Archive for May, 2011
Flashes of silver fishing the run-off in a week.
After 3 years of working in countries of conflict including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, all I wanted to do on recent return to Australia was head back to the NT and go Barramundi fishing.
Id lived in the NT for fours years during the end of the nineties and it was during that period that my passion for Barra fishing and general life in the NT was born. I landed in Darwin and was greeted by mates (with boats) and a clear blue sky buzzing with dragonflies, according to locals, nature’s other way of marking the start of the dry season. Old wives tale or not, the dry and run-off had clearly commenced for 2008.
With more development, more people and obscene petrol prices, it was obvious that Darwin had significantly grown during my absence, but there was no time for site seeing as this trip was all about mates and fishing the run-off. My plan was to squeeze as much fishing and adventure into one week as is physically possible, and of course, to re-ignite that great feeling of hunting for Barra amidst the big waterways, crocs and territory wildlife so unique to this great southern land of ours.
Monday morning, 3am and it was time to clock on to the fishing week. With my good mate Jason we headed down to the Mary River system to hit the mouth of Shady Camp. Launching on the run out tide at the barrage, some good navigation by Jason had us at the mouth without incident. The boat just in front of us was not so lucky and quickly found itself stuck on a mud bank not far from the barrage for the next eight hours.
It was a harsh reminder of just how hardcore the NT river systems and tides are. There is more to catching Barra than dangling a line, the good fishos up here have all the navigational, survival and angling skills needed to succeed in the NT angling environment.
The river was pretty busy for a Monday with over fifteen boats, many fishing for Jewies. Either way it was great to be back on the NT water amongst the birdlife, big crocs and fish. After trolling the mouth for a couple of hours I was getting an itchy reel finger with not a touch to be had. With that, we headed back to the barrage and past the stranded boat as they eagerly awaited the incoming tide.
At the barrage I finally got that Barra feeling back again as we landed fish after fish on small soft plastics. Anchored up facing into the barrage, the water was awash with flashes of silver as Barra and Tarpon chased our lures right up to the boat. It was a great way to kick of a week of run-off fishing.
Tuesday morning 3am and I joined another two good mates, Bernd and Peter. Both are first class blokes and seasoned Barra anglers. Back on the road again with a bacon and egg roll at Berrimah and a few hours later, arrival at Banyan Farm on the mighty Daly River. This was to be my first trip up the Daly outside a Barra Nationals competition.
By all accounts, the Daly was going off but as we all know, somewhere amongst grapevine fishing reports, theories on the full moon and the latest lure fad lies the anglers dream to be at the right place, at the right time, and clean up.
The river, as always was full of so much nature and wildlife being home to some of the largest crocs in the NT. A small three meter croc seemed quite happy for us to quietly photograph it in situ.
We fished hard for two and a half days and the river produced some great fish. The boys were quick to spot a couple of boofs alongside the famous S-bends and lucky for me, a quick cast into the bank with the trusty Barra Classic in Guns n Roses colour bagged a fit and silver 82cm Barra which was quickly photographed and released.
While a few of the creeks were starting to pump that sought after tea coloured water, it was Midden Creek that produced well over an hour of action with one of boys boating 7 Barra in under ten minutes on Drop Bear coloured soft plastics.
The two and a half days produced over seventeen Barra, a nice Threadfin Salmon which went well on the BBQ and a Barra smashed in half by a shark on retrieval.
It also produced some night fishing up Tommys Creek, very few catfish (or Power Tails as they are apparently now referred to by people who also think mutton is the same as lamb), and a heap of laughs on the water.
The accommodation at Banyan Farm was just right and the Daly River, well, in my humble opinion it is the perfect example of an all round Territory experience coupled with some of the best Barra fishing in the world.
By Thursday Id boated a few dozen Barra, drunk a few dozen beers and clearly woken the Barra bug again. It had been a long few days down the Daly but there was no time for sleeping, after all, the run-off only happens once a year and I only had a week in the NT.
Friday it was off to the South Alligator River and by all reports, it too was going off. More mates, Shaun, Jason and Caitlyn and it was straight to the Aurora for a few beers, a game of pool and a decent sleep before hitting the South Alligator this was fishing gentlemans hours.
The bar at the Aurora sports a photo board showing those who have bagged a meter Barra in the region. Im yet to join that club, but it is top of my angling wish list. With photos of fish up to 136cm, you can guess what I dreamed of that night.
Saturday morning at the boat ramp and there must have been over forty boat trailers parked up. Id only fished the South once before so we headed up to Nourlangi Creek and to our surprise, there were very few boats up there. As the creek narrows, the snags tighten up and navigation becomes a little more interesting.
We pushed up as far as possible and found some text book run-offs this was why I came to the NT in April. As Jason slowly manipulated the narrowing creek I flicked a Drop Bear plastic at one of the run-offs and on the first cast, landed a hungry 63cm Barra. This was text book Barra fishing, and it seemed that this time, for once, the fish had also read the book. With no idea were the other thirty nine boats were, we anchored up in the shade and spent the next hour and a half landing legal sized fish after legal sized fish all on the soft plastics again. I swapped to a small sized Gold Bomber just to see how it went and with no hits, quickly changed back to the plastics.
