The nature of the coastline around Southern Yorke Peninsula is suited to most species of fish found in South Australian waters.
The rugged coastline from Corny Point to Marion Bay, with its hidden offshore reefs and rocky outcrops, is the natural home of the Southern Rock Lobster or crayfish, and supports the local crayfishing industry. In the early days craying would be carried out off Corny point during the summer, with line fishing from Point Turton during the winter. Before the Stenhouse Bay road was built crays were transported by road via Corny Point or by boat to Adelaide.
As long ago as 1935 small sailing boats came from as far away as Streaky Bay to fish for whiting around Souttar Spit. Hardwicke Bay whiting were sold as a delicacy in Sydney in the late 1920s. Pioneer fishers of this time used handlines and kept their catch alive in the boats’ wells until marketed.
In the mid 1930s fisherman Bert Fooks came from Windsor, north of Adelaide, to try his luck firstly at Flaherty’s Beach. He spent some time fishing at Corny Point and eventually built a shack at Sandy Point (Sturt Bay) on the south coast. A sight to behold was Bert’s truck loaded with dinghy, nets, tyres & supplies! (see photo). During wartime Bert travelled to the west coast of Eyre Peninsula to fish for tommies, garfish and mullet, which were canned at Port Lincoln and sent to the troops.
Basic fishing methods remain the same, but with technology there has, of course, been enormous changes in boats and equipment. Early crayboats were sailing boats, worked the shallow inshore waters and pulled their pots by hand.
The S.Y.P. Professional Fisherman’s Association was formed in 1967 to look after the interests of the industry, members being well aware they must look after their future welfare by caring for their present resources, and seeing that grounds are not ‘fished out’. Also from the 1960s Abalone were harvested periodically by divers using hooker gear.
The first commercial quantity of king prawns were caught in Spencer Gulf in 1967. The fleet of prawn boats that trawl both gulfs on average 55 nights per annum from November to June, can often be seen sheltering during the day off of Corny Point and Point Turton. Processing of the catch, packing and freezing both cooked and raw, is all done on board the boats.
In 1972 E.F.Hendry & Sons “Para Star” was built, based at Point Turton, and fished exclusively for salmon.
In 1988 EF Hendry & Sons established what was to be known as “the fish factory” 5km west of Warooka (adjacent to the present Inland Sea restaurant). This was an exciting innovation for the district employing up to 30 locals packing salmon to be transported to various locations around the state as far away as the southeast. Some salmon went to Greenseas & SAFCOL, but the majority was used for bait in the crayfishing industry. Unfortunately operations ceased in 2006.