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Alex's Column 29 December 2023

Given that the winds won’t be too strong and there is no monsoon in sight, there are plenty of fishing options over the next few days leading up to New Year’s Day.

Darwin tides today are pretty well at their peak spring phase, with more than 5m of runout to a 1.00pm low of 1.04m, followed by more than 6m of run in to  a high of 7.37m just before 8.00pm.

Yesterday was the full moon so there’ll be plenty of light shining tonight should you brave the weather and fish the high tide offshore.

A better option might be to chase a barra in Darwin Harbour.

The tides are perfect for any of the harbour’s arms, and they’re pretty good over the next three days too.

If you’re considering heading offshore, you might want to try the tide change on any of the four big artificial reefs.

These great reefs are five years old now and they’re doing a great job.

I’ve heard reports of big bait balls hanging around them, jewfish and other reef fish being caught and mackerel swimming about above the reefs.

The four reef complexes are comprised of 116 purpose-built artificial reef modules; there are two between North Gutter and Lee Point; one between the Vernon Islands and Cape Hotham; and one in the Dundee region.

Each one of these huge artificial reefs comprises 29 modules clustered in groups of four or five, with each reef field covering an area of about 2.5 hectares or 25,000 square metres; end to end, that’s about 1250m long by 20m wide each.

The GPS co-ordinates for the still relatively new reefs are:

Lee Point Wide12 10 083130 47 033Gutters Central12 09.459130 34.665Dundee Wide12.44.445130 10.387Adelaide River Mouth12 07.587131 11.545

NT Fisheries has been monitoring the development of the reefs which by now should be fully-established productive habitats, and with a lifespan of more than 100 years.

To assist fishers, NT Fisheries has developed a Code of Conduct for fishing around artificial reefs and FADs:

·        Respect other users at all times.

·        Courtesy should be given to fishers who are already using the reefs.

·        Users should accommodate new arrivals where possible.

·        Take only what you need for a feed.

·        When you have caught a feed of reef fish, consider changing fishing methods or locations to target pelagic species which are less susceptible to barotrauma.

·        FADS and additional vertical relief of reefs will attract pelagic species which are more suitable for targets of catch-and-release fishing.

·        Due to the effects of barotrauma, please do not target reef fish species for catch-and-release fishing in waters greater than 10m deep (Note: the 4 new artificial reefs are all in waters greater than 10m depth).

·        Always motor slowly when approaching or changing locations to reduce disturbance of other boats.

Fishers should also be aware that there may be spearfishers (who are also covered by the Code of Conduct) in the vicinity of the artificial reefs. The Code also states that:

·        Spearfishers should be aware of other artificial reef users.

·        Spearfishers may not have possession of a loaded speargun within 150m of another person who is not part of their fishing group and should not enter the water if they are within this distance of other boats at an artificial reef.

The design and construction of these artificial reefs took into consideration water depth, currents, the sea bed and the preferred habitat of particular marine species.

They incorporate the best features of a natural reef but with enhanced qualities for maximum effect, including internal caves, cryptic habitat, vertical relief and a shape that promotes upwelling of water flow.

They were fabricated using nearly 3000 tonnes – 180 truckloads – of concrete.

So that takes care of the sea floor adjacent to Darwin and Dundee in terms of purpose-built fish attractions.

The most=common technique for fishing these reefs is to motor around slowly with an electric outboard.

Once you’ve located fish, switch to spot-lock which avoids the tedious task of dropping anchor.

Kai Robb visited his dad Trevor at Arnhem Land Barramundi Lodge and nailed this terrific metre-plus barra.


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