Rob Wijnants is one of the many inspirational fishermen at sea responsible for reeling in the catch of the day and putting food on the table in every household across the country. Originally from the Netherlands, Rob came from a family of fishermen. His grandfather took him out of school at the age of 14 to join him as a crew member on his boat, which had a massive influence on his life and his future career.
Thirteen years later, in 1978, Rob came to South Africa as a skipper and has remained here ever since, setting up a home base for himself in Port Elizabeth. He says that he has no plans to return home and loves our country and its abundant surrounding oceans.
Rob speaks fondly about his job and shows great pride when talking about his whopping 43 years spent in the industry so far.
“I love to be at sea, to be free. It’s a lifestyle.”
Rob fishes on a small boat with a total of 25 crew members and prefers to head out on shorter, more productive trips as opposed to lengthier, more laid-back excursions. He says that he works hard to retain the same crew members over the years, noting how important it is to build a strong relationship with one another.
“Everybody’s different, but you try to make it a family. It’s amazing.”
Many will likely be wondering what a day in the life of a skipper in South Africa looks like. According to Rob, it’s a perfect life. He gets started between 5 am and 6 am each morning depending on the season and spends the majority of the daylight hours sitting comfortably in his chair, fishing rod in hand.
“It’s a good lifestyle. I ring the bell, and I get served coffee. I ring the bell, and I’m served my food. I eat delicious fresh fish every day. What more could I ask for? I’ve got a very nice life,” he says with a grin.
Despite spending so much time catching it and eating it, Rob still claims seafood is his favourite meal. He talks about how his crew enjoy mouth-watering meals chockfull of fresh ocean delicacies that they’ve reeled in themselves, from tasty octopus with cold salad to flavourful smoked fish.
When asked who has been the most significant influence in his career, Rob insists that he hasn’t relied on anyone to mentor him. It’s all about putting pressure on himself.
“I want to be the best. I want to catch the most, and I’m not satisfied unless I do!” says Rob.
While he hasn’t had a mentor himself, Rob is keen to impact other young, ambitious fishers positively. He highlights how the fishing industry is important for everybody, for health reasons and the economy, particularly job creation. He claims that it’s a vibrant, thriving industry with plenty of promise.
“It’s a good job. It’s interesting. If you know what you’re doing and if you’ve got a good teacher, you can make it work,” he concludes.