Alex's Column 5th August 2021

How good is Manton Dam?

It’s really our only major stocked waterway that is accessible to the general public, and at times is a great fishery.


Manton Dam was first stocked in 1994 and, since then, more than 840,000 barramundi fingerlings have been released into this picturesque dam.

Usually, these little barra are 100-120mm long, and they eat and grow like there is no tomorrow.

Stocked barramundi growth rates in freshwater impoundments are phenomenal.

We know this from the Queensland experience where stocked barra in some dams attained a weight of upwards of 15kg within four years.

World game fishing records have been smashed in those north Queensland impoundments.

I understand the biggest so far was 45.6kg – 100lb in imperial weight – from Lake Tinaroo near Cairns.

No one knows for sure, but I’d bet that hundreds of metreys have been caught at Manton over the years.

Mostly this has been at night, but daytime action can be good too.

Of course, the problem with Manton Dam is that it floods over the dam wall whenever there’s a good wet season.

I remember back in the late ‘90s when many hundreds of metre-plus barra went over the wall when it flooded.

It was a crying shame, and there were smashed barra bodies piled up on the rocks below.

Fortunately, NT Fisheries wisely installed a barrier net after that catastrophe.

Over the years, it has needed regular repairing thanks to big floating logs getting washed into it, but largely it’s done its job of containment.

It’s great that NT Fisheries stock Manton Dam every year; it has been a wonderful safe place to fish with the real prospect of catching that barra of a lifetime.

By the way, did you know that there is a Manton Dam Secret Society, and there are plenty of members who fish there often.

Maybe that’s why most of the big fish are caught in the dead of night.

Both casting and trolling produce barra at Manton, but the big fish are mainly caught trolling.

Use your sounder and work submerged points that barra on the move will have to swim around.

In the early days, I liked starting at the barrier net and trolling along the old river bed, working deep-divers along submerged snags.

A bit of history is that, when the dam was first mooted for recreational activities, more than 80 per cent of its contained water was released so that all the big old trees could be cut back.

This was to facilitate safe water skiing once the dam level rose back to normal again.

But those cut-back snags still held barra, and likely still do… big ones at that.

Thanks to the barrier net, they won’t be able to get away when Manton Dam next floods and, worse still, plummet to near death on the other side.

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There’s exciting news from Corroboree Billabong: the iconic waterway is chockers with barra this year.

These are pretty well all juvenile barra that were spawned last build-up and travelled freely up the Mary River with this last great wet season flooding.

I understand you can see little barra swimming all over the place at Corroboree.

It’s just what we needed to ensure some good barra fishing at the big lagoon in the years ahead.

Mostly, they are fish in the 35-45cm range, but this time next year they should all be legal.

In three years’ time, expect lots of 70cm-plus barra… and so on and so forth.



Michael Bullock is likely a member of the Manton Dam Secret Society… given that he catches metrey barra like this there all the time.