If you missed reading Million Dollar Fish Part 1
Like all great fishing trips it started with a rock; they shelter baitfish on the trailing edge of the current, creating an area that is devoid of swirls and curls so naughty fish hang about such structures to either ambush their prey or surprise their prey as the current sweeps them in.
I actually got onto that rock, and within 15 mins of it looking like the picture above, it looked like what's below, you will see part of the rock peeking out.
Though the pictures are on 2 separate days and clock times, it is used to emphasise the speed of which Darwin's tides are.
The big tides reach 7M to 8M at times, and can go down as far as 0.13M which influences the rivers, inlets, creeks, estuaries and winding waters that snake through places like Bynoe Harbour, Finnis River and Little Finnis.
The video below is the type of fishing terrain in Bynoe Harbour.
We were catching Greasy Groupers (Cod) and Fingermark Snapper deep in the rivers. It's really weird to be in a Mangrove Swamp 10 or I dare say 20 kilometres in catching reef fish on top of rocks, and erm, Crabs, Sadat caught a crab on a slow retrieve. I foul hooked the little one.
To get to these "reefs" we would launch the boat from a boat ramp. 4x4 backs out, 3 people stay in, 1 person jumps out to assist the skipper in holding the boat when it is in the water with a rope as he goes and parks and we all jump in and the skipper Justin will utter the magic words "just have a seat guys" and off we go.
We then fish what are called snake gullies where they Barra hold along ambush points of clear and dirty water. The Barra also hold in the middle of the creek bed just waiting for something to swim by. They are lazy fish and you have to really get something to swim by their faces and a lure that pushes heaps of water through either a wiggle, roll or wobble.
You need to bring really shallow running lures when fishing the estuaries, the fish are smaller and the fishing is harder. A true mark of a lure is how it performs in situations so narrow anglers are forced to use a particular instead of "lure brand did it again". At times we were fishing + 0.01M; cast into deep side of the gully, roll the lure over a a sand bar and back into muddy water only to have the Barra hit on the clear side of the water.
DUO's MoAB or Mother of All Baits and their Spinbaits were my go to lures, Rob of Ultimate Fishing was on an ima Survivor 70 from time to time, Ben from Lucky Anglers would run ZMAN softies and Sadat from Hooked Magazine was testing Australian made lures to great success.
In one sentence, paddle tails, curly tails, 2.5 to 4 inch softies, 1/8 or 1/16 jighead, 7 to 10 grams hard body, shallow running, suspending, 8lb to 10lb main, 20lb leaders; for estuary fishing. It's hard, you need to be accurate and remember that the fish are in the water and not in trees, the boat or on the backs of your mates, so cast well grasshopper. Our last day we went from Team A to Team F as we struggled to get our team mojo together. My first cast was into a tree.
Though estuary fishing is fun as and we are not going for size but instead loving the hard fishing in terms of terrain and tide; the run off period is where they grow over 1M or start from 10 Kilos (1M = 10 kilos upwards) catching 20 to 50 a day is not uncommon during the run off period and start from 65CM to the top 90's with the 1M sized Barras can be a good part of the total percentage of all fish caught during a trip.
It takes 2 years for a Barra to hit 50CM and 1 year more to hit 65CM, all this is heavily dependant on how good or bad the wet season is/was. Good being heavy bad being light. If you do the maths where (1 Year = 50CM x Wet Season x Barras Spawning = Number of Fish Spawning) you will get how important the past, present and future years are dependant on a wet season is to the fish being comfortable to spawn more, more water more sexy time.
Rob's 89CM Barra was a sight to behold, we hit on our very first day and was later told that during the run off period, when 1M barras are the target, they try to release it as fast as possible to get a lure in the water. point something kilo Barra < 10 kilo Barra. The difference is if they get into the boat or not.
At the same rock spot we hit Jewfish or Jewies as they are called on long deep divers from Killalure, an Australian brand retrieved at high speeds. BOOM!ZAAARP!
When I was standing on the rocks, Ben hit one as well on Pai Tee Kong! (For those who don't know what it is, it's a type of fishing with a dropshot which looks like the angler is praying to an altar, it's hard to explain but to us who live in Asia, it's a good chuckle)
When I go back next year to Darwin, I will stay at the Dundee Lodge and fly Jetstar; I am a bit of a princess when it comes to flying. I swear by SQ because I don't want to lose my points and my Krisflyer Gold Elite status, Singaporean la what to do. That's since changed and you just have to learn how to be a budget passenger and embarrassingly there is very little difference between flying the friendly skies and budget.
The only difference, at least to me is you pay for your meal, so just prepare SGD$20 bucks everything will be kosher, that's SGD$40 return.
The plug on Dundee Lodge is not shameless, they did not sponsor me or anything; it's close proximity to the Queenfish and my new favourite first cousin of a GT, the Brassy Trevally, which I will get into later.
I went light gear and after some commotion the lure came back like this.
I could do this all day long, all day long. It's a short 20 min shoot from Dundee Lodge and then it's my favourite game, casting. 1 cast 2 fish, well I should say 1 cast 10 fish, depending one who is faster.
And this is where I revisited Storm's So-Run Sinking Minnow which worked wonders. I know the Jackson Pin Tail Tune works. I also brought Zerek's Cavalla up, nope it's all the same to me.
Like all good things, they come to an end, and it's tidal based, once the water stops running, the fish stop biting, when we go neap it's time to go deep. We went bottom fishing where we caught nothing, because none of us could stop anything. No really, XXX Rod? Nope. Forget it man, you need to go PE9000. Sadat hit an 8 ft shark and despite big biceps the Shark won, we did see it and if you ask me he won as the fish was brought to the surface. Well done Sadat.
After that brief boat pulling adventure we went to do what made the entire trip for me, G like T's! or Brassy Trevallies. They pull so hard.
The highlight of my trip was my first ever Bream. It was a tiny thing but when you waited 20 years for one it's something else.
Uncle Rob, Ben, Sadat and of course Justin from Obsession Fishing Safaris are the best bunch ever and as we said our goodbyes at the airport I could not help feeling a bit sad.
Till our next trip together my friends.