by Jarrod Day
If there is one thing I Love to do, its travel. One of the hottest locations on my list of the past five years has been Darwin. Darwin has a plethora of fishing opportunities and better yet, it is undoubtedly the home of fishing for barramundi.
Fishing the run off is the prime time for big barramundi.
In saying that, over the years I have been exploring Darwin with Owner/Operator of Darwin’s Barra Base, Allan Beale and the fishing has gone from better to downright sensational. What I d like best out of all that fishing in Darwin is the variety of options you have based around the different times of the year and the weather.
Billabong Barra: Cooroborree Billabong is one of the most picturesque locations I have ever seen. Brolga’s, Egrets and Jabiru’s stalk small fish in the shallow’s while crocodiles sun themselves on the muddy banks. Down below, barramundi await schools of passing baitfish to engorge themselves on and amongst the others, the prized Saratoga await frogs and other potential meals lingering amongst the lily pads.
There is no doubt that the Billabongs provide anglers with not just scenery pleasure but the fishing is outstanding. Better yet, while in Darwin during the dry season, fishing the billabongs is certainly something you should endure considering most of the rivers are quiet on the barra front.
After the wet when the floods subside, thousands of barra get caught in the billabongs and provide anglers with continuous barra fishing during the dry season.
If you can get smaller size lures to the snags ther are some thumping Mangrove jacks about.
Trolling is the most common technique with generally smaller lures. A bait cast style outfit is recommended loaded with 30lb braid. There are some brutes in the billabongs and being prepared for the big one is of upmost importance. Lures ranging 70 to 100mm in length are ideal and providing they contain ball bearings to emit a loud rattle you’re on the money. Most of the trolling is along the edges of the billabong so only shallow diving lures to three to five feet are suitable. Reidy’s Little Lucifer, Duel Sashimi Shad and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows are the pick of the bunch.
Offshore Northern bluefin tuna are in abundance during the dry season.
Bluewater options: Another dry season option is to head out into the big blue. There are plenty of fishing options out here. Whether you want to troll for sailfish or Spanish mackerel, bottom bounce for coral trout, red emperor or golden snapper or set anchor in search of the highly prized black jewfish the options are endless. Either way, Darwin’s Bluewater fishing options will definitely open your eyes to offshore fishing.
The Blue water fishing really begins to fire during the dry but more specific times are June till August. This is the prime time to search out sails and spanyards while for the rest of the dry the bottom fishing is sensational
When fishing for Spanish mackerel, live baiting is an option but trolling is far more effective. 180mm Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnum’s are a hot favourite, and if you had to choose just one colour, the Red head is dynamite. For those wanting to explore the bottom, a paternoster rig tied from 80lb trace is detrimental as most species up here have sharp teeth and will bite you off very quickly. If you are heading up, it pays to take along some of your own lures and tackle. Although your guide will supply the lot, catching a fish on your own tackle can be very rewarding.
Nig fish bonanza – Barra fishing safari’s: If it is big barra you’re after then look no further that the wet season. After the floods hit Darwin from January to April, the water begins to recede. During the run off is the time to seek out XOS barra in the rivers. Big barra make their way from offshore into the rivers and onto the flood pains in search of food and it is during this time, hundreds of Victorians make their way north in Ernst of seeking out such a highly prized fish. Both trolling and casting methods are used, but in the rivers themselves trolling is the most effective. Bait cast style outfits are highly recommended loaded with either 30 or 50lb braid. Deeper diving lures in the 10-15ft range are the standard as most of the fish are hanging deep amongst the snags.
Run off safari’s are conducted in numerous locations depending on where the fish are firing at the time. Dundee Lodge which is about four hours drive West of Darwin provides anglers with the option of fishing Love creek, Marsh creek and the ever popular Finesse River. These three water ways hold excellent numbers of barra during the wet with some monster fish available.
Out to the East, the Mary River system is huge comprising of Tommy Cut and Sampan creek the most popular. Staying at the Shady Camp Wilderness Lodge will enable access to the prime barra locations in this area. But it is up to your guide where to stay. They have their finger on the pulse and know exactly where the fishing is at its best.
Furthermore, fishing during the run off is the prime time to target barra in the top end. In saying that, some aren’t a fan of the heat or the humidity. If you still want to experience barra fishing in the top end without the heat and humidity, head up during the dry, either way you’ll have the option of fishing for barra and in the blue water. Even better, why not head up for a Barra/Bluewater safari and experience the whole lot.