We are in November and thoughts are turning to our end of year holiday which involves caravanning, fishing, boating, family, friends, good food and good times. So the preparation starts now. One of the jobs on the list is to get bait for all the whiting (amongst other fish) we hope to catch, and they love cockles. So now with cockle season open, as of the 1st of November, we headed down to Goolwa Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.
Not the warmest of days today, only reaching about 18 degrees, but seeing as it’s Friday we figured that most other unlucky ones will be at work so the beach should be less crowded. The drive onto the beach is signposted from the Goolwa Beach car park and is an easy and short downhill stretch before hitting the main beach with even firmer sand to drive on. With summer approaching and more traffic about to head to the beach the sand will get softer and more churned up, but today there was no issue with driving on and we didn’t even have to let air out of the tyres.
Once on the beach you can only drive to the left and if you keep going for around 10 kilometres or so you will arrive at the Murray Mouth, where the mighty Murray River empties out into the sea.
Take notice of signs to see whether the mouth is accessible though as sometimes its shut due to dredging or other reasons. And always, always find out what the tide is doing as the sand can get swallowed up quite quickly on a high tide, leaving not much of a track for cars to get off.
Today however that wasn’t our mission we were purely there to get cockles and give the dog a good run on the beach while we were at it. With the weather not being too warm and some ominous dark clouds lurking about there were only a handful of other cars about and we only passed one other before finding a spot to pull off the track and start cockling.
Neo our rescue dog loves the beach. Now nearly five years old, we got this gorgeous cream kelpie boy when he was around 1 year old. He also loves a bit of a run but we do have to control how much he does as he has neurological damage to his spine and his left hind leg is rather spindly and wobbly. His right hind leg isn’t much better either and he has muscle wastage in both of these legs. So from front on he looks a good, strong typical kelpie but from the rear he has a wobbly, gangly gait that looks like his legs were, or are broken. He is as happy as Larry though and in no pain as long as he behaves himself and doesn’t overdo it. Today he was happy to have a bit of a jump and splash in the waves but it got too cold for him and he spent more time laying on the dry sand (road) and watching us.
So…to the business of catching cockles also known as Pipis (but don’t try to get us South Australians to call them that!). The process is to get out into the water, you only have to go somewhere between ankle and knee deep, and twist about with your bare feet in the sand until you feel them under foot. Then you simply pick them up or scoop them up in a net on the outgoing tide. Easy yes? Throw into that a cool day, big waves that sneak up on you and splash higher than you are expecting and it makes for a fun day. There is a particular cockle twist move that you see everyone doing along the beach but I prefer the snakey leg method, keeping one foot firmly planted so as not to overbalance and dig around with the other – I just need a soundtrack.
While all this is going on, other beach users are passing by, a car every few minutes, a jogger, a light airplane flies over and a horse rider trots by.
Seagulls are loving the smorgasbord too, there are plenty on the shoreline picking up cockles that tumble along on the surface. I somehow managed to snap this one in flight with a cockle in its beak.
An hour later we had reached our limit, both in cockles and in putting up with the chill wind, and the clouds were looking darker and more likely to rain on us. We had close enough to our bag limit of 300 per person per day all checked and measured to be at or over the 3.5 centimetre size across the widest part of the shell. Job done!
Driving off the beach it was time to head to a bakery and get stuck into a hot pie on the banks of the Murray and watch the birdlife before heading home to bag up the days catch and freeze them ready for the fishing trips ahead.