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FISHING With Alex Julius

The last major barra competition for the year, Corroboree Park Challenge, takes place from 5.00pm Friday 19 October to 5.00pm the following Sunday.
This year there are some interesting changes in the scoring system.
Whereas previously the winner was the angler who caught the biggest barra by length, this year the winner will be judged by the total length of up to three fish caught over the two days.
Another change is that saratoga are given equal billing with barra this year, so your three-fish tally can be comprised of three barra, three saratoga or a combination of both.
The same applies to the champion team category: the total length of three fish will decide the winning team.
The Corroboree Park Challenge is hosted by Palmerston Game Fishing Club and, according to competition co-ordinator, Angie Walker, the scoring change was designed to give more people a chance of winning.
“This way, competitors who can’t find a big one still have a chance of winning if they catch three fish,” Angie said.
What I really like about the Challenge is that competitors can roam far and wide to chase their fish.
Basically, they can fish anywhere east of the Corroboree Park Tavern venue, all the way to Arnhem Land.
It’s a fair bet that Corroboree will get the most boat traffic, but many keener anglers will be launching at Shady Camp and hitting the mouth of the Mary on the neap tides during the competition.
Some will keep going, taking a sea route to the Wildman River, or launching at Stuart’s Tree Fishing Camp for quicker, easier access to the Wildman.
It’s easy to register online for the Challenge: go to http://tix.yt/corroboree-park-challenge.
It won’t surprise if a record number of people enter this year, especially as it coincides with season four of the Million Dollar Fish campaign.
It’s an old cliché in angling circles, but it’s so true that you never stop learning.
I certainly learned something when I visited Four Mile Hole recently with Tony Quarmby, Duncan Weir and Crystal Neal.
This picturesque lagoon on the Wildman River system in Kakadu is a real favourite of mine, which is why I like to take people there.
Both Tony, a Darwinian, and Duncan from NSW had never caught a barra before.
Not surprisingly at this hotting-up time of year, there were lots of barra clearly visible swimming around the reeds and lilies.
They were all small, and we saw hundreds of them just in the first couple of hours, but we didn’t catch one.
They were obviously affected by something – perhaps increasing water temperatures or overnight rain – and were noticeably lethargic.
I’d seen this behaviour many times before in lagoons during the Build-up.
Typically, as we moved slowly along the edges under Minn Kota power, we’d spot a small school of a dozen or so barra, and cast different soft plastics in front of their noses.
Every possible retrieve technique was tried, and often as not a barra would follow a lure but just would not eat it.
Some fish were actually white to the point of looking albino, and these clearly-stressed fish didn’t acknowledge a lure at all.
I was starting to stress a bit too as my task of sorting out a couple of barra virgins was taking too damn long.
Totally out of frustration, I called an end to our casting efforts and we began trolling.
Suddenly Tony was on, and an 80cm-plus barra came catapulting out of the water.
It was a ripper for a lagoon barra, much bigger than any fish we’d seen so far, but sadly it was gone within 10 seconds of hooking up.
Tony wound his lure in and I checked it for bent hooks only to discover that the rear treble eyelet had actually pulled out of the lure.
I checked the drag pressure on his reel and it was as I’d set it: fairly light given we weren’t fishing hard structure.
We trolled for another hour without a touch and, unable to stand the calamitous situation developing any longer, I announced: “Right, that’s enough, let’s go and sort these little buggers out.”
I motored to a new area where the water was deeper around the edges, and therefore potentially cooler, and this time we cast little hard-body lures at the fish.
The little buggers were everywhere, but they still wouldn’t bite.
In desperation, I dived into the tackle box looking for an inspiration.
And then I saw it, flashing gold right at me: a tiny Warlock hard-body lure, barely 5cm long.
I tied it on, opting to not change the minuscule trebles and weak little split rings; instead winding the drag right down.
I went to the raised bow platform, scanned the water, spotted some barra almost immediately and flicked the tiny lure amongst them.
I wound it down to a metre and ripped and jerked it towards me, watching its gold “Bobby Dazzler” finish reflect like a mirror from side to side.
Straight away, two barra chased it and one walloped it like it hadn’t eaten in a year.
It came hurtling out of the water and Crystal netted it aboard with the urgency of Adam Gilchrist stumping an English opener.
It was only small, but that didn’t stop us all from cheering.
We released it and I quickly scoured the tackle box, amazed as I found three more little Warlocks.
It wasn’t a fluke because soon we were all hooking up, and in no time amassed a count of 25 barra.
Tony and Duncan well and truly lost their barra virginity and Four Mile Hole once again produced something special.
As an aside, I was rapt to see so little salvinia, and most of what was there brown and dying.
The big wet season must have washed away heaps of it, and those ravenous little Cyrtobagous salviniae weevils, which were released into the lagoon by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Djurrubu Rangers, are clearly doing their job.

The second part of the Territory Government’s new recreational fishing survey has begun, with surveys taking place at boat ramps across the NT.
Telephone surveys have already begun, while the boat ramp surveys will involve Fisheries NT staff asking anglers about their day on the water, thus providing a more complete picture of recreational fishing activity in the Territory by both Territorians and visitors.
Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles, said: “The Government is investing a huge amount of money in the recreational fishing sector to ensure the Territory remains at the top of the list when it comes to world-class fishing destinations.
“The last survey was completed in 2010, and this new data will help us invest our historic $50 million into the sector in a way that provides the best outcomes for fishos,” Mr Vowles said.

duncan and crystal
1.    Duncan Weir and Crystal Neal with one of many Four Mile Hole barra that couldn’t resist the little Warlock lure.

Tony Quarmby
2.    Tony Quarmby reckoned Four Mile Hole barra fishing was the ant’s pants.