PHOTO ESSAY - When Wayne Wilke lost his job many years ago, his doctor recommended that he take a break. Heeding his doctor's advice, Wayne visited Princess Vlei in Retreat and started to fish.
Seventeen years later, Wayne is still fishing, whether it be on a boat at sea or on a bridge that runs across the Black River.
Wayne's main fishing spot, when not at sea, is a bridge in Mowbray which crosses over the Black River next to the N2. Winds above 25 km/h move sand along the river making it much harder for him to catch anything. Whenever there is little to no wind, Wayne will make the trip from his home in Maitland to this bridge with the goal of catching anywhere between two and 20 fish.
There are often two to three other fishermen on the bridge, but he is unconcerned about the competition. Wayne says, "There's millions of fish here."
Once he has caught a fish, Wayne pulls the fish across to the side of the river where it gets stuck in black mud. Sometimes fish can get caught in the mud or the rubbish that collects under the bridge, then Wayne has to wade through the river to get to his fish.
Wayne climbs down to where the fish is caught in the mud. He cannot carry the fish at the same time as he climbs back up as the fish is too heavy. His solution is to throw the fish up onto the grass before climbing up. Once he is out of the river, Wayne drags the fish through the tall grass in order to clean off the mud.
Most of the fish that Wayne catches are carp and catfish, both of which he says taste “lekker.” Once the fish are caught and cleaned off in the grass, they are stored in a heavy-duty bag. Wayne then gets his fishing rod ready and tries for his next catch.
One of the main concerns with fishing in the Black River is the rubbish strewn in the river. Wayne lets his fish sit in vinegar water for two to three days. During this process, Wayne also cuts out the innards, removes the scales, and cleans the inside of the fish.
Some Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers, who are tasked with cleaning up the Black River, said they "won't eat this fish because this river is very dirty."
Mayoral Committee Member for Health Councillor Benedicta Van Minnen, notes that "[a]lthough a study is planned, the City of Cape Town does not currently have any scientific information regarding whether freshwater fish in the urban rivers are contaminated or not. In the absence of clear information, it is recommended that eating fish caught from urban rivers should be avoided."
Wayne says that although he's been fishing in the Black River for ten years, "over the last two years, this river's become very clean, much much cleaner". Wayne says, "No one has told me I can't fish here." He says there is nowhere else nearby to fish.
He does not sell the fish he catches in the Black River, but earns an income through fishing at sea with a crew of fishermen who go out as often as possible from places such as Struisbaai, Yzerfontein, Lambert’s Bay, and Cape Point.
"I take big pleasure in catching my fish. I really love catching my fish," says Wayne, adding that he "loves catching" because its fun and requires skill.
"People who've got jobs don't know how to fish," says Wayne. They do not know the pleasure, meaning, and feeling of getting up at 2am to fish.