I’ve always maintained build-up fishing can be every bit as good as during the Runoff.
This goes for both tidal waters and inland freshwater lagoons.
During the Runoff, there’s usually a frenzy of angling anticipation as boats queue up at ramps and fight for position at feeder creeks.
If you’re a Shady Camp regular in February or March, I’m sure you would counted up to 200 four-wheel-drives and boat trailers bursting out of the carpark.
You would also have joined an armada of boats trolling at the mouth of Sampan Creek.
Down the Daly, at any one time during the Runoff, there are upwards of 30 feeder creeks with some sort of a colour change.
Even so, you can be flat out getting one to yourself, or even the space to fish one at all.
That’s why so many anglers camp in their boats overnight: just to have a prime position the next day.
During the Runoff, you basically have to stick to all-weather roads.
However, during the build-up, you’re pretty well not restricted as to where you drive to.
All tidal waters and rivers are accessible and, as long as you can find good water clarity, you’re in with a shot at catching good fish.
Inland lagoon fishing can be amazing during the build-up.
Until the rains arrive, you can drive along dirt tracks to the smallest, most-remote lagoons.
Often there’ll be hardly another boat on the water.
I was reminded of just how good build-up lagoon fishing can be by my good friend Rocky Edwards.
Every year, Rocky hosts Queensland anglers David “Greeny” Green and Ross McCubbin on a “Billabong Bash” and this year’s trip was a blinder.
“We spent the first day at Four Mile Hole in Kakadu,” Rocky said.
“We caught 58 barra and a couple of saratoga.
“On day two, we had shallow water and we had to negotiate sandbars and a rock-bar, but we managed to catch 38 barra.
“On the third day of the annual Billabong Bash, we caught 69 fish on our ‘new’ billabong,” Rocky said.
“To get to this lagoon required a big drive on a hazardous track, and most fish were caught around the rancid smell of a dead pig in the mouth of a 4m croc.
“The Wildman River was our venue on the fourth day, basically to target bigger fish; our best fish was 83cm.
“On our second-last day, we hit another remote billabong which was only reachable via treacherous tracks.
“There was no boat ramp, so we launched off the bank while hoping no ‘gators wanted to wrestle us.
“The fish were quality and we landed 80 barra and three big ‘togas.
“Ross dominated the day with 37 fish, I landed 24 and Greeny had a broken rod, damaged pelvis and a mental biorhythm dropout,” Rocky joked.
“Our last day was the best of all, with Greeny landing an astonishing 46 barra, and a large crocodile was present most of the time.
“Our tally for the day was 96 fish.
“Overall, we landed 349 fish over 6 days: Ross caught 138, Greeny caught 113 and I neatly landed 100,” Rocky reported.
The crew drove over rough tracks, travelled just under 1500km and had an amazing fishing trip.
That’s certainly something you can’t do during the Runoff.
David “Greeny” Green with one of more than 300 barra caught by the trio on Top End billabongs in six days.
Rocky Edwards was captain and skipper of the annual Billabong Bash and caught 100 barra.
Some big saratoga were caught on the inland safari, including this ripper for Ross McCubbin.