After a dry season with favourable breezes for much of the time, we’ve had a fair bit of windy weather over the past month, and it’s only been getting stronger this past week. It’s not only reduced the options for the smaller-tinny brigade but it’s also stopped the bigger trailer boats from heading offshore for full day trips. Of course, as I’ve written many times, 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 five 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, including by myself a fortnight ago. However, last weekend’s neap tides were far from ideal for harbour barra tides. On Saturday, I managed to sneak out with an old mate to try for a few muddies. It was a big ask because there was only 0.75m run-in. But the crabbing has been going crazy over the last few weeks, which is probably why we managed to catch half a dozen big ones; throwing one back because it had lost its claws. It’s back to nice spring tides this weekend and, as we approach the Build-up, the barra should be on the chew in both Darwin and Bynoe Harbours. It’s not a bad low tide height this Saturday, and it’s on the right side of the tidal phase; ie getting lower each day afterwards until Monday. Both days, the low tides lend themselves to a relaxed start around 9.00am, and you’ll be off the water in time to throw some fillets on the barbie during daylight hours. 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 a treat in the harbour too; my favourite is the Zerek Cherabin in white. But other proven softies will also be worth a shot, including small Squidgy Slick Rigs and the 3-inch Z-man MinnowZ. 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, 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, if you boat 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. 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. Even if you don’t catch a fish at Corroboree, it’s still a wonderful, nature-filled day on the water.
Roger Sinclair’s Darwin Harbour barra succumbed to a lime green Z-man MinnowZ fished weedless.
Crystal Neal had to circle her dad’s boat before she finally landed this ripper Bynoe Harbour black jewfish.