The whistle it sounds up there on the hill.
From the lips of a man so full of the skill,
of sighting the shoals come into the Bay.
He sits and he watches from day unto day.
Dark patch in the sea comes slowly inshore.
These fish follow here to feed as before.
Come they in their thousands to feel out their food,
On sea sand bottom whatever the mood.
because out there far, big trawlers amass!
Their huge high-tech catches with little concern
for trek fishermen who their bread too must earn.
But come, let us not call back what is past.
Come down to our beach, to the stage and the cast.
Fret not for these men who have work on the wing.
Stand back and watch well as their trade they full sing.
The whistle and flag in movements fast spent
have guided these men to get up and be bent.
Their backs to crosspoles which heave the boat out
to take to the surf with a curse and a shout.
The crew jump aboard to grab at the oars.
They crash through the waves as into the jaws
of yet further breakers which try to capsize
their boat and the crew, keeping them from their prize.
Bursting right through the foam cauldron of spray
to come to the calm where the net they can lay.
Astern of the oars in an arc on the sea
to trap fast the shoal close in on the lee.
Keep away, keep away to windward with pleasure
windsurfers we want not your pressure.
The men on the beach are flailing their arms
to keep at a distance your sailing alarms.
Get on with the job, there is much still to do.
The boat now much lighter returns with the crew
to grab the loose rope of the net in their hands
to dig their bare feet firm deep in the sands.
We’ve go it! Perhaps? Out there on the curve
of the net in the deep we keenly observe
the seagulls a gathering on fluttering beat
in great expectations of something to eat.
pulling on ropes whatever the hurt
to hands which are numb already with cold.
Pull hard, haul in the sea harvest of gold.
The two lines of trek men come close as they see
out there in the net’s end a host will be free
from the trap which is pulling them onto the shore.
A panic of struggling, their instincts at war.
Keep close to the sand the lower rope fast.
So shout the men pulling in dialect blast!
Hold near to the bottom, hold tight minutes yet
some fish they are trying to escape the trek net.
And now when the work is nearly all done
Come strolling beachcombers their nuisance begun
to help fling the fish high up on the beach.
Why can’t they, why can’t they keep out of our reach!
Those little boys there and their big fathers
Cannot resist coming close to the harders.
They look and they stare – fish fascinates man.
Crates full for the factory and three for the pan.
by William H Goble of Fish Hoek 9 February 1987