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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 85

Agricultural Land

page 15

Agricultural Land.

Western Tasmania is destitute of any extensive areas of agricultural land, and the Government, instead of encouraging settlement, have unwisely reserved the whole district for mineral purposes, thereby shutting out the small farmers from selecting the patches of rich deep soil met with on the shades and banks of the. harbours and rivers : and where there might have been comfortable little holdings to be a help and stay to the mining industry the lands lie untilled, and not one cultivated paddock can be found in this quarter of the island.

The existence of grass is only found on the sandy hummocks along the coast, growing in rough tussocks, quite unfit for pastoral purposes, even if the areas were more extensive.

The rivers are stocked with a plentiful supply of fresh water fish, although the variety is not numerous and those fish only worthy of notice are the eel, herring, lobster, and black fish. Three species of eels abound in all the streams, and to estimate the quantities that can be caught may be instanced the fact that a friend and myself have bagged eighty, weighing from one to four pounds each, during a few hours' fishing in the evening. This haul was made during a time that Mr. O. Meredith and myself were the only inhabitants on the West Coast. We had made our way overland with the expectation that a vessel which had preceded us with men and supplies would be able to cross the Pieman bar, but owing to [unclear: seu'ie] westerly gales she did not perform her mission until two months had elapsed. During six weeks of this time we had to invent means to secure food, and subsisted almost entirely on eels, crawfish, and black swans. Although living like aborigines in this precarious fashion many a pleasant evening was spent on the river fishing, or with a punt full of waddies excitingly chasing and pulling down the flapping moulting swan, or spending a happy day in the seaweed gulches of the coast, capturing an abundant supply of crawfish. We both agreed that the eel had the most sustaining and nourishing properties, and instead of [unclear: riring] of their constant use we became excessively fond of them; and hooking a large one of six pounds weight on Christinas eve, as a treat, saved it for our dinner next day, and relished it with perhaps as much gusto as if we had been feasted on the national dish of old England. The herring (Protocroctes [unclear: viarirnu]) is the most delicate and delicious fresh water table fish in the colonies, and affords excellent and exciting sport to anglers. They frequent the shallows and rapids of the large rivers, and may be seen especially in the early morning and evening swimming in large shoals and throwing their bright silvery bodies out of the water while in hot chase after an imprudent white moth, their principal food.

Since the importation of the English brown trout (Salmo fario), these beautiful little luxuries have become almost extinct in the once famous herring fishing streams of the south, and all Tasmanians hail with delight the proposed scheme of Mr. Saville Kent, the inspector of fisheries, to artificially breed and restock these streams with the locally page 16 called cucumber mullet. The lobsters (Astacopsis franklinii) are not plentiful, and as yet have only been captured in the Arthur, Pieman, and Gordon rivers.

The black fish (Gadopsis marmoratus) was supposed to be confined to the northern rivers; yet one western stream, the Arthur River, has an abundant supply. They may be captured in the evening, in still pools, sluggishly swallowing the bait.

The flounder, sole, ling, skate, and rock cod frequent the salt waters of the harbours, and the excellent trumpeter (Lartis necatelu) and crawfish the deeper waters of the ocean bays.