Gone Fishin’

Gone Fishin’

An investigation into Dunedin’s underground fishing cult

With food prices skyrocketing over the past couple months, and student allowances increasing only ever so slightly, it seemed suspicious to see so many students with full bellies around central campus. With many others huddling around their open ovens, the presence of pot-bellied breathas around our Leith River raised some questions. Is it possible that this cabal of co-conspirators have turned to our natural ecosystems for survival? Why someone would wish to consume anything out of the Leith, I was not sure – so I had to investigate. I put on my best fish disguise and tried to get hooked. 

It's likely that this conclusion has already come to you, but what if members of the student population are being supported by a Robin Hood-esque fishing creed who distribute Leith trout to the poor and Leith rats to the rich? While this theory may sound outlandish, the mass amounts of trout and salmon which are inserted into the Leith each year make it a relatively thriving ecosystem for marine life – at least in terms of numbers. Excusing the abysmal state of the water quality, the Leith (theoretically) could be as good as any river in providing the sustenance all humans need. Obsessing over the image of a Smeagol-esque student, ripping into raw fish with their bare fingers, I headed down to see what would bite.

The cult was not going to be an easy find, as evading the watchful eye of the fisheries officer would be an essential function of the group. While it is legal to fish on the Leith, this legality is only restricted to some sections and times of year – meaning students are required to covertly game for trout, righteously pursuing an end to the inequality which the student life presents them with. The extent of the group’s secrecy became clear in my initial confrontation with Harbour Fish, which turned up no leads and only served to thoroughly confuse the employees in store. 

Unperturbed, I next consulted Hunting and Fishing. They gave me an oddly specific recommendation as to what rod I should use to snag trout from the Leith, and while I wouldn’t be buying a 1/8oz jig head anytime soon, Hunting and Fishing had at least pointed me in the right direction. At this point I needed to stop and think: had I gotten in over my head on this one? Could not only Hunting and Fishing but also Harbour Fish be involved in a Leith conspiracy, and did the DCC have money in the game?

Fearing for my life, I continued down the treacherous path of journalistic endeavour, seeking wisdom from Alex, the head of OSSHC, who would hopefully shed some light on the matter. While Alex claimed he was “not much of a fisherman” (a likely story peddled by a leader of the only fishing associated group on campus) he relinquished the name of his co-conspirator: Kynan. It was hard to ignore Kynan’s obvious charm as we began messaging but he had undoubtedly faced public scrutiny before and was most likely well versed in the art of deception. Despite this, Kynan revealed that yes, indeed, there is a group of regular Leith fishers out there (although not united, and focused predominantly on the art of fishing as opposed to the promise of kai). Delving into his bag of trade secrets, Kynan revealed that “Most fish are of smaller size which are harder to catch using common methods.” While these methods were not revealed, the imagination doesn’t have to stray too far to realise that the swish and flick net method from everyone’s tadpoling days would probably do the trick. Shockingly, Kynan only recommended eating the trout “if you want to catch some diseases”, leading me to question if the dream was really over – or was Kynan still covering the tracks of Leith’s fishing cult? Was it that the fish were filled with a myriad of toxins, or was it that the fish were so delicious and nutritious that Kynan and co. were willing to do anything to stop the public from getting in on the secret? 

Appealing to the only real truth in this universe (opinions from drunk students on Castle Street), the question was humbly raised: “Would you eat trout from the Leith?” and the natural follow up: “Have you ever considered joining a cult?” One bedraggled looking breatha by the name of Angus mused that “there’s probably some new species in the Leith we haven’t discovered yet, like the Simpsons Movie.” Despite this sentiment, Angus claimed he was “for sure” heading to the Leith for a fish in the coming days, which is the kind of spirit we love to see in a young lad. Next on the billet was Victoria, a self-proclaimed surfer who suggested she “Wouldn’t eat trout from the fridge” (trout don’t usually live in fridges but okay). After carefully considering the possibility of fishing cults she concluded that she didn’t “know [if fishing cults were real], but sign me up if they exist”. It seems the fishing cults of Dunedin have evaded even the watchful eye of the gossipy masses. Nonetheless, the sheer enthusiasm exuded by the public suggests that if a cult doesn’t exist already, it wouldn’t be very hard to set one up.

Pondering the issue, I sat down by the Leith with my head in my hands. So many unanswered questions still remained! Is there a secret fishing spot I haven’t checked? Are trout really all that bad? Could Kynan be lying? Shrugging my shoulders, I picked up my rod and cast off. I went home without any answers (or fish, for that matter), but what I did go home with was something far more important: the framework for creating my own fishing cult, the names of potential recruits, and the identities of those who may seek to destroy me. And also a bunch of parasites. Seriously, don’t eat those fish.

This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2022.
Posted 7:53pm Saturday 3rd September 2022 by Hugh Askerud.