In my experience, fishing charters mostly provide poor value for money. The Reel Thing out of Patterson Lakes continues this awful tradition.
For $130 a person, the company’s effort today was disgusting.
It was the fifth time my son and I had tried to redeem a gift voucher for one of The Reel Thing’s five-hour fishing trips. Other attempts were cancelled due to alleged poor weather. Emails said that our $260 would pay for soft drinks and a ‘cook up’ lunch as well as gear. Berly would be scattered to attract the fish, we were assured, crew would give us ‘expert tuitition’ in how to catch them, and the company’s website urged us to ‘enjoy the comfort’.
The truth was different. The boat needed repairs, the squat portable lavatory was for urinating in only and was filthy, and there was insufficient room to sit on wooden slat seating for the 19 paid-up punters and two uncommunicative crew on board. (We could use the lavatory to defecate in, we were told, only in the most urgent circumstances.)
No instruction of any sort in how to fish was given, no soft drinks were offered, no lunch of any sort — not even snacks — was offered (the crew had biscuits), and only sardines were used as bait at four stopping points in Port Phillip Bay.
Among hopeful anglers were several sub-continentals and four Japanese. What they made of Victorian tourism I can only guess.
I’ll have a stab at the budget. Income $2470, perhaps less because of cut-price vouchers similar to ours. Fuels costs — perhaps $100. Labour $200. Insurance — a few hundred dollars at the outside. Depreciation and other factors have to be added to the debits, but if The Reel Thing couldn’t clear $1000 a trip — and in good weather they run three a day — it would surprise me.
The only rigour the crew displayed was in measuring fish. If they were even a few millimetres below the regulation length we were ordered to throw them back. (Only a handful of fish was kept and perhaps 30 were thrown back.) This is excellent for two reasons: the bay’s fish stocks are husbanded, and The Reel Thing runs no risk of losing its licence and its lucrative business.
The whole deal was a gigantic rip-off, in my view, and tourism and fishing organisations need to be aware that this sort of operation is showcasing — and thereby undermining — Victorian tourism. They should act appropriately.