The love of hunting and fishing for me must come from my great grandmother who was a member of the Gunditjmara tribe near Tower Hill, Victoria

Donna Isaacson

Ever since I was a child, I fished with my Dad, Jim Willis, a professional fisher.  I am one of a family of five girls and one boy.  My brother hated fishing but the girls loved it.

I am a fourth-generation fisher.  My father’s mother, her parents and grandfather were fishers and the love of hunting and fishing for me must have come from my great grandmother, who was a member of the Gunditjmara tribe near Tower Hill, Victoria.  As a child, Dad would be sent up Killarney Hill to spot for salmon and then his mother’s father and grandfather would go out fishing.  Dad fished in Victoria for many years, mainly for eels, abalone and cray.  However, with changes in the Victorian fishery, my parents decided to move to South Australia and settled in Kingston.  Together with fishing, Dad had a Goolwa cockle licence and Mum, Dad and all the kids would go down to Goolwa and dig for cockles.

In 1980, Mum and Dad holidayed in Ceduna and fell in love with it.  They moved there to live in 1986 and bought a marine scalefish fishing licence.  While Dad fished, Mum had a seafood takeaway that was really popular in town.  They lived in Ceduna for fourteen years and only moved back to Kingston to be closer to family.  From then on, Mum and Dad towed their boat back and forth between Kingston and Ceduna, fishing for whiting in Winter and in August heading back to Kingston.  Eventually, Mum had an illness that took her out of fulltime work.  She started going out fishing with Dad and found that she really loved it.  They did this until 2015, when Mum had a fall that left her a quadriplegic.  My father devoted the next three years to caring for Mum and she died in October 2017.  Dad is now 82 years old and lives and fishes in Point Turton.  After caring for Mum and then losing her, being back on the water was the best way for him to recover.

Fishing is in my blood.  I love the ocean, the thrill of fishing, and the fishing lifestyle.  On the ocean, you see so many beautiful things; sunsets, sea life, white pointers, seals turtles, all of nature.

My husband, Doug, and I both had previous lives and it was the love of fishing that brought us together.  He couldn’t believe his luck when he met a girl who loved to fish!  Before buying our marine scalefish fishing licence in 2017, we did a ten-year apprenticeship fishing with my Dad.  Like Mum and Dad, we are based in Kingston and then fish in Ceduna from Easter until August.  My husband and I work well together, often working long, hard hours.  I have a 32-year-old son and when we retire, his dream is to take over from us; he’s a born fisherman too.

Our fishing day starts with us leaving shore about 8:00am, when the tide is making.  Around midday at high tide we stop for lunch and then fish the afternoon run-out tide.  We know where to fish from Dad and look for where the fish might be feeding.  We use a hand line with 2 hooks.  We don’t usually get back to shore until dark and then ice the catch for the next morning’s transport to Adelaide.

We sell our whiting to processors but also have a processors’ licence and sell to hotels and restaurants in the Southeast and in Adelaide.  We get a lot of pleasure when we send off a shipment of whiting fillets and the hotelier calls back and says how well it was received and asks for more.

Based on what I learned helping in my parent’s seafood shop in Ceduna, from 2002 until 2011, I had a seafood takeaway in Kingston, getting fresh seafood from local fishers.  During that time, the business won the  award for Best Regional Fish & Chips in 2005 and 2007. and in 2009 it won the State award for promoting South Australian seafood.

I’ve had a lot of experiences on the water but one memory stands out.  One day out fishing, I was talking on the phone with Mum while she was in hospital.  Doug and I were catching whiting when a really large white pointer came up and did a bit of a jump up at the boat motor.  I said to Mum that I was a bit scared but she just said, “You’ll be right, just keep on fishing”.

 Suite 27, 6-8 Todd Street, Port Adelaide SA 5015