FISHING With Alex Julius
Darwin has a long history of artificial reefs.
It dates back to World War 2 and the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942.
On that sad day, 242 Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin Harbour, sinking several US and Australian battleships and merchant vessels.
The harbour was littered with war wrecks and, for many years afterwards, some would poke out of the water during super-low tides.
In the early 1960s, as part of their reparation duties, the Japanese removed many of these ships bit by bit, leaving skeletal hulls resting on the harbour floor.
In time, these became popular fishing spots, and were in fact our first artificial reefs, albeit not planned that way.
Back in the 1980s, it was a trend in Darwin fishing circles to hit the old war wrecks, targeting black jew.
Old hulks like the USS Peary, the Mauna Loa and the Zealandia were popular fishing spots that often produced.
Also popular were artificial wrecks created accidentally by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974.
The best-known and most-productive of these was the Mandorah Queen, a ferry which sunk with the loss of two lives during the maelstrom of Tracy.
Many thousands of jewfish were pulled from the Mandorah Queen, and I should know as I reckon mates and I accounted for hundreds.
Nowadays, it is covered with sand.
It was the great fishing to be had on these war and cyclone relics that prompted the then young Amateur Fishermen’s Association NT (AFANT) to kick of its artificial reef program.
With Government assistance, between 1982 and 1984, it led to the scuttling of derelict vessels to create artificial reefs in Darwin Harbour, including: Song Saigon (the first), Ham Luong and John Holland Barge.
Around 1989, reefs were created offshore at Fenton Patches, and then later out from Lee Point.
The Fenton Patches artificial reef complex was an NT Fisheries project and originally comprised seven reefs constructed from different materials, including old boats.
As part of the project, the first fish aggregating devices (FADs) were placed in the vicinity of the Fenton Patches reefs.
Whereas artificial reefs on the sea floor are designed to attract and congregate mainly reef fish, FADs are suspended just below the sea surface and are intended to attract pelagic species like mackerel, queenfish, trevally and even billfish.
These FADs met with varying success, eventually disappearing with attrition and not being replaced.
However, just recently, some 25 years later, a new trial Fish Aggregating Device will be deployed as part of ongoing plans to enhance and expand recreational fishing opportunities in the Territory.
The plan is part of the government’s $50 million investment in recreational fishing to create jobs and enhance the Territory’s reputation as a world-class fishing destination.
It was supported by the Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee, and this first one will be positioned off the fish-rich coast of Dundee Beach.
Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles, said: “The FAD program has been developed in full consultation with AFANT and the recreational fishing community.
“Four more FADs are being developed and will be placed in locations that will provide easy access to pelagic species less susceptible to the effects of barotrauma and more suitable for catch and release.
“FADs attract small baitfish which then attract bigger fish right up the food chain, and then hopefully creating fishing opportunities for pelagic species.
“The trial FADs will be monitored to provide feedback on design and deployment locations, and reports from fishos about their experience fishing the FADs are welcome,” Mr Vowles said.
AFANT CEO, David Ciaravolo, said: “Recreational fishers are excited about the deployment of this first FAD in the new program.
“FADs have real potential to provide new and exciting fishing opportunities to Top End fishers.
“In other parts of Australia, we have seen FADs become unique fishing hotspots.
“AFANT and the fishing community look forward to the roll out of the NT’s new fisheries enhancement program.”
Stay clear of Corroboree Billabong tomorrow and Sunday; that is unless you are happy to share the iconic waterway with 40 boats competing in the annual Spotters Secret Women’s Business Barra Challenge (aka SWB).
Hosted by Palmerston Game Fishing Club and held from the perfect Corroboree Park Tavern venue, this is the Top End’s biggest all-female tournament.
It is a strictly tag-and-release event, with all fish measured, tagged, photographed on the measuring board and released.
Points are awarded for barramundi captures with saratoga also eligible for half points.
There have been mixed reports from Corroboree, but hopefully the fish will come out to play.
SWB Coordinator Kristen Noble has asked that all competitors posting on Instagram and Facebook remember to tag the SWB page by using hashtag: #SWBBarraChallenge.
“We will be collating all of the fabulous pics and videos and can't wait to see how everyone goes this weekend,” Kris said.
1. Reef Doig with a terrific Spanish mackerel, one of the target species to be attracted by the new FAD.
2. Rob Robinson’s big mangrove jack took a Classic F18.
3. The new FAD ready to be transported to wide of Dundee Beach and deployed.