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