Fishy Tales Exhibition

Fishy Tales at Lorne Pier

Location

The Fishy Tales exhibition is held in the old coop building at Lorne Pier.

Opening Hours

Saturday and Sunday 11am until 1pm.

Gadubanud

 Scientific evidence shows that the Gadubanud language group gathered shellfish from rock platforms along our coastline.  In the Lorne district there are eight middens and the study of these middens provide evidence of their diet and of the gathering places used by the Gadubanud people.  These middens were formed over the past 2,500 years. Read more indigenous heritage.

Forestry

The original Pier was built in 1879 to aid the shipping of timber that was harvested in the Otways. In 1904 a tramway was built to transport timber, saw at a mill on St George River, to the Lorne Pier for shipping to Geelong and Melbourne. The tramway trolleys were horse drawn and ran on rough timber rails, skirting the steep hill below Teddy’s Lookout. The tramway ceased operation in 1934 due to ongoing shipping difficulties and the emergence of road transport as an alternative.

 Tourism

Lorne was a popular tourist destination long before the Great Ocean Road gave road access to Lorne. In the 1870s tourists from Melbourne would travel by steamship or yacht, anchoring in Louttit bay and disembark at Lorne Pier.

Fish from the river and the bay was an important food source for the families who settled in Lorne in the 1850s. Recreational fishing became popular as the tourist industry began in the 1860s and beyond.

The early 1930s, during the great depression, saw the beginnings of the fishing industry in Lorne.  Cecil Penny, Jack Romaro and Bill Hollingworth fished using nets off the front of the beach – one walking along the beach, the other walking the waves. Sometimes they used a small dinghy.  They would catch salmon, garfish, mullet and silver bream.  Bill Hollingsworth would sell the fish around the township.

At this time Hector Stribling owned both the Grand Pacific and Lorne Hotels.  Mr Stribling made an offer to the Norton brothers, Cyril and Arthur, to supply them with a boat in return for their catch of fish and crayfish which would be served at the hotels.  The brothers were able to sell the surplus catch to the residents of Lorne.  The boat he purchased was called the “Ina”.

Fishing

Prior to World War II, the industry supported the Norton, Love, Schram, Kelly and Harris families, and from 1936 in the winter months; the Brown, Ferrier, Wayth, McGrath, Nairn and Collins families came from Queenscliff to fish with them.  Max Zanoni and his brother Jack also sailed to Lorne for the couta season.  However, Max moved permanently to Lorne the day the Great Ocean Toll was removed. During the World War II, the local fishermen stored their boats in a community garage on the south side of the Pacific Hotel.

After the war most of the local fishermen returned and were joined by those from Queenscliff who decided to remain in Lorne.  The industry flourished. In 1946 the fishermen built a large ice box to store ice trucked from Colac.  The fish, mainly barracouta, were packed in ice and sent to markets in Melbourne and Geelong.  Ice was also available from the ice works located in Smith Street.

Fishing Cooperative

The fishermen in 1948 formed the Lorne Fishermen’s Cooperative.  The state government provided a seeding loan, with the fisherman obtaining shares.

  • The seed funding became a grant.
  • All fish sold came through the office, with none sold from the pier.
  • A quota of one and a half ton of cleaned fish per day for every two men was applied.
  • Contracts were made to supply fish to Kraft (Ballarat) and Greens (Eden) canneries.
  • The first president was Cyril Norton, with secretary Gordon Schram and manager Lindsay Cannon.

In 1949 the coop building was completed.  It consisted of a fish filleting and packing area, a snap freezer with eight ton capacity, a smaller room for holding bait, and a small office. In the early 1950’s the industry peaked, with around 25 boats on the pier.  All fishermen caught barracouta. For those who only caught couta they would work ashore to supplement their income. Several fishermen did well catching crayfish and in these early days, when no couta was about, some fishermen used long lines to catch gummy shark and snapper.  The long lines were set at daylight and left for two to three hours and then retrieved.

 The barracouta were caught using shiny ‘jigs’, no bait attached. When fish started to bite, the boat would circle up and throw out whitebait to keep the fish coming. Fish were ‘unhooked’ on a hooking board into the well of the boat. Before hooking boards were used, the fish were “winged”; each fish caught under the fisherman’s arm and unhooked into the boat well.

After returning to the pier, fish were unloaded and transferred to a wooden trolley which was pushed along a railway line to the coop to be cleaned and prepared for market. The rail line still runs along the front of the co-op building.

