Fishing in Struisbaai with Red Roman Curry recipe

The mist came in and the water cooled down a bit making the yellowtail very shy on the bite.

It is the beginning of February 2020 and we had just started hearing rumours of a strange virus in far-flung China and not a thought about a lockdown in South Africa. We decided to take a trip from Hartenbos to Struisbaai for a day or 2 of fishing. My friends had invited me along as they had never fished in Struisbaai and needed some “local” knowledge.

We loaded up 6 crates of ice, sardines, chokka and enough food to feed an army and set off around lunch time, for the 6 hour trip with the Toyota pulling our 680 Eclipse without any hiccups. One quick pitstop at Buffels for fuel and coffee and we were on our way again.

The news from Struisbaai was not fantastic. After a week of great fishing, the mist came in and the water cooled down a bit making the yellowtail very shy on the bite. We were hoping that the weather would improve by the time we got there, but when we arrived in Struis late afternoon everything was covered in a thin mist. The good news was that there was a flat sea and no wind!

Late to bed and early to rise was the motto! We enjoyed a lovely evening by the fire as we enjoyed a few cold ones, with no idea yet that all alcohol sales were going to be banned. The boat was in the water just after the big rush at the harbour and we set off for the famous 5 Mile bank that had been delivering fish for the past few weeks. On our arrival we counted over 50 boats from all over the Western Cape, but did not see a lot of action with only a few yellowtail coming out in the first 2 hours – sadly none on our boat.

We noticed that a few commercial boats made early departures in the direction of Blougansie and the 12 mile bank, so we decided to look for better fishing grounds and set off on a 45 min trip to Blougansie on a flat sea with hardly a 2m swell. There was still mist around but visibility stayed good.

We did a long slow drift over Blougansie bank and succeeded in landing an undersized Red Steenbras and a few small bait fish before we had that one hard take that only a Yellowtail can do. After a few minutes our one and only yellowtail for the trip landed, a lovely 2.5 kg fish that was destined for a family feast back in Hartenbos.

The flavours of the curry mixes very well with the strong natural flavours of a Red Roman and adds a depth to the dish you will not get with any other species

Stefano Schoonees

With no real action happening, we set the GPS for the shallow pinnacle on the 12 Mile Bank. The color of the water was beautiful but there was no sign of life on the fish finder, or a bird in the sky looking for baitfish. Another few drifts over the pinnacle and on the deeper drop of edge resulted in only 2 Red Romans and a lot of bait lost to the peckers.

Although a day at sea is always better than a day at the office, we really wanted to get some decent fishing done. I made the decision to go another 5 – 8 km south of the bank to some other fishing spots I knew about, knowing that we have the chance of getting either a big lonely yellowtail, or Red Steenbras and Miss Lucy. 

An hour later we had a very very happy angler on board when he managed to land a 65cm Red Steenbras, his very first one. We released another 3 smaller ones and also landed a few more Steenbras of size as well as a nice Miss Lucy. Since there was no sign of yellowtail around and the mist started to thicken a bit we decided to get back to the 5 Mile Bank in the hope that there would be an early afternoon “rise” and the Yellowtail would be on the bite, but that was not to be. After a fruitless hour drifting and searching the mist rolled in really thick and we decided to head to the safety of the harbour and the lovely new Catch Cook restaurant for a well deserved drink (or 2), while we had our fish cleaned (Yep, we were a bit lazy after 10 hours on the water, and we still had a boat to clean).

With the weather predictions for the next day not looking good we realised that there would not be any more fishing for us, so we decided to keep the fish on ice for our families back home. I arrived home just after lunch the next day and had a smiling wife when I produced a lovely Red Roman, still as fresh as if it just came out of the sea. 

Now it’s time for her famous Struisbaai Red Roman curry!! This is a delicious and simple recipe to make. 

  • Cut some onions, add to the pan with a few cumin seeds and let it brown for a bit, stirring every now and then. 
  • Add 2 teaspoons of turmeric, a piece or 2 of cinnamon, some ground cumin and a little bit of coriander and cook for 3-5 minutes before adding 2 nice sized chopped tomatoes. 
  • Let that cook through before adding a cup of fish or chicken stock, a dash of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. 
  • We allowed that mixture to cook for about 10 minutes before adding a few finely cubed potatoes.
  • After leaving that to simmer for around 15 minutes we added some Rajah medium curry (to taste). The flavours of the curry mixes very well with the strong natural flavours of a Red Roman and adds a depth to the dish you will not get with any other species. 
  • Let the magic carry on for another 6-10 minutes.
  • The Red Roman was filleted and all bones removed and then cut into small bite sized pieces. 
  • We now add that, skin down to the mixtures and let it cook through for 6-8 minutes before dishing up. 
  • Accompany the meal with rice, sweet potatoes, a fresh garden salad and a freshly baked ciabatta bread and you have a meal fit for royalty.

Stefano Schoonees / Primal Provider #114

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