With 6 good sized Barra in the esky it was back to the ramp to clean up and off to the Aurora for a quick swim, beer and travel back to Darwin. The South had been good to us and provided one of the best soft plastic fishing sessions I can remember.
Sunday and it was the final day of the fishing week but far from a rest day. By 5am we were packed and ready to head to Corroboree Billabong with Shaun, Bernd, Shawn and Jason all the boys together for a final days fishing.
Id only ever fished Corroborree once and find it hard to believe I hadnt been there more often when living in Darwin given its absolute beauty, abundance of fish and relatively short travel time from Darwin. We hit the Billabong just on sunrise which probably explains why I forgot to turn the lights off on Shawns boat making the end of the day a little more interesting (sorry mate). According tot the boys the water was well up but before long we were landing plenty of small barra. Id forgotten how great the NT billabong bird life is but a hundred photos later it all came back to me. Crocs, jabirus, snakes, sea eagles all made the fishing experience that much better.
As afternoon approached wed had plenty of fishing action with Barra and Tarpon landed. As the dusk approached I managed a couple of big Saratoga floating light soft plastics down beside the lillys. These fish fight well and make for great angling fun despite the fact that they are not to be eaten.
Back at the ramp I began to cop all the flack that goes with making a mistake on a fishing trip, but the battery was kindly charged and jump started by a local getting us back to Darwin at a reasonable hour. And so ended seven days of solid NT fishing having covered Shady Camp, the Daly River, South Alligator River and Corroboree Billabong in a week and scoring good fish at every location. The best for the week was the 82cm casting at the Daly River but the whole week was equally enjoyable.
Despite being away for a few years, the NT is still a wild frontier and the Barra fishing is still second to none. Thanks to some lifetime mates (with boats) and the small amount of local knowledge I managed to remember, run-off 2008 was a sensational experience and in the words of that well known movie characterIll be back for more of the same in 2009.
‘My Shady Lady’ – The day I joined ‘The Meter Club’
Fishing Shady Camp (Northern Territory) Opening – 1 February 2011
When I first fished the Northern Territory in 1999 and caught my first Barra (a 68cm in Howard River, Shoal Bay), it didn’t take me long to work out that the holy grail of Barra is to join what’s commonly known as ‘The Meter Club’ and catch a wild Barra equal to or over one meter in length. In the years that followed I vividly recall catching Barra in the 90’s, the biggest being 98cm at Clear Creek on the Daly River in 2001, you see, these are significant moments in the life of an angler which can be recalled with great accuracy and fond memory. I forget people’s birthdays, but I recall all these fish.
When I mentioned to a few mates that I’d be joining the queue of boats heading to Shady Camp (on the Mary River system) for the annual opening of the season, I got mixed reactions. “Too much water mate”, one said and “We did no good there last year at that time”, another offered. I didn’t care for two reasons – first, I saw fish being caught there last year at the same time, and secondly, I had already told my wife that this was the day I would get a meter Barra. As her eyes rolled, I hooked the boat up and headed for Shady Camp with a couple of good mates. A few hours later, we launched under a spectacular rainbow and a flood of water indicative of the Northern Territory wet season.
Shady Camp, as the name suggests, has very little shade and is situated on the Mary River system, a vast expanse of wetland and flood plain swarming with bird and wildlife, dotted in man made barrages and home to one of the most prolific Barramundi populations in Australia. It also boasts the highest population of saltwater (or Estuarine) crocodiles per square meter, in the word. It is a part of the Northern Territory I love being in, regardless of the catch.
For the locals reading this post, we launched at the car park around 7:15am with a view to fishing the top (that is, between the first and third barrages). This plan was quickly discarded with the water roaring over the main barrage making trolling anywhere in the first few kilometres impossible. The road in was pretty good, a bit rough towards the middle few kilometres and clearly not graded at this stage.
To the mouth it was, and the 45 minute journey towards the ocean was an easy one as we spotted the usual healthy population of crocodiles, birds (some huge eagles and Jabirus) and an amazing number of water borne snakes. A few casts along the way at some run-off in the final third of the river (before the mouth) and a good session, although no fish boated, at a creek about 5kms from the mouth. Interestingly, a few gatherings of passing bait fish, some birds ready for feeding, and a clearly knowledgeable crocodile suggested that this creek was ready to fire with Barra. Observing nature is worth so much, and on this occasion, lead to the inevitable conclusion of Barra boofing, a dropped 65cm fish, plenty of hits but none in the boat. It passed very quickly, and as the tide ran out, we concluded that that the bait and Barra were running with it towards the mouth.
