Prescribed Fishing

Hugh Wirth

Many a student who passes through the top end of the Northern Territory delights in the abundant fishing and outdoors to be enjoyed. It can be medicine for the soul.  Jude Bottos and Hugh Wirth, two Flinders medical students on placement for twenty weeks in Nhulunbuy,  have self-prescribed fishing as an antidote to the pressures of clinical placement and medical learning.

For the skilled and the not so skilled, fishing is something often tried in the Northern Territory with varying levels of success. It proves a good release for some students and certainly a great pastime in East Arnhem. There is an added benefit of spending time outside in such a beautiful place doing what a lot of locals both Yolngu and balanda do. Legend has it that within the last ten years Nhulunbuy had the enviable reputation of having the highest number of boats per capita than any other postcode within Australia.

From the student wallet point of view it is accessible, cheap, fresh seafood which can be shared amongst a number of student households.

What can be caught? There is a phenomenal variety of species in this part of the world. You can find everything from coral trout to groper and pelagic out on the reefs to barramundi in the creeks, as well as Spanish mackerel and trevally.  If you have access to a larger boat you can also reach billfish and marlin. In addition to the fish, there are mud crabs and oysters which you can spend time foraging for.

Fortunately the access to the coastline around Nhulunbuy is pretty easy and there are some beautiful places, beautiful beaches and rocks to fish off within the Dhimurru permitted areas. There is also access to some beautiful harbours and bays.

How do you access the boat fishing? A lot of the health staff have boats and other locals are more than happy to take an extra set of hands out fishing, especially if you show some knowledge and form. There are plenty of friendly people who love the company and are willing to show you the sights.

Once you have caught these beautiful specimens Hugh and Jude have some interesting ideas and recommendations on how the fish be prepared and cooked. There are many ways of course as seen on the internet but the most creative to-date was cooked by Jude – a tuna head.
As Jude explains. “The head was super dooper fleshy and about to be discarded so we thought what can we do with this magnificent tuna head?”. They decided on the Japanese baked tuna head.

You cannot always be assured of ingredients in Nhulunbuy so in the end the head became a bit of a Japanese fusion using soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chilli, mirin etc. It was steamed for approximately half an hour in foil and then baked in a roasting pan, with the reduced juice poured over it. It was edible, it was adventurous and a fun way to experiment after a lovely day’s fishing. The perfect accompaniment to the salty juicy fish was a cool crunchy coleslaw salad.

Find out more about doing a student placement in the Northern Territory

Tuna Head Recipe
Japanese Baked Tuna Head
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Flinders NT Remote and Rural Interprofessional Placement Learning NT (RIPPL NT) Student Placements