Alex's Column 04/08/2022

August is one of my favourite fishing months of the year.

That’s because it generally marks the change from the coolest dry season time of year to the progressively hotter and more humid weather as we approach the build up to the wet season.

This year has been no different because just this last week has seen warmer days than last month.

For our barramundi, even the slightest increase in temperature will trigger more activity.

Of course, water temperature is the key, and just how much the water hots up is what makes August interesting.

For example, Roger Sinclair, aka the Silver Fox, checked out Darwin Harbour’s East Arm last Monday and caught a handful of silver barra, including a couple of reasonable keepers.

“We did best on the flats where we could sight fish on the falling tides,” Roger said.

“I reckon the water has warmed up this week, and that made the difference.

“We caught barra on the run-in tide too but couldn’t sight fish as the water was too dirty then,” Roger explained.

Much as most of us would prefer those beautiful dry season days to continue for as long as possible, a hot August night can have the barra boofing with more resonance than the Neil Diamond album of the same name.

I’m talking inland lagoon barra here, and quality fish at that.

It was August many years ago now that I experienced my first amazing night-barra-fishing session.

The location was Nourlangie Number Three, a tiny waterhole about half the size of a football field and one of several lagoons on the Nourlangie Creek system that haven’t been accessible to anglers for decades.

I was fishing with a mate of mine, John Tomkinson, who left the Territory in the mid-80s.

Thommo was quite infamous for his proactive stance on civil liberties.

A lecturer at the then NT uni’, he once had his classroom raided by the police because he was teaching students how to make a time bomb.

Thommo was also one hell of a fisherman, and it was straight after a hearty campfire feed that we slipped his 3m fibreglass dinghy into the eerie darkness of Nourlangie Number Three.

We had no motor – and no need for one, Thommo assured me – and we paddled perhaps 100 metres out into the lagoon and began casting.

I remember using a Bill Norman Chuggerflash, the undisputed best barra popper available then; and I reckon it still would be if anyone stocked it.

Thommo wasn’t into fancy lures like poppers; he only ever used Nilsmaster Invincibles, and mainly the biggest one.

The first half hour was quiet, and it was so, so dark.

I remember hearing the howl of a dingo and some flying foxes beating a path overhead, but from the water there was only silence.

When the barra arrived, they did so with such noise and commotion that it was remarkable.

We were right out in the middle of the bowl-shaped lagoon, and we must have been surrounded by swirling, splashing feeding barra.

Almost immediately we were on, my Chuggerflash getting walloped on the surface and Thommo’s Nilsie getting engulfed below.

These were all good-sized lagoon fish – 65 to 80cm jobs – and we were ripping them in like tuna polers in the heat of battle.

The session lasted a bit more than an hour, and by its end we were both sliding in the slime of 27 freshwater barra, many still banging on the floor of the boat.

There must have been close to 150kg of barra onboard, and the gunwales were precariously close to the water as we paddled to our camp.

It should be remembered that this was hardly 10 years after the cessation of crocodile shooting in the Territory, so there still weren’t too many big ones about.

Today you’d be crazy to venture onto a barra lagoon at night in such a small vessel.

It was also pre-bag-limit days, and the justification for killing all those barra was that Thommo had friends at Bagot Community and he liked to drop fish off to different families there.

You’d have to agree that that was the epitome of a “hot” August night.

The beauty of it is that, today, great fishing like that can still be experienced on many Top End inland lagoons…all it needs is a bit of heat to permeate from the air to the still water below.

On that note, I wouldn’t mind betting that Corroboree Billabong finally fires up at night this month.


Owen Hill, 11, and his dad Bob with Owen’s ripper jewfish, one of several great fish the pair caught at Seven Spirit Bay Wilderness Lodge.