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Alex's Column 29/09/2022

Million Dollar Fish Season 8 is up and running from midnight tomorrow night, and I’ll bet there’ll be hundreds – if not thousands – of anglers plying both the freshwater and the salt in the quest for a Sportsbet tagged barra worth $1 million.

There are nine of them out there, if they’ve all survived, as well as another 100 red-tagged barra which were released for Season 8.

The good news is that there’s nothing like a spike of hot Build-up weather to get the barra on the chew.

That certainly happened last week at a couple of Top End destinations.

In Kakadu, billabongs like Yellow Water, Home and Red Lily fished well, both during the day and at night.

On the Mary River system, Corroboree Billabong continued to improve, including with catches of barra in the 70s and 80s.

Shady Camp Fresh went crazy with little barra – that freshwater section above Shady Camp barrage has been chockers with rats all year.

In the salt water, Darwin Harbour continued to produce barra of all sizes for those who understand the fine print of fishing this close major waterway.

On the other side of Darwin, the neapish tides must have been perfect for Shoal Bay, judging by the reports I received of great fishing.

Barra to more than 90cm were caught inside and around the mouth of King Creek.

The famous Shoal Bay Rock fished better than it has for some time, although it’s still not producing the way it did before the big sandbar to its east expanded and narrowed the channel.

Much better though were the holes up inside Howard River and Tree Point Inlet in Shoal Bay.

I had an interesting day in Bynoe Harbour last week.

With me were Roger Sinclair and Dave Krantz and their mission was to pre-fish Bynoe in advance of Darwin Fly-rodders Saltwater Fly Fishing Tournament which will be held on similar tides next month.

I was along for the ride.

It was a hot day and water temperatures were up, and that seemed to get all sorts of fish to bite.

The fly comp has an interesting scoring format: there are seven eligible species and points are awarded for each one, with bonus points if you catch the lot.

Additional points are earnt for other species, but only based on length and not nearly as much as for the seven nominated species: barra, salmon, snappers, trevally, queenfish, tarpon and mackerel.

The boys caught four of those species – barra, snapper, trevally and tarpon – fishing exceptionally with their own home-tied flies.

I must say I was impressed with just how many different species were caught on fly that day.

Apart from the aforementioned, there were ock-ocks (aka grunter), barracuda, pikey bream and, to my total disbelief, a pair of sand bass.

Previously, I’d only ever seen, or heard of, sand bass caught offshore whilst reef fishing.

Anglers who have never seen one before normally think they are barramundi, only much darker.

They grow to a maximum size of 50cm and obviously like artificial lures and flies.

We’re coming off spring tides this weekend, but they’re still pretty good for both Darwin Harbour and Bynoe Harbour.

One thing for sure is that there’ll be some Sportsbet tagged barra swimming around in both those pristine estuaries.


Layla Hadden fished a Kakadu billabong and was thrilleded with her first-ever barramundi caught on a lure


Normally an offshore reef dweller, these barra-lookalike sand bass succumbed to fly and soft plastic in a shallow Bynoe Harbour creek.


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