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FISHING With Alex Julius

There’s nothing like a good wet season to stimulate conversation amongst anglers, so you can imagine the banter going on at the moment following the wettest January rainfall across the Top End since 1904.
I was at an all-blokes luncheon on Thursday at the Cav and for a while there everyone was talking about various flood events they’d heard about.
One beauty was that, if you could get to the Mary River on the Arnhem Highway, and you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t know there was a bridge there – the whole bridge, including the railings, was completely under water and probably still is.
There was a lot more music to anglers’ ears: the Adelaide River is 1.5m over Marrakai floodplain, the Wildman River culvert on the Arnhem Highway is a metre under and the river is a kilometre wide, and not only Daly River but Cooinda, in Kakadu, was also evacuated.
Old mate Andy Ralph at Jabiru – always a good source of information from out that way – told me the recent burst over the Alligator Rivers has had fishermen spread far and wide flicking lures in every Kakadu culvert within striking distance of Jabiru.
“The flooded Nourlangie Creek Bridges have been the focal point, and the barra rats have come out to play,” Andy said.
“Every cast sees another barra heading downstream for freedom in the mighty South Alligator River. “Though the water has been big, and the fish small, it’s certainly whet anglers’ appetites for the terrific Runoff which will now surely happen… with the Nourlangie Creek outflow upstream of the South Alligator Bridge full of fish in coming weeks,” Andy explained.
He’s spot on, of course: there won’t be a river system across the whole Top End that won’t fire up with the coming Runoff.
Plus there is every chance of another monsoonal burst or two.
According to BOM metreologist, Laura Boekel, this latest active monsoon may be over for another week or so, but the trough currently below the Top End could move back up after that.
“Darwin itself experienced 857mm of January rain, the fourth highest on record and the highest since 1995,” Laura told me.
But it’s out on those big river floodplains that this record Wet is doing its job.
Iconic Corroboree Billabong, for example, will get a huge flush… all those overgrown lily fields will be gone and the barra will be totally accessible.
And remember the huge recruitment of juvenile barra we had last year; they’ll all be a year older and getting close to legal size.
Although this Wet is much bigger than last year, it’s doubtful there’ll be as big a recruitment because the rain came fairly late.
According to the Bureau, most rain fell in the second half of the month as a monsoon trough became established over Northern Australia – the monsoon onset was on 21 January, which is the fourth latest onset since 1957.
Ironically, many of those juveniles spawned in the build-up will be gobbled up by the millions of barra recruited the previous season; that’s normally how it works.
Notwithstanding the very real likelihood of more heavy rain this wet season, when the Runoff starts to happen in our big rivers, I expect to be reporting on endless sessions of crazy fishing.
Bring it on.


Cathrine Ralph barra
1.    Catherine Ralph checked out the Nourlangie Creek bridges on the Kakadu Highway with dad Andy and mum Jenny, and found little barra hungry for her Classic 120 Ghost lure.

south floodplanes
2.    The South Alligator floodplain east of the bridge – flooded and still rising.