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.

The thousands have shrunk to hundreds, alas

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.

In unison now the whole crew is at work

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