JIN You hadn’t been to Newcastle or even given it much thought, until he heard about the city’s harbour of eel-like, needle toothed fish.
On Monday, Mr You fished from the normally desolate western harbour that has burst to life with this autumn’s influx of hairtail.
His wife Deborah cast a pilchard-hooked line, as did their children Ivy and Shawn. The family had driven from Chatswood and were far from alone.
“I was told by a friend that the hairtail are in Newcastle, so we planned a visit,” Mr Jin said.
“We got here Friday. Absolutely we’d like to come back, hopefully next year. There aren’t as many highrise buildings. I like the view.”
Adjusting his rod and fishing a beer can from a cooler, Huang Wan, of Chester Hill, didn’t think there was much about the hairtail as a species that would explain the craze.
“You go fishing and you know you get a fish,” Mr Wan said.
“I think people want to come, get free fish.”
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The silver hairtail lassoed, gasping, onto Throsby Wharf with stunning regularity were “an unexpected bonanza”, said Hunter Tourism chairman Will Creedon.
Conceding he’d been caught off guard by the pilgrimage from Sydney, Mr Creedon said the visitors had been staying “in guesthouses, the tops of pubs, motels”.
“There’s an opportunity to create and execute targeted campaigns,” he said.
“These are people who have a particular interest and want to explore our region, and that can only be a good thing.”
Mr Creedon said council rangers should allow visitors “some leeway” on rules they mightn’t be aware of.
Benn Coubrough, who rides and runs the waterfront, said the sustained Easter fishing had left its mark on the harbour.
“I noticed the smell, and that there was a heap more rubbish dropped around the place,” Mr Coubrough said.
“I didn’t put it all together until I saw the fishermen actually cleaning the fish in the bubblers. It was pretty disgusting.”
The accepted wisdom on hairtail – that they are mostly found in the lower Hawkesbury River, and rarely in such numbers in Newcastle – could make the city’s fishy autumn a one-off.
For the You family, who planned to drive back down the M1 on Monday night, it was a welcome diversion.
“Normal life starts again tomorrow,” Mr You said.