As we continued towards the mouth of Sampan Creek, we started to theorise about exactly where the 25 boats, belonging to the 25 trailers and cars in the car park at launching, were fishing. Expecting to see most of them at the mouth, we were surprised to see only three. It didn’t take long to figure out (by chatting to other fishos) that most were around the corner at Tommycut Creek, a handful were midway between the mouth and the boat ramp, and some were trying the other coastal creeks. One of the hardest parts of fishing for Barra is to undertake proper research to match the time of year and the tides, come up with a plan, and then stick to that plan. Our agreed plan was simple, namely, troll the Sampan Creek mouth over the turn of the low tide, and then leave. This was especially pertinent as one of my mates had negotiated his ‘leave pass’ by agreeing to a rough return time. As we know, brownie points are hard earned and wasting them on late returns without fish is like paying interest on a credit card.
The day was tough and extremely hot on the water. Two and a half hours trolling around the mouth with not even a hit and plenty of sunburn. As other boats started to come in from the coastal creeks, the fact that they were stopping for a chat indicated that not much was happening. We spoke to most, and very few managed any fish. We trolled the turn of the low and decided to call it a day. As with all fishing trips where nothing is caught, the conversation during the trip back to the boat ramp revolved around how nice the nature was, how good it was to be out of the office for a day, and how ‘a bad day’s fishing is better than a good day at work’ – it’s the comfort food equivalent for fishos, we all do it, we all get it.
As we motored back from the mouth, a few kilometres up the river I couldn’t help noticing a creek which was echoed on the GPS by another series of creeks. “Lets have a look”, I suggested. On first look, it presented like a textbook Barra fishing scenario. We had left the turn of the tide at the mouth, the low was therefore pushing back upstream, and there was the most distinct of colour changes showing across this creek. On one side, tannin water and on the other, the dirty tidal waters of a mid-wet season. It was worth a go.
After commencing the slow troll it was a matter of minutes before I felt the hardest hit on the largest sized green Bomber lure. It didn’t jump, it just rolled over showing a massive thick back and a paddle tail the size of a dinner plate. As the driver of the boat, I slipped it into neutral and started to fight what I thought was an 80 or 85cm fish. It ran hard, and headed straight for a snag behind the boat. Throwing trust to the knot, braid and leader, I locked the reel up and reefed the head of this massive fish around and back towards the boat. One mate, Davis, had the net ready. The other mate, Bernd, had the rest of the boat (and me) under a calming control.
As I continued to fight this fish, the brute force was incredible. On its run, the fish felt unstoppable and as it approached the boat, it regained further strength. As I finally manoeuvred it away from the snag and around to the awaiting net, it swam on cue into the net. Davis started to lift the net by the handle and then it happened – the net broke at the handle under the strain of 28 kilograms of Barra weight.
When you get a fish in the net, it is usually a sign that the job is almost done and that the catch is finished, but not this time. The handle sank, and so too did the net with the Barra in it. In a reach of desperation, Davis leaned over the side of the boat, grabbed the net with two hands and hauled the net and fish over the stern and onto the deck. I’m not sure whether it was the crocodile populated river or the fact that he knew it was a meter Barra that motivated him to act so quickly, either way, he saved my meter fish.
Still shaking from the whole event, I managed to free the hooks and lift this monster of a 111cm Barra up for a few quick photos. All Barra this size should be released, wherever they are caught. This was a big breeder, probably over 7 or 8 years old, and clearly ready to breed again. We released ‘My Shady Lady’ with very little need for swimming, and completely unharmed.
I ran a marathon last year, a life goal. It felt very satisfying and it was an achievement. I compare catching this meter plus Barra with that experience, both being adrenaline filled experiences that not everyone gets to experience. They take will, and perseverance, and when accomplished, they feel great.
The trip back to the boat ramp felt like the angler’s avenue of glory, and when we chatted to Northern Territory Barra legend, Col Cordingly, on the way back to the ramp, and he congratulated me on breaking the meter mark, I felt sensational.
There’s something about fishing I just love. We worked so hard casting and trolling that river for no result. After 7 hours on the water, and on a gut feeling, we explored a small creek on the way back to the boat ramp. In a heartbeat, a slow day then turned to pandemonium.
Like life, fishing is an unpredictable venture, and that keeps it interesting. Like running a marathon (as many have) for fun or as a mere personal challenge, when you catch your first meter Barra (as many have), you only compete against yourself. That said, there is a sense of comfort in knowing that my two good mates who joined the club a year ago, can now rest assured that my meter fish was bigger than theirs…Tight lines….Andy.
Northern Territory Crocodile Eats Eagle in 1 Minute
There is no doubt that fishing on the Northern Territory’s rivers for Barramundi is always a great experience. For those with a knowledge of Northern Australian fishing, there is more to it than just fishing. It is also about enjoying the great marine outdoors, admiring the pristine rivers this country offers, and of course, watching nature at work. On an afternoon trip to the Adelaide River about 50 minutes drive from Darwin, today I observed an unfortunate set of events.
With one of my best buddies, the plan was to head downstream for 2 hours at the end of the day and fish a couple of the creeks that appeared to be offering great run-off fishing. The lower reaches of the Adelaide River produced some decent Barra around the creeks not far from the boat ramp over the past weekend. Our plan was to hit the creeks mid-week, hoping that most others would be at work. While we got a few committed hits on both soft plastics and hard bodied lures, again the live baiters seemed to be winning the race having boated 4 Barra in the time we received a handful of hits, but no fish.
