Fishing in the dark

REEL IT IN: Caleb with Tyson on the boat after landing the barrel. Picture: Supplied

Melanie Riley

CALEB Murray has recently had the catch of the day, reeling in a huge 85 kilogram tuna at Port MacDonnell, and the most remarkable part – he’s done it 100 per cent blind.

Growing up in New Zealand, Mr Murray had exposure to the fishing world early on, with both his father and grandfather being keen fishermen, and his grandfather being known as a “fishing legend”.

“We grew up spending our holidays out with him on his boat pretty much from the day I was born,” he said.

“I was lucky enough to have that experience, then when we moved to Australia, I didn’t know a lot about it.

“I still loved my fishing, I’ll fish for anything with a tail.”

Mr Murray lost his sight at 16-years-old, but he did not want that to stop him from exploring his hobbies.

“I was able-bodied and into representative sports, so it was a big life changing event,” he said.

“But through that, coming from a country background and coming from a representative sports side of things, it gave me the urge to get back on the horse.

“I got a bit more interested in it as it was a hobby I could still do, so luckily my brother and my dad are right into it and we kept going with that.”

He was introduced through his work to a couple of guys that were involved in charter fishing on the Eyre Peninsula, and felt inspired while there.

“I decided while I was out there that it would be a really cool way of showing how someone with a disability can work with able-bodied people to smack some goals that might feel inaccessible or a little bit out of reach,” Mr Murray said.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have enough good people around me, and with their support, it has enabled me to chase it and really excel in it.”

Mr Murray then took the opportunity to start up his YouTube channel, ‘Fishing in the Dark with Caleb Murray’ to help raise awareness around the capabilities of people living with a disability.

“I wanted to hopefully encourage both sides of the coin – encourage people to give people that are doing it a bit tougher a go, but also to encourage those people that are doing it a bit tougher to have a go,” he said.

“From there, I got a bit more serious at it, and it wasn’t too long before I set my sights on a barrel down in the South East.”

It took a few tries for Mr Murray to successfully get out onto the boat and into the water, but it was worth the wait.

“I went out with Tyson last year but even though it was a swing and miss on the barrel, he managed to tick off a different bucket list item for me – I managed to catch school tuna casting top water stick baits, which was a goal of mine,” he said.

“Fast forward to this year, and mother nature tried its hardest to stitch me up again.

“It was pretty rough out there, but I’m glad we persisted because we managed to get onto her – the biggest fish I’ve ever caught outside of sharks.”

Mr Murray’s previous best was over in Coffin Bay and weighed in at about 19 kilograms.

“I caught one earlier this year that was somewhere between 15 and 18 kilo, so it went pretty close – but I’ve never cracked 20, and I’ve definitely never cracked 80.”

The 85 kilogram tuna was knocked over quicker than usual, totalling a 25 minute fight from start to finish.

“This fish can push out hours. I was definitely lucky with a good crew on board that helped me knock it over quicker,” he said.

Mr Murray said his experience in catching sports fish was a partial credit to his successful fight.

“You’ve gotta go hard on them, they’re more of a sprint sort of fish,” he said.

“Game fishing is a bit more of a marathon, but I probably went a bit harder on it as well.

“I had a good team around me, Tyson’s great on the boat and he had a young local girl onboard – Georgia Barrett – and she was amazing.

“Everyone was very helpful and everything just came together and made it not an easier fight, but a shorter fight.”

In addition, Mr Murray was joined by support worker and good friend, Nathan Schwartz, who often accompanied him on fishing trips.

“In a general fishing sense, I try and do as much as I possibly can, but there’s things that I just can’t,” he said.

“On charter, it’s a little bit different, they do a lot of stuff for you, especially on that type of charter, it’s very specifically set.”

Navigating the swell comes easier to Mr Murray than people may think, and he was no stranger to the sizable swells on the day of his catch.

“Because I grew up on boats and I had my sight, and then all of sudden I didn’t have my sight and I still wanted to get on boats, it’s not as big of a deal for me as it appears to be that people think it’s going to be,” he said.

“Not in any bad way, people are just concerned.

“Usually, it’s a bit of an ego rub for me – but people seem to be quite impressed by how I move around a boat, and a lot of it is moving.”

Moving around the boat is a skill Mr Murray has mastered over time, and said the movement of the boat itself is minimal.

“The boat doesn’t doesn’t move that much and the tub of a boat is a fairly enclosed area so you’re pretty quick to know where things are,” he said.

“You’ve only got a limited amount of space you have to familiarise yourself with.

“Big wide open spaces for a blind person are heaps harder than an enclosed area.”

Mr Murray had some techniques he used regularly onboard.

“I’ll quite often tell people ‘if you want me to do something, just yell, I’m not going to get offended’ and to just call out if I need to change direction or that sort of thing,” he said.

“And like every fisherman out there, experience leads to more experience, so familiarising yourself with the gear is important,” he said.

He said overhead reels used in big game fishing were relatively new to him, as he usually fishes primarily with spin style reels.

“I’m trying to do more with the overhead stuff and it’s a bit of a different concept, so there’s a few things that I have to research, but it’s things that every fisherperson has to do,” he said.

Mr Murray said his main aim – aside from having a good time out on the water – was raising awareness and breaking down stigmas.

“No criticism to them, but I’ve had praise thrown at me for doing things – it’s more to do with them thinking that someone in my situation is incapable,” he said.

“I’ve been praised for sitting at a bar having a pint, I’ve been praised for buttering a piece of toast.

“I don’t take anything away from that person, they’re trying to be nice, but it kind of highlights that a lot of people think we’re incapable.

“And the same thing for whether it be disability, anxiety, depression – whatever hardship someone’s got – just to hopefully give a bit of inspiration that they can reach for their goals whatever they are.”

Mr Murray said he has had overwhelmingly positive feedback from his YouTube channel.

“I’ve had communication both through YouTube and the other stuff coming back from families and friends with people with disabilities that have found it really encouraging,” he said.

“In all honesty, my YouTube channel has got a really cool following, but the impact that it’s had has been off the charts.

“It’s sort of introduced me to more people to get the message out in a more direct way, which has been choice.

“That’s all I really wanted to do. I mean I love fishing and I’m going fishing anyway.”

He expressed gratitude to the team on the boat for the day, and was excited for the next bucket list item to be ticked off.

“I can’t be more grateful for Tyson Kain at Want to Fish, and his deckhand for the day Georgia was amazing,” he said.

“As always, thanks to Big Nath, he’s come along to a lot of these trips and helps to make them happen.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to tick it off the list, and I look forward to the next level up.”

Mr Murray said he was big on using everything he takes from the sea, and will usually fillet his catch himself.

“I’ve never filleted anything that size, so thankfully Tyson jumped in for us,” he said.

“He’s much better on a knife, I think I’d still be there cutting now. He jumped on and cut it up so we brought that back to Adelaide.

“We definitely blessed a boat load of people’s freezers with some good tucker.”