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Alex's Column 23/02/2023

It’s now nearly the end of February and we are in desperate need of a lot more rain if this wet season is going to be at all meaningful.

I was chatting with old mate Andy Ralph who told me that, unbelievably, the Oenpelli Road is open to the East Alligator.

In fact, Magela Creek crossing is down to 0.6m from 1.8m a couple of weeks ago.

That’s great if you want to go to the East Alligator this weekend, but there’ll be no point heading way down river to Magela Creek or Second Magela because they just won’t be flowing.

Andy reported that the there is no water from the Magela outflow – the floodplains are just not flooded.

I actually went down the East Alligator once in conditions like this.

It was early wet season and old mate Col Cordingley had heard a whisper that Magela Creek was flowing.

It was back in the days when my boat was just a 3.6m aluminium punt powered by a 15hp Mariner.

There was no boat ramp then and we launched off a steep bank below Cahill’s Crossing and made the long, arduous run down the river to Magela Creek.

That turned out to be a waste of time as there was only a trickle of water coming out the mouth and draining across a mud flat into the river.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long until the tide started to seep in, enabling us to walk the boat through shallow water into the creek.

Once inside Magela, we traversed a series of pools just deep enough to jump in the punt and motor through.

However, between the pools, the water was just too shallow and we had to jump out and wade through pushing the boat.

You wouldn’t do that for love of money nowadays but, back then only a few years after the wholesale shooting of crocodiles stopped when they were put on the CITES endangered list, we did things like that.

Notwithstanding, we encountered a crocodile just the same.

We were standing in about 20cm of water, wading slowly upstream, when, suddenly, a croc about 3.5m long came hurtling down the mud bank into the water just 40m in front of us.

The trouble was that the water was so shallow that the croc could only thrash around with half its body out of the water.

If something like that happened nowadays, the saurian would probably have made a beeline for us with evil intent but, back then, they were still gun shy.

The wary croc chose instead to run back up the bank and disappear into the mangroves.

Well, Cords and I looked at each other, unanimously deciding there was no value in pushing further up the creek, so we turned around and back peddled through the shallows.

That story was just an aside to let you know what Magela Creek will be like this weekend if you bothered to head all the way down there.

That’s not to say launching into the East Alligator River for a fish would be a waste of time.

There may well be some runoff at creeks a few kilometres down from the boat ramp.

Plus the big rock-bar just downstream is always likely to produce a nice barra or two.

The bottom line is that the East Alligator is accessible right now at the end of February, and that is one hell of an unusual event.

Vinnie Versfeld with his cracking 110cm early Runoff barra.


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