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Alex' Column 24/03/2022

It was an interesting day up the South Alligator River last week.

I anticipated it would be low, with minimal runoff, and that’s exactly how it was.

Timing was everything in respect of boat launching and retrieval.

There was plenty of water on the last of the incoming tide at the boat ramp, but I knew we’d have to be back well before low tide to get the boat out before the big mud bar out from the ramp came into play.

With me was my talented fishing friend Roxy Woolley, and the plan was to go up Nourlangie Creek to fish feeder creeks as the tide started to fall.

We had just pulled up at the mouth of Nourlangie to rig some rods when a boat came roaring down from up the river.

As it passed us, it slowed down and chucked a U-ie.

It was my old mate Peter Dienhoff and a couple of mates who were spending four days on the river.

They’d caught fish and were on their way down to the mouth, no doubt looking for a big one or two.

Even though the water looked good, the top of Nourlangie disappointed, so we belted back down this major tributary, stopping for a few casts at a creek near the mouth.

It paid off and we caught a few small ones when Roxy hooked onto a beauty that was well into the 90s and possibly over a metre.

The big barra swirled across the creek mouth, breaking surface with a thick bronzed body before diving and taking line.

Sadly, that’s when the hooks pulled, and poor Roxy was distraught.

“I’m sorry Alex; I’m so sorry,” she said.

“Don’t be sorry for me Roxy, you poor girl; be sorry for yourself – that was a terrific fish,” I replied.

After the creek went quiet, we moved down to the famous Nourlangie Rock-bar, but there was nothing showing on the Lowrance.

With just a couple of hours left before we needed to head back to the ramp, we belted up the main river to try our luck.

And luck was with us as the falling tide dragged dribbles of tannin-coloured water from tiny drains into the main river.

Unbelievably, we were the only boat in the top half of the river, which meant none of these drains had been fished that day.

Didn’t that make a difference.

The current was too strong for the Minn Kota to hold the boat in position on anchor-lock, which was fine as I was happy to station the boat with the big Honda while Roxy pelted the new Squidgy Dura Stretch Fish soft plastic at the drains and accompanying little swirling eddies.

It was an hour and half of often fish-a-cast action during which she hooked many mainly small barra, but with the odd better fish amongst them.

Boy did they love that Squidgy.

We probably stayed longer than we should have, but thankfully we arrived back at the boat ramp to find it still accessible.


A true giant in the Northern Territory fishing tour industry was lost last week with the passing of Dennis Sten.

Stenny was a pioneer of fishing tourism in the Top End.

He was one of our earliest professional fishing guides, dating back more than three decades.

Right through his guided fishing career, he was always finding those truly big barramundi.

The fishing camp he established at Endyalgout Island near Minnie Minnie in Arnhem Land was one of the first in the Territory, and a great example of how successful fishing tourism can operate on Aboriginal land.

In his retirement years, Dennis found new purpose in life when he devoted so much of his time and energy to the fishing tour industry.

He became Chairman of the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association (NTGFIA), and he was relentless in his endeavours to have fishing tourism recognised as a major Territory industry.

“The NT fishing tour industry is worth over $80m a year to the Territory,” Dennis would espouse every chance he had.

“Commercial gill-nets are worth hardly more than $4m annually, and they take nearly 70% of the catch,” Stenny would say at meetings with Ministers and senior public servants.

Dennis represented the association on the Recreational Fishing Advisory Council and on many specific fish species management advisory councils.

Stenny loved a beer and a laugh with mates, and will be missed by many.

I enjoyed his friendship, and his awesome passion for the industry he loved.

This column and me personally offer our kindest thoughts and most sincere condolences to his wife Wendy, his sons Simon, Jeremy and Cameron, and his grandchildren Simon and Lewis.

Roxy Woolley wreaked havoc on the South Alligator’s barra population with the new Squidgy Dura Stretch Fish.

The fishing tour industry mourns the passing of Dennis Sten pictured here with his grandson Simon.


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