A good spot for Mangrove Jack
We first visited Port Smith about 6 years ago. Back then, I expected a “port” to have maybe a pub with sunset views, a general store, fish and chip shop and servo at the least. We arrived with my outlandish expectations and a lack of fresh food and drink for our 10 day stay, to find a caravan park and a bird park on leased land, close to what is known as Port Smith Lagoon. Nothing else! The sandflies were plentiful though and almost ate us alive! But, it was a friendly, well run park with a great camp dinner of a Thursday night featuring entertainment by the Shoveller Family Band from the nearby Bidyadanga Community, and the fishing was fantastic.
Two years ago, we arrived earlier in the season-just at the end of May. The camp dinners hadn’t started but the fishing was even better than we remembered (maybe a bit of prior knowledge, a depth sounder and a bigger motor helped). The sand flies were slightly less annoying that year.
On June 30th, we arrived to start a 10 night stay. The prices have gone up and it’s now $40 a night but they give one free night for each week booked. I understand the price rise though-these people have to make their own power and treat their own water, it’s 160ks to Broome for supplies and 22ks of that is a sometimes rough dirt road. It was rough yesterday as it’s been cut up with recent rains they had here.
The park is really nice-we have a site on red sand but it’s got lovely big shady trees on either side separating us from our neighbours. We just pop down mats and ignore the sand. And so far this year, NO sandflies although they do show up after rain! We’ve been taking massive doses of Vitamin B12 in preparation for them though! There’s a camp dinner on this Thursday night. It’s fish and chips this week-we take our own tables and chairs, salads and drinks and our payment of $5 is a donation to the RFD.
Port Smith and the bird park were originally part of a cattle station. In the olden days the house at the bird park was an outstation used when they sent cattle by barge up to Broome (about half the distance to droving them across land).
Around the 1940s, the house was leased to a pearl farm nearby as accommodation. When we first visited, at low tide you could see a massive chain strung across the lagoon. It was used in storms to secure the pearl luggers in safety. After the pearling stopped, the house was turned into the bird park with beautiful gardens open to the public. It was open when we first came here 6 years ago, but had closed by the time we returned 2 years ago. The owner has retired.
On three sides, Port Smith CP is surrounded by aboriginal communities -Bidyadanga being the largest (and apparently, the largest in all WA). It has between 800 and 1500 residents living there at any one time. Mr Shoveller (of the Shoveller Family Band) was the high school music teacher there 6 years ago. The land was returned to the aboriginals, and the caravan park leases it’s land from the Bidyadanga community. Those communities are very important customers for the caravan park shop and I’d say a big part of their regular income.
Our stay at Port Smith will be a quiet one with no TV, phone or internet reception (can you imagine?!). We watched the first of the pile of DVDs we brought along just for here, last night. Fishing is very reliant on the big tides and around 4 hours is all you can spend out or you can’t get the boat back to shore, well you can but you have to walk miles over soft sand to get the car which may get bogged retrieving the boat!
Tomorrow we have friends Steve and Kathy arriving for a few nights so that will help liven things up. We first met them in Karumba and it’ll be good to see them again!
Last night, we had an amazing dinner (I wish I’d taken photographs). It was a green pawpaw salad over cold soba noodles. When I’d arranged all that, I topped each serve with just cooked chilli/garlic prawns. Our prawns aren’t real big, so if you were using larger ones, you might want to use less-it’s up to you. Our pawpaw, snow peas and herbs came from Kununurra market and the prawns from Karumba.
My Green Pawpaw Salad
- 1/2 green pawpaw, shredded (I have a Kiwi brand tool just for this)
- ¼ red onion, sliced fine
- ½ red capsicum, sliced fine
- 1 carrot shredded, (I have another tool for this)
- 1 dozen snow peas, blanched in boiling water until bright green, drained under cold water, then shredded lengthways. Just pour water out of the kettle over them and let stand a couple of minutes.
- 1/2 cup each of fresh coriander leaves, basil leaves, mint leaves, torn if they are very large.
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ¼ cup palm sugar syrup (I use Ayam brand available at Woolworths)
- Juice of one lime (it was very juicy and gave me about ¼ cup)
- Chilli sambal to taste (I started with one teaspoon then kept adding and tasting til I was happy)
- Cooked, rinsed, cold, soba noodles to serve
- About 24 medium raw, green prawns, peeled
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons chilli sambal, or to taste
- Toss all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients, pour over and toss well. Set aside.
- Cook the soba noodles following the instructions on your packet, then rinse under cold water and drain.
- While the noodles are draining, heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and chilli and stir for about a minute. Throw in the prawns and toss around until they change colour-about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Place the noodles in serving dishes (we eat this sort of meal out of a shallow bowl) arrange the salad over them making sure to distribute the dressing between each plate, and then top with the cooked prawns. Yum.
Today, (our first full one here) we felt was a really productive one. We’d done three loads of laundry (including stripping the bed and remaking it), folding the rest and putting it all away, Russ had caught baitfish for us, we’d had our lunch and we were off out fishing all by 1pm. Gotta love weather like this for the doing of laundry!
Our first days’ fishing was really good. We brought home three good sized golden trevally, 3 yellow fin bream and a queenfish. We threw back several big golden trevally, an even bigger diamond trevally, cod, undersized bream and a just undersize mangrove jack. And we were only out for three hours. We hardly lost any gear, only caught one rubbish fish and the weather was perfect.
Some of the fish will be eaten tonight, some will be smoked, pickled, frozen and we’ll give some to the park people for the fish and chip night Thursday. And we’ll go and try and do it all again tomorrow. Once we have some fish smoked, it’ll be used for dips, scrambled eggs, kedgeree, fish pies, patties and smoked fish soup. It’s great for a change from regular fresh fish.