The starter’s gun is cocked and ready to fire at midnight when season three of Million Dollar Fish gets under way. Originally devised to increase fishing tourism to the Northern Territory, which has certainly worked, it has also galvanised Top End anglers into something akin to a barra fishing frenzy. On that note, I have no doubt that there’ll be 100s of boats on the water tomorrow, each carrying anglers who’ll be fishing hard to catch one of the 100 red-tagged barra worth 10K each and, of course, that one tagged fish which will be worth a cool $million. I won’t write any more about Million Dollar Fish in my column today as you can read all about it in tomorrow’s special MDF lift-out magazine. …………………………………………………….. It’s all been happening out at Bynoe Harbour lately, first with the Territory Saltwater Fly Fishing Challenge, and then with the Top End Barra Series (TEBS) round five. TEBS has been happening for a few years now, and its competition format has been a winner for sure. Six times a year over a weekend, a competition round is held on one or other Top End waterway, and often more than 100 anglers turn up to compete. It’s always a very social event, with boats rafting up together sometimes more than a dozen at a time. Round five, the second last for the year, was held last weekend at Bynoe across some pretty big tides. TEBS co-ordinator, Ross Abraham, told me that competitors were so scattered throughout Bynoe Harbour that there appeared to be few people fishing the competition. “This was certainly the case in Milne Inlet where there was minimal boat traffic and it seemed like a week day,” Ross said. “Bynoe has a healthy stock of small barra, and many of these were caught and released over the weekend. “Like other systems across the Top End, it seems that there had been two hatchings last spawning season: a lot of fish in the 40-50cm bracket but also some sub-30cm fish hungry to take a lure as well. “Fishing was hard at times as there were masses of jelly prawns for predators to feast on,” Ross reported. One of things I like about fishing Bynoe Harbour is the variety of species you normally catch. When the barra aren’t biting, small soft-plastic and hard-body lures will generally turn up threadies, grunters, mangrove jack, goldies, tarpon, little queenies and always small cod. On days when the barra are biting as well, it can get quite hectic. Dustin Menke said 11 varied species came aboard his boat in this penultimate TEBS round. Apparently, Jason Reynhout had a ball on the weekend, catching 13 legal barra, some rats and two threadfin. “Paddle-tail soft plastics and Reidy’s vibes were generally the order of the day but smaller Reidy’s B52s and mini Classic F18s worked a treat,” Ross said. “Having lures small enough to match the jelly prawns the fish were after was a dilemma for most competitors. “I’m not sure why more TEBS competitors do not switch to a fly rod at this time of the year. “The bite window for barra was random over the two days, sometimes lasting less than 20 minutes. “The best times were around that crucial tide swing on the low. “Flats fishing was the order of the day and people reported large schools of barra cruising the shallows,” Ross said. Apparently, his team got so carried away looking for signs of fish, they ended up grounding their boat on a small finger of gravel, and remained there for several hours until the tide came in. It seems another crew also enjoyed what the mud flats had to offer, they too stranding for several hours. All up, 112 barra over 50cm were caught in two days. “The number of fish recorded was an increase on the previous two years at Bynoe,” Ross said. The overall winner for the round was Steve Jones who managed some great fish over the weekend. Simon Bochow was second and James Park came in third. The final TEBS round for 2017 will be held over the weekend of the 28-29 October around the Adelaide River estuary system. ……………………………………………………………………… Darwin Fly Rodders’ annual Territory Saltwater Fly Fishing Challenge was a far-less-busy affair, with just seven teams competing this year. However, in two and a half days of competition across Bynoe Harbour, amazingly there were more than 800 fish caught. This competition is a challenge all right – there are seven eligible species and the emphasis is on the number of species caught each day, with bonus points awarded. For example, three species caught by a team earn 600 points, while seven species are worth 2000 bonus points. Interstate angler, Gerhard Vrijburg, fished with Matt Hayne, and caught all seven species in one day. Matt is Darwin Fly Rodders President, and he told me that, at one stage, he was hooked up to a good queenfish while Gerhard was also hooked up to a queenie. “The electric outboard was out of control and took us straight into a mud bank,” Matt said. “Buggered if I know how we managed to land both fish because it was farcical. “Gerhard had his seven fish done and dusted by 10am on the second day, an incredible feat,” Matt told me. Tony O’Malley and Matt Harding in Team Strippers were runaway winners of the Saltwater Fly Fishing Challenge, amassing 12,768 points. Dapper Slappers, Glenn Hubble and Roger Sinclair, came second with 7948 points, while Team Totally Barraletic’s Matt Hayne and Gerhard Vrijburg were a close third with 6404 points. Tony O’Malley was Champion Angler, followed by Matt Harding and Roger Sinclair. Competitors raved about how well the Sand Palms Roadhouse looked after the fly fishos. ……………………………………………… PHOTOS: Dwight Shephard’s ripper 80cm barra was the biggest from round five of the Top End Barra Series held in Bynoe Harbour.
Laurence Russo was the TEBS highest-scoring junior angler.
Steve Jones with one of his TEBS round five winning fish.
This team had plenty of time to dwell on the precautions needed when fishing Bynoe Harbour on spring low tides.
Matt Hayne with one of the better queenfish from the Territory Saltwater Fly Fishing Challenge
NT Fisheries supplied this image which clearly shows that the new Shady Camp boat ramp is well inside the 100m zone from the Shady Camp barrage and only lures and flies with one single barbless hook can be used.