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Alex's Fishing Report 21/10/2017

With so much happening on the Top End angling scene, I just wonder if I can get it all in and give it justice this week. Firstly, and most importantly to myself and many 1000s of anglers, last Friday there was a monumental release of ravenous Cyrtobagous salviniae weevils in our iconic Four Mile Hole in Kakadu National Park. This has been an ongoing saga of considerable proportions. Over the last four years, I’ve flagged a few times the dire situation at Four Mile Hole which had been literally blanketed by the noxious South American plant salvinia. Following very poor wet seasons, last year it was so bad that Kakadu park management had no option other than to close the lagoon for the whole year. To its credit, park management reopened Four Mile in May this year following a record wet season which had flushed an estimated 90 per cent of the salvinia out of the lagoon and down to tidal waters where it undoubtedly perished. But it’s been steadily growing back and destined to blossom across the lagoon again if another good wet doesn’t eventuate. Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation in Jabiru and its proactive Djurrubu Rangers. The corporation was looking for a program for its female rangers and Senior Field Ranger, Margaret Rawlinson, and hubby, Head Ranger Matt Rawlinson, encouraged the Djurrubu Rangers to commence a large-scale weevil-breeding program. “Somebody had to do it,” Matt told me. “The whole program’s important because, if the salvinia takes over the waterways, there’ll be no fishing, and so many people love coming to Kakadu to fish. “Without support and help, there will be no fishing – we need to get rid of the salvinia. “We have eight 12,000L tanks each holding 3000-4000 weevils. “They have a 28-day breeding cycle and we release once a month timed to capitalise on this cycle when the eggs are about to hatch,” Matt explained. Between 1000 and 1500 weevils were released into Four Mile Hole, which is many, many times more than previous releases. Interestingly, they were released with living clumps of salvinia that were raked into existing salvinia patches in the lagoon; although you could see the darker salvinia poured into the water was not nearly as healthy looking as the thriving plants already on the water. Also present for the release was Kadadu Head Ranger for South Alligator, Kharn Spokes, and NT Weed Management’s scientists Louis Elliott and Chris Parker. It was great to see a unified approach to attacking the salvinia. Matt said the next release on a Kakadu-salvinia-infested waterway will be early January, and there are big plans ahead for Four Mile. “As soon as we can get in, we’re going to absolutely hammer it with weevils so they’ve got all dry season to clean it up,” he told me. Now how good is that? Celebrating its 30th anniversary, it was a different Humminbird Corroboree Park Challenge last weekend. Normally most anglers stick to Corroboree Billabong, but they were spread far and wide in this great Palmerston Game Fishing Club event. Competition co-ordinator, Andrew Hunt, together with various family members and club helpers, made sure everything ran like clockwork in this true family-fishing event. “We received the biggest participation rate recorded for a fourth year running with a staggering 113 teams, 255 adult anglers and 59 juniors,” Andrew said. With a few barra in the low 90s, it was close for the Overall Champion Angler. Andrew Smith claimed that prize with a 93cm barra from Alligator Billabong in Kakadu. In gender categories, Champion Male went to Sayd Metcalfe for his 90cm barra, and Champion Female was Sharon Impey with an 82cm fish. In the junior categories, the four winners were Charlie Hebron, Renna Francis, Mitch Francis and Hayden Oates. Theirs were notable catches with barra measuring 73cm to 82cm. It seems the dots have been joined at last in respect of the distribution of one of the world’s great sportfish: the broadbill swordfish. Last week, a juvenile specimen was caught commercially wide of Darwin. It’s only in the last 20 years that broadbill have really become to be understood in Australian waters. For decades anglers had been trying to catch them fishing the edge of the continental shelf where they congregate around deep seamounts and canyons. Now they are targeted and caught readily off NSW, Tasmania and Western Australia. I’m tipping it’ll be a long time between drinks before another broadbill swordfish sees daylight in Darwin waters, but at least we know they’re out there. PHOTOS:

1. In an historic occasion, up to 1500 salvinia weevils are transported by Djurrubu Rangers to Four Mile Hole for release and hopefully to enjoy a scrumptious meal of the noxious salvinia floating weed.

2. Djurrubu Head Ranger, Matt Rawlinson, rakes the introduced dying salvinia containing the weevils and larvae into a large salvinia patch.

3. Tim Smith’s 93cm barra was a worthy winning fish in the Humminbird Corroboree Park Challenge.

4. This colossal Tasmanian broadbill swordfish was caught by Tim Simpson… the enigmatic gamefish is now known to inhabit NT waters.


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