Researching my books I do come across some very interesting characters, none more so than former Maitland resident Athel D’Ombrain AM. Athel’s resume includes photographer, optician,  naturalist, author, cricketer, pioneer angler, game fisherman and historian. Born in 1901 Athel’s contribution to society and inventiveness were significant. His fishing involvement was of most interest to me.

One of Athel’s revolutionary plans was reported in the NSW Game Fishing Bulletin 1947. Athel’s vision was to improve communication between boats, operating from Port Stephens and Watsons Bay in Sydney. The plan was to introduce a homing pigeon service during the competition season which could relay catch records from the boats to a mainland recording base. The birds were to be kept at Ron Duncan’s.

It was early in the experiment that a major problem was discovered. Sea eagles and other birds of prey delighted in a feast of pigeon. As a result no messages were received at home base.

Writing in Australian Outdoors magazine 1964 Athel reports – ”The biggest snapper I have ever seen weighed 62lb caught wide out in a trawler”. The fish was sold to Bert Rose at the Sea Breeze Hotel in Nelson Bay for£5/10/3. Reliable witnesses were the local constable and Fred Toll.

Fishing writer, author and radio presenter John “Stinker” Clarke can be heard weekly, throughout NSW, on popular ABC Regional Radio fishing program “The Big Fish”. Check him out on or send an email to with your information and questions. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.