We’ve had a fair bit of windy weather so far this dry season; not enough to stop the bigger trailer boats from heading offshore but certainly reducing the options for the smaller-tinny brigade. Of course, one of the great things about fishing in the Top End is that, when the winds are blowing, you can always go chase a barra. When the tides suit, saltwater estuaries like those in Darwin Harbour and Bynoe Harbour offer plenty of opportunities to chase barra in wind-free spots. Darwin Harbour, in particular, is a delightfully-easy location to stalk barramundi because it’s right on our doorstep and there are four harbour arms with lots of creeks, plenty of rock-bars, endless flats and a zillion gutters. The harbour has been fishing exceptionally well of late, with double-figure catches being reported regularly. Last Saturday, the tides were still at the end of their neap phase, though moving fast to the springs. Even Sunday’s low tide was 2.8m, about a metre higher than ideal for the harbour; but that didn’t stop silver fish from biting. Speaking of an ideal low tide height, this Saturday it’s 1.4m, albeit a bit late in the day at 3.17pm. But that does lend itself to a relaxed start around 11.00am, and you can still be off the water by dark. A late session like that might also really spark a good harbour barra bite. Arm yourself with the usual Bombers, both 15A and the smaller 14A, Classic Just Unders, Reidy’s Junior B52s, Reidy’s Hellraisers and Killalure Terminators. Greens are good, but other natural colours are also the go. Soft plastic prawn imitations work in the harbour too; my favourite is the Zerek Cherabin in white. Of course, it’s not only saltwater barra that you can target when the wind gets blowing. Up here, the world is your oyster when it comes to inland waterways. In that department, where would we be without good old Corroboree Billabong? When the winds are blowing, thus making offshore ventures decidedly uncomfortable, and the tides aren’t right for the saltwater estuaries, and you don’t want to spend hours travelling and losing fishing time, what a great option Corroboree is. Thankfully, this iconic inland waterway has been improving with each passing week. Darwin anglers really are fortunate that Corroboree Billabong is so close to our northern capital. Across a vast and largely-remote Top End landscape, one spanning many tens of thousands of square kilometres, to have the Territory’s largest land-locked inland waterway hardly more than hour’s drive away is a blessing indeed. The well-signposted turn-off is to the left off the Arnhem Highway, just past Corroboree Park Tavern. A remarkable labyrinth of narrow, winding channels that connect half a dozen magical pools – varying in length from more than 15km to less than a racetrack – Corroboree boasts more than 45km of fishable waterways. Right from the concrete boat ramp launch site, anglers are faced with the decision of motoring off either left or right. To the left, once out of sight of the ramp only 200m away, there is Nobby’s Pool, a small waterway that is often quite productive. Of course, if you head to the right of the ramp, and straight ahead, a world of barra-fishing options beckons you. Most anglers turn left at the first channel that leads to the main Corroboree pool, but the option, and sometimes a good ploy, particularly if it is windy, is to go past this channel in the direction of Black Fella Island. This pool has the whole gamut of straight, twisted, wide and narrow stretches, including fishy spots with heavily-treed banks that provide cover from the wind. Heading back and through the 1km-long, narrow channel leading to the main pool, a third option presents itself: keep heading for the main body or chuck a right into an extremely narrow, winding channel that leads to the famous Rockhole. There are actually two pools in what is known as the Rockhole. Most anglers travel through the first, much-smaller pool without stopping, and into the main Rockhole via yet another narrow channel where outboards may even bottom out late in the year. This larger pool is long and wide, and a favourite with professional fishing guides in the know. The Rockhole has its own boat ramp which is accessed from the Shady Camp road, off the Arnhem Highway. My favourite pool has always been the Big Pool; this was where I caught my very first Territory barra back in ’78. The Big Pool is reached by continuing past the turn-off to the Rockhole. There are many famous bends, grass beds, submerged snags, lotus-lily stretches, gutters and even rockbars in this remarkable and scenic 15km stretch of water. It’s a beautiful place to fish – home to a myriad of bird and wildlife, including some of the biggest crocodiles in the Territory – and at times offers outstanding freshwater barra and saratoga fishing. The Big Pool is the domain of the houseboats and, if you haven’t spent a couple of days cruising Corroboree on a Mary River Houseboat, you haven’t racked up one of the Territory’s truly great experiences. The bottom end of the Big Pool is generally understood to be Catfish Island. From here on is another narrow channel that leads to the Bottom Pool which also has a very small pool going off to its left. There is often terrific fishing in the Bottom Pool, especially if you’re competing in the annual NT Freshwater Flyfishing Tournament and you’re intent on catching a cricket-score number of tarpon. Finally there is a very special pool which is only barely accessible through a short channel, often overgrown with lotus lilies. This is Pandanus Billabong – only 3km long and one of those hot/cold spots that fishes well one year and not the next. If you don’t catch a fish at Corroboree, life’s still good anyway. PHOTOS: Mr Bomber Lures, Simon Boaler, recently visited the NT and caught this terrific Corroboree on what else but a Bomber lure.
Gavin Bedford’s silver barra was one of a swag caught by him and Roger Sinclair in Darwin Harbour.
Roger Sinclair reckons the harbour arms are alive with not only barra but also threadfin salmon.