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FISHING With Alex Julius

Conditions weren’t perfect when we headed out to sea last week for three days of hopefully bluewater fishing mayhem.
It was daybreak and the westerly winds were already gusting to more than 40kph, with waves frothing at more than a metre high.
Fortunately, we had a real weapon on our side: the 16m Wai Nawana which revels in adverse sea conditions.
The Wai Nawana is the pride of the fleet of four great Arafura Bluewater Charters boats operated by old mate Steve Compain.
Steve has been plying coastal waters out from Darwin for more than 20 years, and I’d hazard a guess that, over that time, his vessels have seen more offshore fishing action than the combined Darwin recreational fishery.
It’s a big call, I know, but his immensely-popular charters are always out there, either on half-day trips, full-day trips or extended charters.
Over the years, I’ve done several day and extended trips with Arafura, and never have I been disappointed.
Steve and his great crews are always professional, always hungry for fish and always offering and providing the best possible on-board service imaginable.
This latest trip last week was no different.
We’d booked Wai Nawana for an extended three-day voyage to do our regular NAFA magazine Good Gear shoot… and boy, did we have some good gear.
I’d brought along eight great Shimano outfits to cover a host of different fishing applications, as well as a vast array of the latest bluewater metal and soft-plastic jigs, imposing hard-body trolling lures and small prototype pushers that glowed like neon.
The initial plan was to head way wide of the Dundee coast – we’re talking well over 100km – and fish Arafura hotspots for golden snapper, saddle-tail snapper and red emperor
However, the weather was a bummer and, after steaming for six hours, skipper Alastair Lau took us to good fishing grounds near North Peron Island that offered a degree of protection from the westerlies.
The beauty of fishing with Arafura Bluewater Charters is that the skippers always seem to have aces up their respective sleeves.
In this case, we lobbed on to Al’s favoured secret spots around the Perons and we were into fish immediately.
This was goldie country and soon a couple of big ones came aboard on bait.
NAFA’s Crystal Neal – a top barra angler and currently adorning the cover of NAFA 35 – had not done much bluewater fishing.
I set her up with up a nice jig outfit and a proven Gulp Jerkshad soft plastic on a one ounce Mustad jighead.
Everyone using bait was catching fish, while Crystal was having no joy.
In between taking photos of bent rods, I spied her racking her jig rod and selecting one of the boat’s bait-fishing outfits.
“You giving up on the jigging already?” I asked.
“It’s not working,” she replied.
“Crystal, sometimes these things work better than bait; let me show you the technique,” I insisted.
I dropped the Jerkshad to the bottom and “jerked” it up in three continuous rips before dropping the rod and letting the lure plummet back to the bottom.
“See, that’s one good way to work it,” I said, hardly getting the words out before the softie was walloped and a good fish was banging at the other end.
I thrust the rod into her hands and, unable to help myself, laughed and said: “There you go, pull that baby in.”
And shortly thereafter, in came a 4kg golden snapper… and one happy angler was converted.
We were hit by a solid storm the first night, but the weather calmed over the next two days.
It gave us the opportunity to move to the offshore grounds and we literally smashed the “red” fish, amongst other notables.
A highlight was a black marlin around 20kg which pounced on a new 15cm Bluewater Pop pusher trolled between spots.
As fishy trips go, this one was right up there… we caught magnificent mixed reef fish, Spanish mackerel, jewies, trevally species and of course the marlin.
Skipper Al and decky Harry were awesome, and both can cook up a storm.
The sleeping arrangements are “all together” in the 12 comfortable bunks down forward, and we had two bunks each with only five of us.
If you’re looking for that great group fishing trip, and a guaranteed bagful of tasty fish fillets to take home, don’t hesitate to contact Arafura Blue Water Charters on 89323006, or check out www.arafurablue.com.au.
Like me, you won’t be disappointed.

PHOTOS:
crystal Marlin
1.    Crystal Neal joined the NT black marlin club when she caught this beautiful fish on the new Bluewater Pop pusher fishing with Arafura Bluewater Charters.

eliza mac
2.    Eliza Rynne’s Spanish mackerel fell to the sensational Classic Saury bluwater lure trolled behind Arafura’s Wai Tawana.

clint Jabbink red
3.    Clint Jebbink enjoyed his Arafura Bluewater Charters trip, especially after catching this awesome red emperor.