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Darwin Day Tripping

Darwin Day Tripping – By John Cahill

At the outset sorry there are sooo many photos! it’s just that the fishing was that good!  Click on the images to see in hi – res!

I have been in discussions with Darwin based fishing tourism operator Fish The Top End for about 18 months planning a Northern Territory escape and it finally came together, right in time to escape a bitterly cold Melbourne winter.  Having fished the NT before, I knew that the focus is so often Barra, Barra, Barra but I was keen to look at some of the other dry season options… The Territory has a lot more to offer and with that in mind a week of day trips from Darwin was put together, perhaps not overly conventional but a unique way to cast a broad net and experience it all!  All of our sessions were booked and coordinated for us via Fish The Top End, matching us with the right guides and most importantly the particular species we wanted to target on the prevailing tides.  Here is a little report of what the dry season can turn on especially when being put ‘on the spot’ by a quality guide.

Day one we had a lateish start as we flew in that morning and you guessed it, our rods had been sent to Sydney and had not made the flight with us – thank you Virgin!!!  Not deterred it was off with jeans and on with board shorts (yep, it was 31 degrees a far cry from freezing Melbourne), Benjamin Currell our guide from Vision Sportfishing had us covered with quality gear and by mid morning we were sight casting barramundi in Shoal Bay.  8 or 9 saltys hit the net in a fun and action packed morning with one stretching the tape to a little over 70 cm’s, Lucky Craft Pointers 78XD did the trick on all the fish.  A quick lunch and we ventured off shore from Darwin and got stuck into a host of mackerel species in a hot bite session with a mixture of jigging techniques, all in sight of the CBD of Darwin – how good is that.

Nice dry season salty – expertly guided by Benjamin Currell from Vision Sportfishing

Maccies on the jig galore – fun on light spin / jig gear

Andrew Smith and Benjamin Currell release a double header

Benjamin Currell proves is a dog eat dog world

 Day two saw a change of original plans and we had a late start to fit in with the tides and Andrew and I got to fulfil a long standing ambition – to chase milkfish.  Mike Jones took us out in his little tiller steer tinny and we anchored up in a not so secret spot.  A steady stream of Woolworths finest white bread saw hundreds of diamond scale mullet show up immediately and it was not too long before a couple of large milkys turned up as well, the long sickle like tail fin and bigger splashes as they slurp down bread is a dead give away.  A double hook up ensured and torrid battle with some of the fastest fish I have ever experienced.  Fishing light we were given an absolute run around and I would rate it as one of the most exhilarating fishing experiences – a definite highlight for me.

JC’s Milky with CBD Darwin in the Background – supercharged fish

Andrew Smith spears his milkfish back in the drink

 Day three we were collected by Obsession Fishing Safaris Justin Jones in the early hours and we made the 90 minute trek to Dundee Beach.  Blasting to some well guarded marks we were met with one of the hottest large mackerel bites I have experienced!  Every pass over the reef saw double and triple hook ups with plenty of giant barracuda getting in on the act as well and the rampant mackies.  Leaving a hot bite to chase jewfish would probably be ill advised however Andrew and I had a definite hankering for one and we covered some serious water to catch the change of tide on spot X.  After settling at anchor, it only took 15 minutes for my bait to be engulfed and rod load with a rampaging fish.  93 cm’s of black jew emerged from the depths and I was over the moon, thanks Justin for putting me on a fish that has frustrated me for some time!

Black jew…. its taken a long time for you to come my way – THANK YOU Justin Jones

Yep….. seriously large mackerel and lots of them

Tropical odds and sods – blue salmon

Nice rig – perfect for fishing the top end

Day four we jumped on board a traditional charter boat with 14 other customers.  Arafura Bluewater Charters did a great job of putting every person on board a hot mackerel bite and followed up with a great bottom dropping session on nannygai and spangled emperor.  Its a good value trip if hiring a guide is not your thing.

A five way hook up on Spaniards on one of Arafura’s boats – mayhem

Day five we again ventured out with Benjamin Currell from Vision Sportfishing and Mike Jones chasing the NT’s famous longtail tuna (northern bluefin).  As the tide started to push into Darwin Harbor the tuna schools started to show themselves popping up and disappearing just as quickly.  With some persistence, local knowledge and fancy boat driving we tracked the schools down as the day wore on and sight casting to busting or cruising schools we managed 8 lovely tuna all on surface lures, even Ben jumped in to do some filming the crazy bugger.  On light tackle these were fun fish to catch in the 8 – 12 kilo range and a variety of top water lures were effective including Shout! Engras, Duel Adagios, Adhek Bali Baby Goby and Z man plastics.

Yay another tuna species ticked off – Benjamin Currell knows these guys well

Ben…… you know there are sharks in there right?

Lit – up!

These speedsters were a sucker for the Shout! Engra Plug

Day six we were off to the famous Corroboree Billabong with Chris Jones from River and Reef Fishing Charters.  Arriving just on dawn it was surprising how chilly it was blasting along the billabong on dawn getting to our first spot.  Sarratoga were the order of the day and a bucket list species for me.  Beginning with fishing the surface it was quite an experience – hard to get your head around how deep into the lilly pads you needed to cast – waaaay back thank goodness for weedless rigging on the Scumfrogs and Live Target Field Mouse lures we were using.  The surface bite was a little slower than hoped for but we both managed a couple of conversions and a couple of bonus freshwater barra hitting the top water with gusto.  So many toga’ s were actually hitting the lures but the conversion to hook ups were poor, about 10%.  Chris declared that the top water bite was over and we switched to slow rolled spinner baits which produced many hits as the morning wore into early afternoon, literally dozens of hard hitting saratoga were wrestled from their gnarly lair.  This is a must do day out on Corroboree that is about much more than just fishing.

A barra is good anytime. But on a surface lure – bonus!

There is a lot more to Corroboree than fishing

Chris Jones has an absolute passion for these fish

Back she goes – these are very hardy fish

These fish have a prehistoric feel about them

Day seven we were again collected early by Justin from Obsession and we trekked to Dundee Beach.  Changing tact from our last visit, it was a day of top water popping and stickbaiting the shallow reefs on massive tides.  The water flow fired up the resident GT’s, brassy trevally, queenfish and a host of other species (including sharks) coming on the bite and hounding our lures in sometimes pack attacks.  Dozens of hits, misses and hookups ensued over super shallow reef and lure losses were as expected.

Justin Jones from Obsession with a stunning brassy trevally

The closing stages of a small GT battle

One wrestled from the jaws of a shark

This rounded out our experience with a bit of sight seeing on our fly-out day.  We seriously thank Fish The Top End and all our quality guides who are great people as well as talented and hard working fisho’s as well as Travelodge Mirrumbena, our very comfortable and convenient home for the trip, it was nice to enjoy a beer by the pool at the end of each day and they did a great job of cooking up a nice meal of Spanish Mac for us.  I seriously recommend all these operators and service of Fish The Top End – any time of year!

While we have your attention – take a look at this short video, you won’t be disappointed!

Crazy Queenfish

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