Originally, to protect the boats in bad weather, a very old crane that had a wooden jib was used to lift the boats onto the pier.  Later two cranes were used, but the boats lifted could not weigh more than three tonnes.

In 1972, the then secretary of the co-op Gordon Bannister wrote in an application to the Commonwealth Development Bank, that Lorne had 26 fishermen and that the industry supported 30 families. The application was unsuccessful, but not to be deterred they applied to the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission and in July of 1973 the commission offered a loan of $70,000 to upgrade the facilities.

From its peak in 1972, six year later in a letter written by John Barker on behalf of the members, to the Rural Finance Commission asking for a restructure of the Cooperative shareholding, John noted that only 12 fishermen remained in Lorne and that the decline in numbers was likely to continue.

In 1974 the new processing plant and retail store were finally added, allowing for an increase in the efficiency of the processing and an improvement in the quality of fish supplied. The future looked good for the coop, but the sudden absence of the barracoua and the decline in the number of families fishing, left Lorne as basically a crayfish port.  The coop had given great service to the fishermen in Lorne for 35 years.

Managers of the coop included:  Ian Hussan, Tom Maclndoe, Oscar Schram, Eddie Ridgeway, Fred Tully, Bonnie Muir and Henry Love. The last three boats left on the pier were owned and operated by Malcolm Campbell, Gary Norton and Scott Stewart.  The end of commercial fishing from the pier occurred when the cranes were taken away on 27th February 2003.

The coop was taken over as a private business and very successfully run by the Raskatos brothers, Bill and Christos. The coop ceased trading in 2017.  The pier that the boats sat on, along with the cranes, was poorly maintained by the then Port authority and was condemned in 2003 and a new pier was opened in 2007.

Actual Fishy Tales

Exploding Boat

In 1955 Des Murnane’s skipper was unavailable.  He asked Frank Norton to take his boat out.  They had almost their limit of barracouta on board, when the boat blew-up, lifting the deck, by about three feet, above the gunnel. Unknown to the fishermen gallons of petrol had leaked into the bilge of the boat, causing the explosion.  They were towed home to Lorne keeping water on the boat to stop it burning.

Lost Snapper Boat

In 1980 Malcolm Campbell, fishing in big seas, had just finished shooting his snapper traps when a large wave struck the side of the boat.  He lost balance and was flung into the sea and as his boat was still in gear, it motored away.  Having little alternative Macka swam the three miles to Mount Defiance.  He hitched a ride back to the co-op.

The then manager of the coop, Henry Love, contacted the police in Melbourne, who stated that as there were no lives lost they would not be looking for the boat.  The television stations sent a helicopter down again not to look for the boat but interested in the story. Bill Fulton, a friend of Mackas and a pilot, drove to Grovedale obtained a light plane and started the search.  Gordon Bannister and Gary Norton went out in Gordon’s speed boat.  When they located the missing boat, still circling eight miles out to sea, Gary jumped aboard and brought the craft safely back.

Barbara-Dee Damaged

On Friday 13th, 1961, a Lorne cray boat, the Barbara-Dee, was hit by a freak wave as the two crew tended to cray pots. The boat overturned on a reef ten miles east of Apollo Bay, at Sugar Loaf.  The skipper, Roy Harris, who was a former Victorian junior surf champion, swam half a mile to shore and then swam back with a four-gallon drum to help ship-mate Noel Rogers who couldn’t swim. After climbing the cliff to Wangan, a retreat house, the pair were “revived” with brandy by the Redemptorist priests. The Barbara-Dee was towed to Lorne where it was discovered that 400 pounds worth of damage was done to the hull.

Pier to Pub

The Lorne Pier to Pub has been running since 1980. It is an annual open water race held in January each year. Swimmers enter from the pier and swim 1.2 km to the finish line in front of the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club . The race attracts up to 4,000 competitors and in 1988 it entered the Guinness Book of Records with 3071 swimmers, making it the world’s largest open water race. (Source: Wikipedia accessed March 2024)

The Pier

The first pier was built in 1879 to provide easier sea access for tourists, to serve the logging industry, and to deliver supplies to the town. Previously boats had to be beached and propped up while being loaded and unloaded, a dangerous operation. The original pier went through many configurations, it was triangular, L shaped, lengthened and concreted. After 127 years of modifications and partial rebuilds, the Lorne Pier was replaced by a new pier at a cost of $5 million. The present pier, funded by the Victorian State Government, for tourism and recreation was opened in 2007.