I’ve always said that live baiters have their place, and that Barra fishing should be a lure sport if it is really to be called a sport. The catching of undersized Barra using live bait often makes it hard to release them in good condition, and sometimes, the by-product of live baiting in any environment can be bird life. Unfortunately, today was an example of this.
As the sun began to set on the lower reaches of the Adelaide River, some tourist fishermen caught a decent sized Barra and quickly gutted the fish over the side of their 3.8 meter tinny carefully making sure that none of the guts touched the boat, and that all of the guts made it into the water. For the uneducated Northern Australian fisho, this is a great way to attract crocodiles, and what better place to do it than the Adelaide River – home to the famous “Jumping Crocodile” tours.
After a matter of minutes, a three meter crocodile raised its head as the guts of the fish was pushed out the river mouth by the outgoing tide. Not surprisingly the crocodile was quick to follow and consume it. Eager to find its next meal, the crocodile decided to wait around the river mouth and watch the boats as we continued the search for an afternoon Barra. While this is not a story about fishing success, I might add that we managed a few really good hits on Squidgy Drop Bears and the trusty old Gold Bombers and B52s, but didn’t manage to land a fish for the afternoon.
Watching over us fishing were two large eagles high up in a tree on the banks of the river. With the crocodile sitting at the mouth of the creek, the eagle spotted the other boats live bait supported by a float. The eagle quickly swooped from the tree and headed for the float.
As it took the live bait, it also took the hook. Taking off, it was quickly drawn back to the water by the attached fishing line. The angler did his best to bring the eagle closer to the boat, but was struggling to keep it out of the water. Within seconds, the three meter crocodile sensed an animal in trouble and began to swim slowly towards the eagle. Amazingly, the eagle’s partner made a last ditch rescue flight over the river in a clear attempt to dissuade the crocodile from pursuing its mate.
As the eagle failed to become airborne for the last time, the crocodile increased its speed across the water and gradually moved in.
Just meters from the crocodile, the eagle made one last attempt to take off as the crocodile raised its head and positioned itself for the final move.
In one swift and calm movement, the crocodile grabbed the eagle and rolled it underwater. Later recovery of the eagle showed that it had no puncture marks and was not bleeding at all. This was an example of the crocodile’s ability to show discipline by drowning its prey and storing it for later consumption.
As the crocodile and eagle disappeared into the depths of the river, the eagle’s partner made one final flight across the river and returned to the tree where it sat in disbelief.
As the sun set over the river, there was one less eagle in existence. While this was quite a sad event to witness, it did re-enforce how quickly the crocodile sensed an opportunity, and how quickly it responded. As it moved in for the kill, the crocodile disappeared from one side of the river and swam under water to arrive almost instantly at its prey. The splashing of the eagle in the water was an instant attractant for the crocodile and this point itself, stands as a stark reminder to humans who enter the waters of the Northern Territory whether by choice or not. The event also highlights one of the dangers associated with using live bait to fish. The anglers on this occasion did everything possible to manage the situation, there was nothing more they could have done, except go fishing using a lure instead of live bait
Fishing the Adelaide River, Northern Territory in Run-Off 2010
This is what is called the “run-off”, and the story you are about to read represents some of the best run-off fishing I have ever experienced, and all within a 1 hour drive from Darwin. It’s no wonder people love living in the Northern Territory. Goat Island is located about 25km’s upstream from the Adelaide River bridge on the Arnhem Highway, home of the Adelaide River Queen and the famous jumping crocs tour. The plan for the last couple of days was to take my wife to a remote Northern Territory location, spot a few crocs, maybe throw a line in and definitely enjoy the great outdoors. It was never to be a ‘fishing trip’ as such, albeit we did take the boat…
Launching at the main boat ramp, it was a quick few kilometres upstream to Last Cast Creek, where just days ago a few mates and I managed to hit it with a great colour change resulting in a Barra on the second cast, and 2 hours of solid fishing using the smaller sized Squidgy Drop Bear lures. We landed a few legal Barra and threw back plenty in the 40-50cm range. For the locals, the colour change was extremely distinct and the bush on the right hand side of the entrance was the clear holding ground for most of the Barra. Letting the soft plastics drop right to the bottom before retrieving produced the best results.
Our stop on this trip at Last Cast Creek saw no colour change, ten minutes of casting and not a single hit. As is fishing, one day you are the pigeon and the next you are the statue. We (my wife and I, my wife having never caught a Barra before, and with my mission to change that…) headed up to Beatrice Creek, which from all reports has produced some very big fish with many over the meter mark, over the past few days. The first thing to be noted at Beatrice Creek mouth was the sounder, namely, so many arches there was no room for the usual fuzz you see on a sounder. From the chatter on the www.fishfinderforum.com over the past week, green lures appeared to be the most successful. With that, we trolled a couple of Reidy’s Judges up the mouth of Beatrice and before too long my wife had hooked up.
