Alex's Fishing Report
The Roper River has always been a major Top End river that has somehow escaped my serious attention.
In terms of iconic barra waterways that do not require a permit to visit, I can’t think of any other big river that I haven’t gotten to know somewhere between “quite well” and the proverbial “like the back of my hand”.
The East Alligator River, which forms the border between Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land, rates as one my all-time favourite waterways, and I have fond memories of amazing barra fishing in the East dating back to 1980.
On that very first sortie to a fairly tricky river to navigate, mates and I went downstream in my 12 foot punt powered by a 15hp outboard – standard equipment back in those days.
It was runoff time and we bagged heaps of barra, including a 21kg job that had to be every bit of 120cm. We didn’t measure barra in those days.
Moving towards Darwin, the South Alligator has always been a favourite too.
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when game fishing was all about monofilament lines and various line classes, the Darwin Game Fishing Club held some wonderful competitions in the wet season, usually February.
We were all chucking out Nilsmaster Spearheads on 2kg and 4kg line back then, and even 1kg in sections without much current.
Best fish in my boat fishing the South was a 124cm for a great old mate visiting from Newcastle.
He still brags about that one.
Kakadu’s West Alligator River was never really on the radar as the lower tidal section was only accessible by sea, and was closed to fishing years before barra boats became big enough to travel the coast.
The tidal section of the Wildman River is also limited to sea access only, and an increasing number of Darwinites have been checking it out over the last year or so.
Next river heading west is the Mary where the tidal section comes under the general title of Shady Camp.
The Mary is easily the most-heavily fished river in the Top End, and over the decades I’d have fished it more than a hundred times.
It’s where I’ve photographed and filmed some monster barra, fish in the 130s that are the stuff of dreams.
I’ve caught some beauties there myself, but none that big.
Next up is the Adelaide River, and it’s never been one of my more fancied waterways.
I know it well enough as it’s invariably the first river to fish in the Runoff, and I caught a silver 120 barra down near the mouth with a Channel Nine film crew almost 20 years ago.
Actually, the lower Adelaide was often good for a metrey or two; I just prefer to fish elsewhere.
Heading past Darwin, the Finniss River needs to be counted, although it’s sea access only there too.
The carving up of the old Finniss River Station to allow the creation and subdivision of Dundee Beach from the mid-90s is what really put the Finniss on the map as a significant Top End barra river.
I’ve fished it a few times with varied success, but usually I go past it to the Daly.
Oh the Daly – what an iconic Top End waterway that is.
It’s easily the prettiest major river in the NT, and for many first-timers there, it looks like what a barra river should look like.
I’ve haunted the middle tidal sections of the Daly since 1979.
Believe it or not, to this day the biggest barra I’ve caught on the Daly was on the first day I ever fished it.
It was a stonker 50 pounder from the mouth of Elizabeth Creek in the Runoff, and it’s no surprise that I haven’t beaten it.
Next up is the Victoria River, which I know quite well considering how far it is from Darwin.
I’ve caught some big fish there too, including a long, lean, chromed 20kg girl that would have measured in the 120s for sure.
A thousand kilometres from Darwin is the McArthur River, near Borroloola, and I’ve been there plenty of times.
Big fish have been kind to me there too.
So harking back to the Roper River, about 15 years ago I went downstream from Roper Bar with mates just for a day.
One of them caught a nice metrey, so that was good.
However, it was only last month that I really got a taste of what the lower Roper River is all about, spending four days there with old mate Warren de With, aka “AFANT President for as long as anyone can remember” and aka “The Founder of the Roper River Secret Squirrel Society”.
No one knows the Roper as well as Warren does, and those few days gave me an insight that I was privileged to receive.
Well, I can’t tell you more than that as, naturally, I’m sworn to secrecy.
To readers of this column, have a wonderful and safe Christmas and New Year.
1. It was metre time down the Roper last month for Crystal Neal and her sister Jackie.
2. Jackie Gray with her metre-plus barra from the Roper River.