The first settlement of Australia over 40 000 years ago provides evidence of the maritime capabilities of early modern humans. Did they also take to the sea to fish? Recent analysis of fish remains from sites in Timor-Leste and on islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea have been held to include deep sea species that must have been obtained through pelagic fishing. Here Atholl Anderson takes issue with the evidence, arguing that inshore fishing is a more likely scenario, and that deep sea fishing was beyond the scope of Pleistocene communities. Despite the early settlement of Australia, advanced boat technology was developed only during the Holocene. His reassessment is followed by responses from Sue O'Connor and Rintaro Ono, Geoff Bailey and Jon Erlandson, and finally by Atholl Anderson's reply to those comments.