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Stories from Bernie's new trip - heading "down under" to explore Tasmania

Sounds Like a Tasmanian Crayfish
December 22, 2010

Home in Carolina, the sound that cheers me most is the sound of a mule heading up the road, wagon in tow. It was a sound I’d hoped to replicate here in Tasmania.

Instead, I’ve ended up listening to crayfish.

Georgie and the cray: Georgie works the pots aboard “Miss Carmen”. Here, he’s holding up a large cray or “dog” as they’re called. Behind him are the cliffs off Port Davey.

Yep, instead of hitting the road in a equine drawn conveyance, I find myself afloat these days. Literally. I’m writing you this update from the cabin house table aboard the crayfishing boat “Miss Carmen”. My home for the past three weeks, she’s taken me places where, I now grudgingly admit, no mule and wagon would ever tread.

Miss Carmen (Spain Bay, Port Davey, Tasmania)

Like off the south coast of Tasmania. That’s where the crayfish live – and make their distinctive sound when they’re hauled from the depths. A sound you’ll hear in a moment.

But first a bit about crayfishing.

Here in Tasmanian, crayfish, a cold water species of spiny lobster, are caught in the Southern Ocean in circular, baited pots. Built traditionally of tea tree and wire, the newer versions are also constructed in metal and webbing.

Cray pots: Most of these are of the traditional tea tree sort. Visible in the center of the pile is a modern version of steel and mesh. (Southport, Tasmania)

The concept is simple. Bait the pot with mackerel, trout or barracoutta heads. Chuck the pot in the water. Come back a few hours later. Jerk the pot back on board and see what you’ve caught. With any luck, there’ll be some crayfish inside – alongside the occasional starfish and octopus. SInce the traps have escape slots, undersized crays often as not slip free before they even hit the deck.

Full pot

Legal sized crayfish, or “fish” as they’re called for short, go into a live well aboard the fishing vessel. With most crayfishing boats carrying 50 pots, that calls for a lot of baiting, hauling and sorting. Especially since they deploy their pots twice in a 24 hour period – once during the day and once overnight.

These are deep waters, though. So a pot hauler, a hydraulic winch of sorts, is used to haul the pot from waters that vary from 10 to 50 fathoms (60 to 300 feet).

Pot winder: the winder is the circular disk at 9 o’clock

In the recording you’re about to hear, you’ll hear the three phases of cray pot retrieval. First, you’ll hear the hydraulic pot winder hoist the trap to the surface. You can hear the pot break the water. Then you’ll hear a clang as the pot is haul across Miss Carmen’s gunwale. Next, you’ll hear a flapping sound. That’s the sound of a large crayfish, called a “dog” in these parts, snapping its tail in the trap. Finally, at the end of the recording, you’ll hear a voice shout “One!”. That’s ace deckhand Georgie yelling to the skipper how many legal lobster have been caught. This number is entered in a ledger book that lists how many crayfish each boat catches – and later, what the fishery quota will be.

What you won’t hear is the fog, wind and spindrift that occupies this fishery. Still, go ahead and imagine it’s a foggy, rainy day. You’re wearing white rubber boots and yellow bib pants, hand on the hauler, waiting for that lobster trap to break the surface.

Now hit the player below and catch your crayfish…. Hold fast!

Posted Wednesday December 22, 2010 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Reader Comments:

Merry Christmas! Good to hear of your status through Dad. Glad to hear all is well on your new adventure. Too bad about the rarity of a good four-legged friend!

Look forward to visiting when you return so I can hear all about it!

Take care and best wishes from all the Hudson Family.

Dean

— Dean Hudson · Friday December 24, 2010 · #

Happy New Year Bernie,

Have enjoyed the travel logs you are writing.
You are a far cry from Oriental but having a great adventure.
Miss seeing you but look forward to your return and hear all about you adventure.

— Jane Wright · Sunday January 2, 2011 · #

Hiya Jane! Great hearing from you. Yeah, gotta say I miss pedaling up to you at the hardware store looking for that bolt. You’d be horrified at what I have to make pass for stainless fine thread these days… Fear not, I’ll come swooping back in some day. Regards to Paul et al. Bernie Tasmania

Bernie · Tuesday January 4, 2011 · #

Howdy Bernie, Thanx, for the explanation of the sounds.. I could ‘see’ every move and the pic of
Georgie made it more real.. Tell him I’ve got a 1998 Georgie Boy motorhome, but it don’t float..

— butterbean carpenter · Wednesday January 5, 2011 · #

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