter said beach haul, as an only income, has become increasingly difficult to make a living off.

“It is still a big business further up the coast all the way to Tweed Heads, but around here a lot of the old local families have got out of the business.

“We are currently being forced into new management plans by NSW DPI which will force a lot of crews out of the fishing business,” she said.

Ms Fourter, who originally came from Melbourne, was introduced to beach hauling, and fishing in general, when she met Roger, a third generation fisher.

Mr Fourter’s father diversified the family business years ago, fishing for salmon in the winter and tuna in the summer.

“The cannery would take the tuna and can the salmon…it was a big business back then, there would be someone on every beach,” Ms Fourter said.

Beach haul is used to catch schools of mostly salmon (during the winter and summer runs), mullet (March and April) and blackfish.

Initially the Fourters had an 80ft steel trawler, built at Broadwater, for their fishing operations which they used for tuna fishing and trawling for 20 years.

But now beach hauling is the couple’s only income as they have since downsized to a “little boat” (the Roamer is 40ft), and fish only in Twofold Bay.

This has enabled the Fourters to enjoy a semi-retired lifestyle with no endless days out at sea anymore.

“It’s a lot easier for us now…we can go out in the morning and be home for dinner. There are no days or weeks spent out at sea,” Ms Fourter said.

Beach haul, like other types of fishing, depends on the weather and ocean conditions.

On a good fish run, the couple and crew mate Brian Butler, may be out hauling fish daily, but rough seas make it very difficult to haul the net.

Ms Fourter said a good day’s fishing can produce 10 ton of salmon, whereas an ordinary day may produce only one ton.

“Our main market for salmon is for cray bait, but if the catch is good we do send a lot to Melbourne or Sydney markets for human consumption.

“Salmon fishing is an extremely sustainable fishery as salmon are fast growers and breeders.”

She said the salmon are caught off any of the beaches along Twofold Bay.

“It all depends on where they are running, we could beach haul off Fisheries, Cocora, Boydtown, Aslings or Kiah.

“And we sometimes use aerial spotting to direct our boat to where the salmon are travelling.”

Some of the old beach haul traditions are now being enhanced through the use of new technology.

Mr Fourter is currently learning how to use a drone (remote controlled plane) to assist with locating the fish in the bay.

However, he is still on his “L plates”, with more flight training at Frogs Hollow necessary before he gets his “wings”.

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