That old sea salt Bobby Pawson declined the sea-sickness pills as we boarded the good ship Emma Kate in Padstow harbour to go mackerel fishing. By the time we had left the Camel estuary, he was looking as choppy as the waves, but, despite losing half the fishermen to the heaving swell, the rest of us caught 80 mackerel in little more than half an hour.
On several occasions, a full house of fish on every hook was reeled in. We then took pity on the sufferers, and returned home with 20 mackerel to barbecue. Eaten fresh, they surpass all other fish for flavour. However, after a matter of only a few hours, they start to decay, which is why they have never challenged the other great food fish, cod and herring, for the nation’s attention. In fact, many communities were historically deeply superstitious of a fish that went off so fast.
They are beautiful, too. Built like a torpedo, the characteristic dark stripes gleam across the greenish backs above silver bodies. They feed in huge shoals close to the surface and migrate around the coast during the summer months, which means, when you find them, they are ridiculously easy to catch (provided you’re not being sick).