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Alex's Column 1 September 2023

Last week’s round four of the Top End Barra Series (TEBS) was always going to be testing given the relentless south-easterly winds this dry season.

It was held in Darwin Harbour and, according to Dwight Shepherd from TEBS, right on queue the south-easterlies rolled in to make for a blustery weekend.

“With winds pushing 20 knots at times, the round organisers deserve special mention for being able to pick the weather every round so far this year,” Dwight said.

“TEBS is the Test Cricket of the fishing competition calendar, with rounds held in all locations and in all conditions, and the best fishermen regularly seem to find a way to catch the barra.

“Gavin Hoult came third in this round with 315 points thanks to his five-barra bag of 52cm, 57cm, 58cm, 60cm and 61 cm.

“This is his first year in TEBS and his first top-three placing.

“Gavin looked for current, colour changes and bait to find fish in a variety of locations where these conditions met up.

“He had a purple patch late on Saturday afternoon, catching his better fish off a rock-bar in Middle Arm,” Dwight explained.

Not surprisingly, Peter ‘Cuddles’ Cooper did well in this harbour round, fishing mainly between West Arm and East Arm.

Darwin Harbour arms are renowned for the prevalence of small, under-size barra.

In TEBS, all barra 50cm and over can be registered, but this year perhaps more than ever fish smaller than that have been the norm.

Dwight said: “Cuddles caught over 30 barra for the weekend but finding fish of size was the problem.

“He sight-fished most of the weekend, and came second with 360 points thanks to a bag of 57cm, 58cm, 60cm and two 61cm barra,” Dwight reported.

With 450 points, and five barra measuring 57-69cm, Jack Oswald was a convincing TEBS round four winner.

He fished with Ben Banks and the pair were unable to fish preferred locations thanks to the wind.

They mainly fished East Arm and used side-scan to locate good barra schooled up.

Jack reckoned live scope technology played little part in his results over the weekend.

Dwight said: “In the 2022 harbour round, at least a 100 barra were under 50cm, with 28 fish at 50-59cm, 14 fish at 60-69cm, 7 fish at 70-79cm and one barra above 80cm.

“We were hoping the smaller fish would come through as a bigger size class this year but the results were surprisingly similar,” Dwight said.

NT Fisheries barra research scientists attribute the phenomenon of the prevalence of mainly small barra in Darwin Harbour to migration.

Tagging recaptures have shown it’s common for harbour barra to move out, and along the coast to other systems as they get bigger.

Notwithstanding, James Park found a beauty at 77cm which was the best fish of the round.

“There were also some great stories as usual,” Dwight recounted.

“An impressive one was Wendy Higgs and her son Ryan’s big effort.

“They fished all day Saturday, and were back on the water in time to fish Sunday’s 2am low.

“After grabbing a couple of hours sleep, they were back to fish all Sunday.

“It paid off with a few nice fish, including an impressive 43cm flathead,” Dwight reported.

TEBS Round 5 will be next month at the mouth of the Adelaide River.

Jack Oswald battled Darwin Harbour’s windy conditions to win round four of the Top End Barra Series.

Ryan Higgs with one of Darwin Harbour’s little barra which are as prevalent as ever this year.

Travis Higgs with a borderline barra from the TEBS round.


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