I’ve been trying to explain for months, the force at which even a barely legal Barra will hit a lure, and when a 75+ cm silver model Barra hit her lure and connected all those words were instantly cemented as fact. This was a fit, silver and feisty fish. After a great effort to get it back to the boat it was apparent that the fish was holding by one hook on the outer most treble. Just in the net, the Barra spat the last hook, leaped perfectly vertically, and swam for its life. The positive – my wife had felt the hit of a decent sized Barra and experienced most of the fight…but technically, still no Barra.
With the other few boats now excited, as this was the first lure hook-up of the day, the enthusiasm lifted and other boats started to follow the same troll line as us. Whether a freak hit or the start of feeding time, the clear plan was to stick to what was working. The plan paid off and less than an hour later, my wife had properly hooked what would prove to be a 64cm Barra, this one netted and on the board for her first ever Barra! There’s something great about witnessing a mate, or even better, you spouse catching the first Barra. This was one of life’s golden moments.
With the live baiters still doing well, it was time to head up stream, past Goat Island Lodge and towards Bald Creek where just a few days ago, 2 mates and I had bagged 2 legal Barra each and experienced some great run off fishing. The site approaching Bald Creek was not ideal, 2 boats in the mouth of the creek, one covering each exit which left very little room for a third. With respect, it is in my opinion a 2 boat creek if the gentlemen’s rules of fishing still apply. With that, and being lunchtime, we anchored against a bank about 10 meters from the mouth to have some lunch under the shade. I recalled a mate losing a big fish right off the creek mouth on Thursday and was very comfortable casting outside the run-off that the other 2 boats had access to.
For the local fisho’s, to the right of Bald Creek are a series of snags about 1 meter out from the bank and full of timber. Towards the middle of the river from the snags, is a deeper hole that seems to catch most of the eddie action generated by a run-out tide from the mouth. This is where I focussed for 30 mins and it paid dividends. On a 65mm Squidgy Drop Bear, what proved to be an 83cm Barra nailed the lure just alongside the snags and headed for the centre of the river. Credit to my dear wife who then netted her first Barra (and suffered a wrist injury as the fattest 83cm Barra I have ever seen bucked in the net), the fish was in the boat and for the first time all day, I sat back, had a snack and rested for 10 mins. This was NT run-off fishing at its very best.
As the tide continued to run out of Bald Creek, Barra started boofing right up the creek. They were clearly surface feeding and hitting the myriads of bait congregating at the mouth of the creek. After dropping my wife back to the air-conditioned comfort of Goat Island Lodge, I travelled back to Bald Creek to catch the last hour of fishing before the sun set. This was to be the best hour of Barra fishing I have ever experienced. Best hours are not always about numbers of fish, to me they are about challenge, fun and most of all , self sufficiency.
As the boofing continued to work its way towards the mouth of the creek, I knew that ultimately, those feeding Barra would have to exit the creek as the tide was falling and the bait was moving out. As Barra after Barra started surface feedings, the lure of choice was obvious – tie on a surface popper. This was Barra lure selection in its most simple form, the only trouble, none of the usual Barra poppers on board.
Having chased Black and Spot Tail Bass in PNG on popper, I know the excitement of popper fishing for predatory species. That said, I’d never caught a Barra on popper before, despite many hours night fishing up the Daly River. As I sifted through the tackle bags, all I could find by way of surface lure was a massive 7-inch popper left over from game fishing in PNG last year. I left it in the tackle box and continued with the Drop Bears. I’m a big believer in gut feelings, I reckon they are underestimated and under-trusted. About ten casts later, I reverted to my gut feeling, tied the 7 inch popper on and cast it off in the direction of the surface feeding Barra as it literally bent the 6″6 Barra rod backwards. One cast, one fish – 74cm. Second cast, second fish – 64cm. Third cast, massive hit with no connection. The size of the popper can be seen next to my size 10 shoe in the photo. The surface fishing concluded, and it was time to go back to the Drop Bears. The final cast before the sun went down, on a Riedy’s B52, was a beautiful 58cm Barra immediately identified as the Sunday, end of run-off Barra for the barbeque. This was a sensational day’s fishing and under 1 hour’s drive from Darwin.
Under the hospitality of Kai and his local crocodile Casey, the service and dinner at Goat Island Lodge was sensational. Accompanied by tree frogs in the bathroom and Kai’s two dogs, the island proved a most relaxing way to finish the day. Overlooking the river that had produced my wife’s first Barra and more big Barra than I had caught over the past 6 months, we enjoyed a great burger and a few stories, of course about the one that got away…and then, the one for my wife, that didn’t get away.
It is always a long day on the water when the fish are firing. As we all say, eating and sleeping is cheating when there is a chance of catching a decent Barra, or any Barra for that matter. With that, and some broken sleep after a massive rain down-pour demanding a quick check on the boat to make sure she was still afloat, the 6am start was a little difficult.
