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Alex's Column 07/07/2022

Someone in the office asked me: “When is this cold weather going to stop?”

I replied: “One thing I know about Top End weather is that it never stays cold for very long.”

Notwithstanding, the chilly mornings have been happening on and off for more than a month now, and that’s been especially the case out my way in Darwin’s rural area.

Consequently, barra fishing in particular has been tough.

When it’s cold, and water temperatures get down to under 22°C, barramundi tend to shut down.

However, things might change over the coming weekend.

The reason for the colder weather and the relentless south-easterlies we’ve been experiencing is a significant high pressure system in the Great Australian Bight.

That system will have moved inland by Sunday and the winds across the Top End will start to abate.

It coincides with dead neap tides this weekend, so there might be a bit of glassy weather out there on the blue.

That would be perfect for both offshore trolling and bottom bouncing.

We already know that the middle of the year, during the coolest months of the dry season, heralds the arrival of the Spanish mackerel schools offshore from Darwin.

The best times to fish for mackerel are early and late in the day, particularly if that coincides with a change in tide.

Trolling is fine and will produce fish, but most boats anchor – nowadays using spotlock – and either jig or float pillies out the back in a berley trail.

Use crushed pilchard as berley, and keep the particles small so you are not feeding the pelagics but only giving them an appetite.

Set your rods in holders with the pilchards on ganged hooks floating enticingly out the back.

If there is no current, you may need to use a small bobby cork.

Oh, and watch out for big sharks that like to sneak up onto unsuspecting floating pillies.

For somewhere to chase a barra inland, with warmer weather, the barra fishing might improve at good old Corroboree Billabong.

With more than 45km of navigable waterways, Corroboree is the largest natural landlocked lagoon in the NT and probably Australia.

It is steeped in Top End barra history, which is not surprising considering how close it is to Darwin: hardly more than an hour’s drive.

In the late ‘70s, it was the site of a massive barramundi poaching operation, cleverly disguised as a large-scale, buffalo pet-meating business.

The first three NT Barra Classics starting in 1982 were held at Corroboree.

In the late 1980s, this recreational fishing treasure was almost lost to over-zealous Japanese tourism and golf course development.

Also in the ‘80s, the wholesale slaughter of the Top End’s vast buffalo herds under the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (so the USA would continue to buy Australian beef) saw Corroboree nearly choke to death with lily growth.

Fortunately, a couple of successive bumper wet seasons restored the lagoon to its previous pleasantly-fishable ambience, but a new aquatic species population composition had occurred which continues to this day.

If you’re an old timer, and regularly fished Corroboree prior to 1984, then I’ll bet you hardly ever saw a saratoga.

They were there but only in very small numbers and were very much an incidental catch.

It’s clear the saratoga population boomed due to the massive lily inundation of the mid-‘80s.

An aggressive and highly-territorial predator, the saratoga has held its ground ever since.


Spanish mackerel could be on the chew wide of Darwin this weekend; Grant Edwards with a ripper of a mac. Photo: Chris Errity


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