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Alex's Column 12 January 2024

Although there seems to be a bit of a lull on the overall Darwin fishing scene, some anglers are definitely catching fish.

Last weekend’s neap tides set the scene for some action at the mouth of Sampan Creek.

Launching at Shady Camp was totally tide dependant without any proper floodwater flowing down.

Tim Bolch fished the mouth on last Friday’s neaps and reported 20-minute barra bite windows and big threadies everywhere.

Fishing and Outdoor World’s Riley Mcconachy and mate also fished Shady and reported big numbers of threadies and some quality barra action.

Unfortunately, big bull sharks kept stifling the barra action.

“The water was quite stinky and the barra wouldn’t bite when the sharks turned up,” Riley said.

He fished Corroboree last week and reported a substantial fish kill.

That’s not unusual when the rains are later than normal for the wet season.

As with everywhere across the Top End, Kakadu National Park needs a good bout of monsoonal rainfall.

What rain there has been out there has led to the closure of Cahill’s Crossing and Magela Creek.

Fortunately, it finally looks like a monsoon will descend upon us very shortly.

If it doesn’t get here by the weekend, a good barra option would be to fish Darwin Harbour on the spring tides.

You might get wet, but you might also catch a Sportsbet-tagged barra.

Million Dollar Fish Season 9 will continue until 31 March this year.

So far, there have been seven MDF tagged barra caught, and remember, there are 12 fish out there each worth $1 million.

During the Wet, there will be plenty of windows to fish waters where MDF barra might be lurking.

The big tidal rivers that remain accessible in January and February, even in flood, will receive the lion’s share of angling attention.

They are the Mary River at Shady Camp, the South Alligator River launching at the ramp below the bridge and the Adelaide River from the Saltwater Arm boat ramp.

Once the Mary River’s height rises, and water begins to flood over the Shady Camp barrage, the focus on Shady Camp will be second to none.

Ever since 2012, when commercial fishing was banned in Chambers and Finke Bays, and later in 2014 when the seasonal closure of recreational fishing on the tidal section of the Mary was lifted permanently, Darwin and visiting anglers have been flocking to Shady in their droves.

The following January in 2015, the main tributary of the Mary River, Sampan Creek, well and truly went off at the mouth.

They called it “Sampan Sunday” and the few boats which were there experienced big barra fishing that was the stuff of dreams.

For weeks afterwards as the wet season progressed, it was the norm during neap tides to have close to 100 boats launching at Shady Camp on weekdays and sometimes more than 150 on weekends.

Not only was the focus on the Sampan Creek mouth, but also on the mouth of Tommycut Creek which is the other tributary of the Mary River delta.

The biggest issue then wasn’t the number of boats but the difficulty in launching them.

Back then before the terrific Shady Camp boat ramp was built, vehicles and boats were backing in the dark up to 30m into Shady Camp’s notorious waters, trying to find water deep enough to launch.

Without any significant slope, 4WDs backed out so far that doorsteps went under while exhaust pipes bubbled with water.

It was the same getting boats back on the trailers… and did someone mention the word “crocodiles”?

I wrote about it back then: imploring the then Fisheries Minister to do something about the lack of a proper ramp at Shady.

Of course, all the issues are gone now with the construction of the fabulous new ramp at Shady Camp.

Nowadays boats are able to launch at least two at a time, and without even getting their 4WD tyres wet let alone mufflers and doorsteps.

Of course, for land-based anglers, the famous Shady Camp barrage is not only a $Million fish chance, but there’s always the prospect of encountering that barra of a lifetime.

Riley Mcconachy caught this after-dark 98cm barra working a surface lure at Shady Camp.


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