They say that the early bird catches the worm, well maybe the early bird catches the Barra. I knew that staying at the lodge would give us (and now I mean me…) a good head start on those trekking the 25kms upstream from the boat ramp . I was back on Bald Hill Creek in the dark, just before sunrise only to be greeted by a 4 meter croc right on the spot where we had anchored the day before. The croc soon disappeared but I was conscious of fishing in his territory, so I refrained from standing on the gunwales to cast.
As the sun came up, at the very end of the incoming tide, the boofing began again and I tied the 7-inch PNG popper back onto my heaviest rod. Knowing that the croc was still around, the first cast almost stopped my breathing as a massive Barra slammed the popper but failed to connect. The next one did and with a 68cm Barra in the boat before the sun had come up, I realised that this was why I live in the Northern Territory. This was champagne Barra fishing, so close to Darwin, and with the ability to stay on a remote island with decent food, great accommodation and pure hospitality.
As the surface action seemed to fall off with the last of the incoming tide and the first of the sunlight, I managed one last Barra back on the Drop Bears before a great quality bacon and egg burger back at the lodge. With two more Barra in the Esky before the day had really begun, that burger tasted great.
As we checked out of the lodge and started the 25km boat ride back to the ramp, we spent time back at Beatrice covering old ground. The sounder looked the same, but something was different with the tide. This was also the case with Last Cast Creek which although sporting a defined colour change, produced no hits or Barra in 30 minutes of casting. Coming alongside the Adelaide River Queen to watch a jumping croc get its afternoon feed capped off a great weekend with a reminder that the crocs in the Adelaide River are the kings, no matter how big your boat is or how many Barra you have caught.
For the local fisho’s, combined experience of Thursday 11 March 2010, and Saturday/Sunday 13 & 14 March 2010 suggests that the neap tides following a dry patch in the recent rain, definitely produced. If the Top End does receive a further Monsoon (or even the edge of the present cyclone off the Coral Sea in Queensland), the same could occur a week or so after the rain settles.
I’ve spent a decade on and off fishing the Adelaide River, and most trips I come home disappointed. This trip made up for all the disappointment in the past producing the best run-off fishing I’ve ever experienced. It’s not always about the quantity of Barra. To me, catching Barra up to 83cm on soft plastics, being there for your spouse’s first ever Barra (and it being 64cm!), staying at decent and uncrowded accommodation with good food, and enjoying some great wildlife along the way is about as good as it gets.
Thanks to Kai at the Goat Island Lodge www.goatisland.com.au hospitality and great burgers. Thanks also to what most Darwin fisho’s call the hot and cold river, for being hot on our watch. Next to fire on the Adelaide River will be the rock bars, particularly Manton Rockbar which consistently produces good fish post March. Again, for the local fisho’s, you can’t beat Riedy’s Goulburn Jacks for the Manton rockbar.
Cheers for now, Andy
14 March 2010
Barra Nationals 2010
Barra Nationals 2010 – May 3 to May 9 2010- The Barra Nationals, run every April by the Palmerston Game Fishing Club is Australia’s biggest and most well renowned Barramundi Fishing Competition. Having fished this particular competition five times now, I still say it is the best week of the year. The event is held on the Daly River about 300kms from Darwin at the peak of the Barramundi season during the start of the annual dry season. Each team comprises three entrants and fishing occurs over a full week from sun up to 5pm. Fish are scored on length and all catches are released after measuring.
One of the best parts associated with fishing in this competition is the experience and knowledge of many entrants. Some of the competitors have fished the Daly River for 30+ years or work with fishing charter companies who also know the river like the back of their hand. The actual fishing limits are broad so despite the large number of boats (up to 50 some years) entered, there is always a place to fish. Some of the more popular stretches of water tend to get quite busy, but that doesn’t seem to limit the chances of hooking a decent Barramundi. Every year the Daly River produced a fish well over the meter mark, and in the context of the Barra Nationals, this means big points and more often than not, daily prizes.
The Barra Nationals is more than just a fishing competition, it is the chance to camp out with your mates for a week, eat great food, have a few beers and try your luck at winning some great prizes. At the end of each fishing day there is a range of after dinner entertainment to keep everyone amused and inevitably, every day some sort of story from the water gets told in ever exaggerated language. Every entrant receives a bag of goodies prior to the first competition day and this always includes some of the most successful lures used on the Daly River, and a great range of other fishing necessities. Competition line is standard, and strict equipment and landing net regulations are enforced by the roaming marshals.
Fishing on the Daly River is not confined to the Barra Nationals week and many of the fishing charter operators listed on Fishing Charter Base provide fishing charter services on the Daly River. This is truly one of the most magnificent rivers in Australia and is well supported by several camping grounds and cabins. Tight lines!
