GENERATIONS of cray fishers made circular pots, using bamboo and tea tree canes, until timber-slated square ones appeared in the late 70s.
But while professional and recreational fishers now prefer the latest plastic versions, Crackpots Marine Supplies owner Paul Tod couldn’t resist buying a heap of red and white Pahang cane from his Asian supplier.
“They’re ideal for stickies, or for basket weaving, art, crafts, school and community group projects,” he says.
But mostly he snapped them up, “because I’m a romantic when it comes to these sorts of things.”
Taking a break between high school and a zoology degree at UWA, Tod spent four years as a deckie on a rock lobster boat off the Abrolhos Islands, and has a passion for the industry and its history.
In the old days, fishermen would weld together 44-gallon drums, fill them with water, and stoke up a fire to soften the canes to weave into pots.
“I would watch the Portuguese fisherman,” Tod says.
“It was Dickensian—men stripped to the waist building cane pots.
“By 11 o’clock the barbecue was going and the red wine opened.”
Once qualified Tod worked as a consultant in the fishing and aquaculture industry, before moving to the Cocos Keeling Islands, running a giant clam farm for the US aquarium market, after discovering there was more money in clams as pets than on a dinner plate.
“They were originally going for eating, but I found the aquarium industry paid better,” he says.
After five years he sold the business to friend John Clunies-Ross, part of the Clunies-Ross family that ran the island as a private fiefdom until the late 70s.
Back in WA, Tod and mate John Norton set up Crackpots, a name that started as a joke, but soon had brand recognition.
“I’m often greeted as Mr Crackpot,” Tod told the Herald.
The thriving business sells a heap of fishing equipment, including ropes, cray pots, floats, squid pots, and netting, also bought by orchardists to protect their fruit trees.
“I also build shark barriers,” Tod says.
He reckons Crackpots’ future is bright and pretty Internet-proof.
“I’m fortunate I sell bulky products and online is not going to compete with me.”
by JENNY D’ANGER
Crackpots Marine Supplies
1/59 Forsyth Street, O’Connor