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