Corroboree Billabong- Northern Territory
The location for this short fishing trip was Corroboree Billabong in the Northern Territory. Being under an hour and a half drive from Darwin, visiting this billabong is worth every minute of the drive. Before you even launch the boat, the beauty of this place is immediately striking with an abundance of wildlife from Jabiru birds through to some huge saltwater crocodiles. The target (as with most of my fishing in the Northern Territory) was Barramundi and the day ended up producing four nice size Barramundi. The billabong offers more than just Barramundi with a decent supply of Saratoga and Tarpon as well. This makes it quite popular for fly fisherman during the drier months from March to September. The best advice for those venturing to Corroboree Billabong for the first time is to target the snags when trolling or casting, and to take the right selection of lures. Seeing as this is a fishing website, I'll expand a little on both.
The lilly line right opposite the boat ramp is one of the most under rated parts of the billabong with most people heading straight for the upper reaches after launching. I'd recommend a few passes by the lilly line trolling about a meter and a half out from the actual lilies. Anywhere there are lilies at this billabong, there are likely to be Barramundi waiting behind them. To that end, no trip to this location is complete without dropping the odd soft plastic lure down behind the lilies. If this doesn't produce a Barramundi, it is highly likely to produce a Saratoga.
In terms of lures, the Riedy's range of lures seem to work extremely well at Corroboree Billabong (noting that this website does not have any affiliations with any particular lure manufacturers). The Riedy's River Rats seem to be a consistently good lure particularly in the brighter colors. On the soft plastic front, I had great success on the 100mm Squidgy Drop Bears. The only downside to the soft plastic strategy is that Saratoga seem to destroy these lures at a great rate! This was a great day on the water, no special tricks, just the lures and tactics described in this article. This location is popular amongst fishing charter operators on the Northern Territory and several of the companies listed on Fishing Charters Base www.fishingcharterbase.com provide one day fishing charters out of Darwin, to this great location. Tight lines!
Last Updated ( Saturday, 20 February 2010 05:49 )
Barramundi – Darwin – Shoal Bay
A lot can change in 7+ years of being away from one of your favourite fishing spots, and then again, a lot can stay the same. While the launch site had changed from a private and easily accessible boat ramp at Howard River to the less friendly Buffalo Creek launch and approach, my return to Shoal Bay and “The Rock” was still a great experience. In the early 2000’s I fished Little Howard River regularly and hard, and ventured to The Rock several times only to catch monster Jewfish and the odd Threadfin Salmon. The Rock has always had a reputation for a hit and miss place, and this trip clearly delivered a hit of 100% pure Barra.
Fishing with my good mate Pete in his 5 meter GS Marine Extreme we set out for a 7am launch from Buffalo Creek boat ramp arriving at The Rock just as the sun came up. The feeling of returning to an old favourite fishing spot is a great one, and it wasn’t long before we saw some surface action as on the last of the run-out 2.5 meter tide. As the tide neared the end we spotted a Barra air-born on what later revealed itself to be a small sand bank catching water from the main river system back into the main bay, the perfect Barra ambush point. There’s something about fishing for Barra and identifying pictures from Barra catching text books that proves quite satisfying. We worked that spot for the next hour, and on a slow retrieve (using a balsa wood fluro coloured Rapala X-Rap) I connected to a 94cm Saltwater Barra.
Pete’s a great one to fish with, a skipper and angler with the smarts in every situation and this was no exception. With me being a bit rusty on retrieving the bigger fish, Pete aided my work by a gentle following with the boat. With the big breeding female landed, a quick photo was taken and the fish was released for a smaller Andy to catch one day in the future. This was a sensational re-introduction to Barra fishing in the NT. Unfortunately it was the only fish boated for the day but not the only fish spotted with a 1m+ Threadfin Salmon hitting the lures and swimming visibly in that Threadfin style near the surface. With plenty of Moon Fish and the mandatory jumping Manta Ray, the rock was clearly still home to much marine life.
The Rock is hit and miss, that’s the way it has always been and that’s not a reason to avoid it. That said, when it’s a hit it produces big fish with very few rats captured at The Rock. Shoal Bay itself is just as I remembered it and staying out for a full tide change reminded me of many a day stuck on the sand bars for 6+ hours due to the shifting sands, and temptation to fish for longer than the tide Gods permit. The beauty of Shoal Bay and The Rock is the fact that commercial Barra fishing was banned in 1996 and the area offers so many options.
This was a sensational day, and the chance to catch and release a 94cm Barra just 25 minutes on the water from Darwin, confirms my belief that the NT is the Barra capital of the world, and still offers plenty of great fishing. The key is to make that sustainable – and let the big ones go. Limit your catch, don’t catch your limit.
Cheers and tight lines.
Andy – Fishing Charters Base
Chasing Australian Bass in the Kangaroo River
This was one of those spur of the moment fishing trips as I headed to the Kangaroo Valley, a picturesque part of southern NSW just a couple of hours drive south of Sydney. The target fish was Australian Bass, a species I had never actually caught before. A stretch of the Kangaroo River commencing at the main bridge was the perfect place to board a one many kayak and quietly paddle to the collection point.
