How good is the dry season?
Every year I seem to forget how great it is to get up to a mildly crisp morning, with zero humidity, cloudless blue sky and the decision to be made as to whether I cover my top half with something a tad warmer than a t-shirt.
Of course, by mid-morning, the temperature outside has finally climbed above the air-conditioning setting in the Cruiser.
If you’ve travelled down a big Top End river at sparrows, the jacket would be off as the sun peaked over the trees… and a high-flying, light-shimmering barra would be a bonus indeed.
Actually, there is some good barra fishing to be had at the moment.
Shady Camp has continued to produce quality fish on the neap tides.
It’s great too that Corroboree is fishing well this year, albeit for small barra.
The big lagoon is definitely an option this weekend, and you won’t be hamstrung by vast fields of lotus lilies as they’re mostly gone after the big wet season.
Another option on the big spring tides is Darwin Harbour.
Mind you, although the morning high on Saturday is 7.6m and on Sunday 7.3m, the low tides both days are well over 2m.
That means a fair bit of current but water levels won’t get low enough to really narrow those channels and expose the mudflats.
Offshore there’ll be plenty of current, so bottom bouncing will be restricted to the turn of the tide.
Nothing wrong with that though, as a tide-turn bite could be fast and furious.
According to Fishing and Outdoor World’s Warren Smith, there’ve been a few mackerel about.
“Chris Hurt got some for clients the other day at Lee Point,” Warren told me.
Lee Point is a great “get-out-of-the-wind” spot when the easterlies are blowing during the dry season.
With those big tides fairly early in the morning on the weekend, it should be a cinch to troll up a nice Spanish mackerel or two on a pulsating Bluewater Sauri.
Anchoring up, berleying with crushed pilchard soup and floating ganged pilchards out the back is also a sure-fire technique that should work at Lee Point this weekend.
If you don’t catch a Spaniard, there are also a few broadbar mackerel hanging around the Point.
Of course, hand in hand with the macs when they move in are longtail tuna; aka “sashimi on fins”.
I just love my sashimi and no flesh lends itself better to this iconic Japanese preparation than longtail tuna.
If you haven’t prepared a tuna – or most any other fish for that matter – to be served up as sashimi, the secret is to fully bleed your fish immediately upon capture.
With longtails, I like to slice around the gills inside the throat and also jab a pointy knife into the fish just behind its pectoral fins.
A slice to the bone just above the tail doesn’t go astray either.
Dunk it up and down in the water until there is no trace of blood coming out.
I like to fillet the tuna immediately, taking great care not to bruise the flesh or cut into the stomach which could let juices flow and contaminate the flesh.
Wash the fillets in salt water and then place them entirely in a plastic bag and put them on adequate ice in such a way that there is no chance of freshwater contamination which would spoil the raw flesh.
At home, carefully skin the fillets and slice only the white meat into thin mini-fillets.
Decorate a plate with the raw strips and serve with sashimi paste and soy sauce… just absolutely scrumptious.
Evan Dixon’s 88cm barra was the biggest fish in round 2 of the Top End Barra Series.