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Alex's Fishing Report 27 July 2017

This year seems to be the year of phenomena in respect of the Top End fishing scene. First, we’ve experienced – and continue to experience – perhaps the biggest recruitment of juvenile barramundi in living memory. Every river and every billabong across the Top End seems to be chockers with baby barra which came from the spawning run of late 2016 and thrived in the subsequent long and major wet season. Last week I wrote about the tens and tens of thousands of puppy dog barra at Four Mile Hole which, from my personal experience, has the greatest concentration of these little fish than in any other inland waterway. However, while the inland fishing scene is a picture of health with so many “barra baby boomers”, an equally-significant phenomenon is happening down Dundee way: sailfish and black marlin are roaming the waters wide of Fog Bay in such numbers that some people are calling this neophyte fishery “world class”. It’s been happening since last April, with regular billfish anglers literally pigging out on big numbers of mainly sailfish but also small black marlin. It’s not unusual for sailfish to be caught wide of Dundee in April/May, but never in such numbers and never so late in the dry season. Normally off Dundee, or anywhere else along the Darwin coast, when you raise a billfish, it’s a loner. Sometimes there might be a pair come up to your teaser and behind your skipping garfish or swimming mullet baits, or your konahead-style pusher. However, it must be sailfish soup down Dundee way because pods of six or more voracious, competing sailfish are charging in and smashing the baits. Just check out the Facebook page Darwin Billfish Reports and you’ll see the sorts of numbers boats are finding. With billfishing, there is a numerical code boats use to quickly describe the action experienced on the day. Three tallies are numbered: fish raised, fish hooked and fish captured and released. So, if a boat raises 10 sails, hooks five and lands three, the tally would be scribed as 10-5-3. Well that’s the sort of action being experienced; in fact, some boats have been having scores around the 20-12-8 mark, for example. Also different to previous years is the average size of sails encountered. Previously they’ve been juveniles of 8-12kg but the run this year is averaging 15-20kg. It must be remembered that a 20kg sailfish is well over 2m long, so it’s a damn impressive catch. As mentioned earlier, there are also small black marlin showing up with surprising consistency. Some of these are really small – 8kg or less – but a few blacks around the 50-70kg mark have been caught. You sure know it when one those maniacal fish jumps on! Now, I been asking around to try and nail just why we are experiencing such world-class billfishing at the moment. Everyone reckons the great wet season we just experienced has much to do with it, and that’s almost certainly correct. However, one of Darwin’s most-experienced anglers on the billfish scene, Clint Jebbink, told me that the water out wide of Dundee is clearer and bluer than he’s ever seen it before. “We reckon it might also be the currents swinging in closer this year because the water is blue/blue like you wouldn’t believe,” Clint said. “It’s like you get out on the deep blue oceans. “Also, the baitfish out there has to be seen to be believed – herring, sardines and even pilchards,” Clint said. Pilchards are very rare in our waters, and these are big ones like the WA pilchards you buy for bait. Another upside of this phenomenon is that lots of Darwin anglers have joined the ranks and have become first-timers on the billfish scene. It seems 100s of fishos who’ve never chased a billfish before are getting out there and having a go; and most are learning fast and catching fish. Not surprisingly, there’s been an economic spin-off. Jason Deigan at Fishing and Outdoor World told me: “The amount of teasers we’re selling is unreal. “Also, lots of bigger spin gear is walking out of the door; we’ve never sold so many big reels before. “Mainly people are buying Shimano Saragosa 10000 reels, and coupling them to Shimano Terez 15-40lb game rods. “And they’re going out in 4.5m tinnies,” Jason said. Ron Voukolos from Fishing and Outdoor World said that it’s become a consistent fishery. “I’m ordering lots of circle-style hooks and game-fishing accessories that we’ve never stocked before,” Ron said. Peter Dienhoff who co-ordinates the annual NT Billfish Classic run by Darwin Game Fishing Club said: “We’re waiting to see if the fish hang around for the tournament late in the year.” Given just how surprised we all are that so many sailfish and quite a few marlin are still hanging around our waters, you’d have to think this phenomenal season will end soon. Until it does though, you’d be crazy not to have a shot at it while you can. Pop into your local tackle store and buy some serious fishing gear… and check out Darwin Billfish Reports on Facebook because all the GPS marks are there for everyone to use. PHOTOS: Nathan Corpus (left) and Shane Compain with their first sailfish success fishing Dundee wide this week. Shane acknowledged the mentoring from champion billfish angler, Doug Saunders. Doug Saunders (left) and Clint Jebbink with a beaut black marlin from the phenomenal fishery. Angelo Tartaggiam fished with Stuey Brisbane of Daly River Barra Resort and caught his fish of a lifetime: a whopping 114cm barra.


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