Many years ago before Kalk Bay harbour was commercialised with restaurants who buy their fish from commercial fisheries in Cape Town, the harbour was a real fishing harbour. Boatloads of snoek, yellowtail and bonito (katonkel) were brought to the quayside for sale from the boats.
In those days there were so many boats in the harbour that skippers had to queue up while the boats ahead of them threw up their catches onto the quayside.
One summer in the mid-1970s, I went out fishing with my father on his ski boat for snoek outside Glencairn. The snoek was so plentiful that we all filled the fish hold and decks, ran to Kalk Bay harbour and sold our first boatload.
For the second time we went back to Glencairn, filled the hold and decks with snoek and returned to Kalk Bay harbour at about lunchtime. One of the fishermen we knew was standing on the quayside and pleaded to come along to catch snoek. My father told him to climb aboard as he was one of the members of a well known fishing family in Kalk Bay.
Again for the third time we filled the hold and decks again with snoek and ran into Kalk Bay in the late afternoon. The langganners (hawkers) or fish auctioneers were still buying that day.
But the unfortunate thing was that snoek price being offered by the langganners was 25 cents each.
It’s a long time ago so let’s forget about how many I caught but even though I was an experienced fisherman my hands that night were sore all over from tiny cuts made by the snoek teeth and fins.
I can recall another time catching snoek off Buffels Bay and remember it very well because it was the highest number of snoek I have ever caught in one day. But I will save that for another time.
The harbour is still an interesting place to visit although nowadays diners and those looking for fast-fried fish and chips have more fun than the fishermen of whom there are only a handful left.
In my younger naivete, I would never have imagined how things would turn out with Kalk Bay harbour. Overfishing has decimated local fishing stocks. Fish are still caught from the few remaining commercial fishing boats that run out from Kalk Bay but catches are nothing like yesteryear, especially in those days in the Golden Age of snoek fishing in False Bay.
But everything is really relative, isn’t it? Imagine what the early fishermen experienced catching snoek from Kalk Bay when there wasn’t even a harbour there and they had to hoist their sail-and-oar-powered wooden fishing boats up on gantries to avoid the rough seas lashing the shore.