Judy Ink - the food blog of Judy Schultz
And still more fish
Friday, 08 March 2013 17:43

 

We're in the early-morning fishmarket in Auckland, around 6 a.m. The cold room is vast, with a fresh, deep-ocean smell, and the fish are beautiful to behold. This morning, many of them seem to be red, or some shade of it.

How many species in these waters?

“Around 150,” says Blair, of the sustainable, quota-managed fishery.

The longer I’m here, the better I like fish, and maybe this is why —the amazing variety. This morning, for instance, there’s gurnard (my favourite), monkfish, sowfish, spud; leather jacket, carp (“A notorious introduced pest,” Blair says) red scorpion fish, pink maumau, and gorgeous, ruby-red alfonsino. There’s a bin of skate, with giant graceful blue-gray wings and close-together eyes. Closely related to stingrays, I love to watch these guys swim past a dock.

“This is John Dory.” He introduces a flat gray fish with a pronounced mark on the side, like a thumbprint.

“They say it’s the fingerprint of St. Peter, the fisherman. When this fish spots a predator, it turns sideway, displaying the mark — the predator thinks it’s an eye.”

Apart from kingfish and some good-sized snapper, the biggest fish this morning are sharks.

“This is Bronze whaler,” says Blair of a massive fish hanging out both ends of its bin.

Although many New Zealanders insist that sharks aren’t common around these islands, the New Zealand Herald loves to shoot above-the-harbour pictures on long summer weekends, with big bronze whalers clearly visible. There are rumours that a Great White was recently spotted in one of the bays, but nobody seems certain of which one.

“Sharks? Yeah, we have sharks,” says a seasoned blogger on the subject. “What did you think? Somebody built a fence around New Zealand to keep them out?”

***

“How was it?” Blair asks a young fisherman. He’s

rumpled, wellie-wearing, with a cell phone in one hand, coffee in the other, and an ear-to-ear grin. He’s been at sea overnight, and the weather has been kind.

“Beautiful! Blue, calm…beautiful!”

He talks like a poet, this young fisherman who follows four generations of his family down to the sea: the Tasman, the Pacific, the great Southern Ocean.

“He’s the guy who gets us the kina,” says Blair. Kina is sea urchin, covered with dark quills, like spines, of which only the roe are eaten. An acquired taste, urchin roe, but the spines cover one of the prettiest shells in the ocean.

“We free-dive for these. Just hold your breath and drag a net bag,” Blair advises. “If you find a good patch, you’ll soon have your limit.”

Yeah, well, this guy spear fishes for fun. I won’t be down there with a little mesh bag, not in the near future.