The upper reaches of the Kangaroo River conclude at a power station where the river become inaccessible. The river itself is littered with some great tree snags, fast flowing water, eddies, shallow corners and deep holes. All these structures proved perfect for landing some good sized Australian Bass. The success I had on this trip came from casting spinner baits into deep running tree snags. I cast for 6 hours and landed only a handful of Australian Bass. That said, this was a great way to spend a day with nature.
Spinner baits, soft plastics (in the darker red colors) and a baitcaster rig with 10lb braided line was the order of the day. Next time I do this trip I will also take a small threadline reel and rod as a spare. I’ll also take a pillow to sit on… Tight lines! Australian Fishing Charters Database
Australian Salmon at Durrus North
This recent trip to Durrus North, a sleepy coastal town about 20 minutes drive north of Bateman’s Bay, ended up producing some decent sized Australian Salmon from the beach. The surrounding bush and beach is all part of the Murramarang National Park and Batemans Marine Park. This particular fishing spot is located along the beach left of the boat ramp attached to Durrus Lake, you can’t miss it.
The usual advice applied on this fishing adventure, that is, talk to locals and make sure you get a look at the surf beach from some sort of high point and at or around low tide. By doing this, you get to identify the gutters and increase your chance of hooking a decent fish.
The target fish for this location was Australian Salmon which, although not renowned for being the best eating fish in Australia, still cook up nicely when fresh on the barbeque or by making Thai fish patties. To target these fish I selected an 8ft surf rod with a Penn threadline reel packed with 30lb braid. I ran the braid into some 40lb monofilament leader with two evenly spaced sets of gang hooks and a decent sinker at the very base of the leader. After experimenting with a few different varieties of bait, the stand out winner was the WA pilchard.
Over a full day’s fishing, or more correctly a morning and afternoon session with a sleep in between, this trip produced 5 nice Australian Salmon up to 55cm. Locals also spoke of Tailor, Whiting and Flathead as other possible catches at this spot. The tides I fished were a 1.4m high peaking later in the day, the perfect combination of a turning high tide and a setting sun. This is truly a sensational fishing destination. Tight lines! Australian Fishing Charters Database
Bensbach Barramundi – A Spectacular Experience
With only a short time in PNG, I had to squeeze in two world-class fishing adventures, and this one was in search of my absolute favourite fish – the Barramundi. I’d only ever caught Barramundi, or Lates Calcarifer, in Australia’s Northern Territory so the chance to chase my favourite fish in a foreign country was a sensational opportunity.
With 7 in the group, we left Port Moresby’s domestic airport and headed for Mt Hagen, in the Highlands of PNG. Greeted by a wall of local faces at the airport, it was a short wait before we boarded our private charter plane, the only way to get to the flood plains of Western Province. The destination was Bensbach Wildlife Lodge, home to wild deer, a myriad of bird life, and most importantly, the mighty Barramundi. The deal with Bensbach Wildlife Lodge was a 5-day trip with 2 days used for travelling, and 3 days full fishing.
On arrival at the lodge, the guides could sense our enthusiasm and kindly offered us a half-day’s fishing upstream. With a few hours fishing under our belts, just one Barramundi at 57cm, was landed. On initial observations, the water was well up and the flood plains were extraordinarily high for the time of year. The stage was set for a fun but extremely challenging few days fishing. Accommodation at Bensbach Wildlife Lodge is very well appointed with basic rooms containing fans, generator electricity until mid-evening, a spacious dining and recreation area, and local catering staff who produced great meals and service.
When you fly into Bensbach, you realise just how remote it is – something to be remembered as you are eating like King’s and enjoying the comforts at the lodge. We established some gentlemanly competitions, biggest fish, and most fish each day. Storied of the one that got away were relayed each night over a cold beer. The Bensbach River if essentially a tributary of the Fly River, one of PNG’s mightiest.
If you look at a map of PNG, the kink in the PNG and Indonesian border to the north is actually caused by the border tracking the Fly River. The floodplains were abundant with wild deer, an amazing range of bird life, wild orchids, a range of other fish including the Tarpon, and the old Puk Puk or crocodile. By the end of the trip our group of 7 had boated well over 100 Barramundi. There were 5-6 main spots, all presenting as textbook examples of snags, run-offs and Barra-friendly locations.
The biggest fish landed was 98cm with plenty of others in the 90’s and 80’s. I stuck to my soft plastic strategy using Squidgy Drop Bears in three sizes (65mm, 110mm and the larger ones). Through using the smaller soft plastics I managed to catch over 30 Tarpon by dropping those lures down behind lilies and snags that hard bodied lures could not reach. It was generally agreed that this was tough fishing by Bensbach standards due to the high water levels, and on that point alone, I’ll be back there at the first available opportunity.
If you look at the averages, very few fishless hours were clocked across the combined three boats on our tour. The vessels themselves were pretty basic, due to the uncanny weather we were wet for most of the time, however the Barramundi fishing was awesome. This is not a 5 star trip in terms of comfort, but it is in terms of fishing. With both Barramundi and Bass now covered, that’s it from Andy in PNG.
For more pictures and details visit http://homepage.mac.com/andywarton/fishntrips/page8/page15/page22/page22.html