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