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Family tradition: East Gippsland sardine fishermen Adam and Harry Mitchelson. Photo: Richard Cornish

The fishing port at Lakes Entrance is busy. Boats being filled with fuel and supplies. Repairs made to nets and ropes. The air is filled with the mingled aromas of diesel, fish and the salty tang of sea air. Adam Mitchelson is preparing to head out to Bass Strait at dusk. He has fished the lakes and the waters off the East Gippsland coast all his life. Just as his dad Harry did. There have been Mitchelsons fishing here since 1888. Tonight Adam is going out to fish for sardines. "We used to call them pilchards and some of the oldies still do," he says. "But a few years back the industry started calling them 'sardines'. Everyone knows sardines from a tin," says Adam.

Sardines are Sardinops sagax and are also known as bloaters, blue bait and mulies, depending on where in Australia you are fishing for them. They are fully grown at three years, about 15 centimetres to 18 centimetres, but they can live for eight years and grow up to 25 centimetres long. Striated blue on top with a silver belly, they congregate in great shoals and are an important food for sea birds, including penguins, sea mammals and other fish. They are also delicious. Under their fine skin is a dark pink flesh and a cage of very fine bones. Sardine flesh is dense, with a meaty flavour.

Visit Melbourne -Meet the makers Gippsland

Mark Briggs - Sardine Eatery +Bar

'While other chefs were interested in salmon, snapper or tuna, Mark was driven through his passion for sustainability to go in the opposite direction – to use the little fish that are so often overlooked. 'We sell 20, 30 kilos of sardines a week and that's so important to us to use those smaller, amazing fish. In Europe that's the staple.'

Visit Victoria - Gippsland

Stay close, go further

Local fishermen supply fresh catches for the region’s restaurants like Sardine, opened in 2017 by Michelin-starred chef Mark Briggs (former head chef at Vue de Monde) and partner Victoria Hollingsworth. If you don’t sample the restaurant’s signature dish – featuring sardines, of course – there are dishes featuring beef, pork, eggs and honey all sourced from the Gippsland region.

Family Food Fight

Harry and Steve take Part in cooking Challenge and help to judge the best crab dish

Episode 5
It's the Family Food Fight trawler challenge. Each of the families must brave the high seas to catch their own crabs, and then cook them for 20 hungry fishermen. Competition is high with the first game changer of the series on the line.

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