I do fancy the tides this weekend for a shot at a quality saltwater barra or two. For starters, you could certainly do worse than plan a foray to one of the many great spots in the Shoal Bay system. There’ve been plenty of reports of quality barra from the famous Shoal Bay Rock. However, the huge sandbar that has formed in recent years and nearly reaches the base of The Rock has altered how this iconic spot fishes. In the old days, it fished well for barra for the last half of the falling tide and the early make. Now, the barra aren’t holding because of the sandbar and seem to turn up only once the tide has been moving in for a while. Of course, there are so many other great spots in the Shoal Bay system that are capable of producing a metre-plus barra or two. The Howard River itself has some terrific holes that get cut off at low tide and can be fished with lures or live bait for barra in both numbers and size. At the mouth of the Howard is the Little Howard, another great spot to get yourself stranded in. Then there’s Tree Point Inlet further north which is a terrific creek system with some real barra-busting holes, some long enough to be trolled at dead low tide. Closer to Darwin, there’s King Creek which anglers in the know target at high tide around the mouth. One you don’t hear much about is Mickett Creek which is even closer to Darwin than King. Get up inside this little pearler of a system for a low-tide session and you might just chance on some amazing barra fishing. Just quietly, the mud crabbing in Mickett is not too bad either. Then we come to Buffalo Creek, that great bastion of big barra caught land-based and such a convenient place to fish for those living in Darwin’s northern suburbs. Let’s dwell on Buffalo for all those keen Darwin anglers who don’t own a boat. Apparently, there was a big barra well over a metre caught off the shore at Buffalo Creek recently, and it happened on similar tides to this weekend’s tides. Always at this steamy, build-up time of year, there is great fishing available at this handy northern suburbs mangrove waterway. More importantly, the statistics speak for themselves; as long as I can remember, there hasn’t been a build-up go past without a sprinkling of big barra caught from the banks of Buffalo Creek. Fish well over 20kg have not been uncommon and the opportunity is there for anyone to go and have a shot. Night fishing is definitely the most productive. That’s because the big mullet that metre-plus barra love to eat are much more easily ambushed under the cover of darkness. You can fish anywhere along the sand, but there’s a bit of a walking track from the boat ramp up through the scrub to a rock-bar which is a magnet to barra holding up at night. Big poppers work but you’ll need to jerk them so they make enticing “bloops” across the surface. Most fish, however, seem to be caught on slow-retrieved, shallow-diving big minnows. You can choose between the shallow version of Gold Bombers in both 5 inch and 6 inch, shallow Classic 120s and 160s, and Reidy’s B52s in all sizes including Big Ass. Of course, if you want to make absolutely sure something eats your bait, take a cast-net with you and round up some live mullet, the bigger the better. You can keep them alive in a large bucket with one of those nifty little 12 volt aerators that blow bubbles through the water. While I’m on the subject of Buffalo Creek, if it’s just a feed you want, then all you need to do is bait up with prawns and fish for those tasty sand whiting that live in the creek. Any old rod and reel, loaded with 5-8kg braid, with a small running sinker and No 6 long-shank hook attached, will suffice. The whiting aren’t big but a couple of dozen will feed a family easily. And guess what? A slippery little whiting makes a great live bait for a big hungry barra.
Ron Santiago with his 109cm build-up barra from the salt.
Dylan Briar-Mills spears a big barra back after a great fight.
Glenn “Harbourmaster” Hubble is rightly pleased with these beaut goldies.