Posts Tagged ‘Best Places to Fish’
By MATT FLYNN of North Australian FISH FINDER TM
The Northern Territory is one of the most remote, unpopulated parts of Australia. Many visitors are pleasantly surprised by the standard of the roads and the modern amenities available.
Nonetheless, from a barramundi fishermen’s point of view, Territory conditions are different from those down south, and fishermen equipped with the right vehicle, boat and fishing tackle will enjoy the Top End fishing experience to the full.
That’s not to say you can’t have a great time with a 2WD vehicle, a car-topper dinghy and a two-bob fishing rod. But sooner or later you will want to upgrade to really enjoy barramundi fishing. Here we look at what is best suited to local conditions.
Barramundi fishing vehicles
A four-wheel-drive vehicle is a distinct advantage in the Northern Territory, but by no means essential.
While many of the best fishing spots have sealed road access and concrete ramps, some do not. Four-wheel-drive gives you piece of mind, especially launching from the banks of rivers and billabongs.
Likewise, the Northern Territory’s wet season creates boggy conditions. And who wants to be restricted to sealed roads?
Steep billabong and river banks in remote are much easier to launch from with a 4WD vehicle.
Whatever vehicle you will use for barramundi fishing, ensure the cooling system is in first-class working order because travelling a hot Territory road with a trailer in tow will quickly test a poor cooling system.
Always carry extra cooling water. Carry spare fan belts, at least two spare tyres if travelling off-road, and a can of the proprietary aerosol puncture repairs products. If you are going bush in a 4WD vehicle you should carry a full set of recovery gear. A snatch strap, kangaroo jack and spade are a minimum requirement. A winch is handy, but the best safety policy when going to remote areas is to travel with another vehicle.
Barramundi fishing requires trevalling long distances in the Northern Territory to reach some of the more remote places.
For this reason, a long-range fuel tank or a couple of jerry cans can be invaluable, and you should also carry a back-up supply of drinking water. Large, good quality cool boxes or portable fridges are essential for keeping perishables fresh. If you are planning a trip to a remote area, get a detailed map.
The ideal barramundi fishing boat
The beauty of the Top End is that you only need a small boat to enjoy it, and that is why the Territory is the home of the aluminium dinghy.
Sure, there are remote islands and shoals accessible only to those who own a 7m cruiser.
But you can always visit these places on a charter boat. I have listed here the perfect fleet for fishing the Top End. Few people could afford such a fleet, so I have also described an ideal all-round boat below.
A specialist barramundi fishing boat is usually from 4.8m to 6m in length with a suitable engine for high-speed travel. It has front and rear casting decks. It has long range fuel and an electric motor for trolling. A good sounder/GPS unit is useful, if not essential. The boat will also have ample water storage and eskie space, plus a radio or satellite phone. It will have space to stow camping gear, and a canopy that can be easily stowed so as to not get in the way when the fish are on.
Hulls can be any hard-wearing material, usually alloy or polly (plastic), as collisions with rocks and tree stumps are common.
Barramundi fishing car-toppers
A 3.5m lightweight cartopper punt or V-bottom with 3hp outboard is handy for places where there is no boat ramp. This lightweight rig is for those hard-to-get-at inland billabongs and upstream reaches where you must launch from the bank and manhandle the boat over rocks and other obstacles.
The boat is too small for the big rivers and harbour arms and offers little corocdile or poor-weather safety. It fishes two people comfortably.
Barramundi fishing dinghies
A 3.8m to 4.8m dinghy or punt with 30hp to 50hp outboard is ideal for tackling the Top End’s tidal rivers, harbour arms and creeks. Whether you choose a runabout (steering at front), centre console (steering in middle) or tiller mount (steering at rear) is up to you.
Family fishermen might prefer a runabout, but a centre console or tiller mount is best for fishing, because it gives the most room. This boat fishes three or four people comfortably, but only two will fish happily in the smaller sizes, as there is a lot of lure casting in barramundi fishing, and having treble hooks whizzing around in a small boat is not safe.
There is a huge range of trailerable 5m to 6.5m half-cabins, cuddy cabins, centre consoles and runabouts. The bigger the boat, the more range, load-carrying capacity, safety … and price. These boats aren’t ideal for barramundi fishing, but they will get you into remote areas.
There is plenty of reef fishing to enjoy far off Darwin, and these are the craft to get there. But avoid small half-cabins if you are serious about your fishing. The cabin is often ultimately considered just hot and a waste of space in the tropics.
We will take a punt (excuse the pun) at choosing the perfect all-round boat for the Top End. It’s a 5m aluminium centre console hull with a 60hp to 115hp outboard motor. The hull is big enough to fish coastal reefs, yet small enough to take barra fishing in the rivers and billabongs. It is light to tow and draws little water. A centre console provides the most space, fishing four people.
Useful extras for barramundi fishing
Aside from fishing tackle and serviceable safety gear, every fishing boat should carry:
1. Global Positioning Unit (GPS);
2. Quality echo sounder;
3. Shade canopy;
5. Soft seats (or pieces of foam rubber);
6. Livebait tank and berley bucket;
7. Gaff and landing net;
8. Quality ice-box;
9. First-aid kit;
11. Fuel and outboard oil reserve (perhaps 20L of petrol and 500ml of oil).
Trailers for the north
Do not buy the cheapest trailer you can find. The mudguards will probably fall off as you drive down the first corrigated road. Heat and humidity means you should get a solid galvanised trailer.
Did you know?
You are not allowed to use a speargun to take barramund in in the NT. And you are not allowed to take mud crabs from Kakadu National Park. Click the link to download a brochure of Northern Territory barramundi fishing regulations.
The best regions in Australia to target barramundi are the Northern Territory, the west side of Cape York Peninsula down to the lower Gulf of Carpentaria coast, and the WA Kimberley.
Of these regions, the Northern Territory offers the best combination of pristine habitat and accessibility.
The best barramundi rivers have unaltered floodplains that hold an “inland sea” of water during the wet season, letting the water slowly drain away after the wet season, leaving a series of permanent waterholes.
On the East Coast such rivers did exist, but were long ago transformed by dams and weirs, and their floodplains drained, severely affecting the barramundi populations, as barramundi require free passage from freshwater to salt each year.
Barramundi can be caught in tidal rivers, freshwater lagoons, and along coastal foreshores. They are a hardy and adaptable fish that can be found almost anywhere along the coast, although their preference is for turbid water and muddy creeks and rivers, rather than clear sandy waterways.
Barramundi tend to congregate in certain areas with the changing seasons, but can be found in any of their usual habitat at any time.
Fishermen who target big barramundi tend to fish the lower sections of big NT tidal rivers such as the Daly, Mary, Adelaide, and East and South Alligator Rivers, and some coastal creeks. Most big fish are caught just after the wet season.
The Northern Territory has excellent roads to boat ramps on most of its wild rivers, but finding barramundi hotspots on these vast waterways can be daunting.
That’s why many people hire professional barramundi guides.
Close to Darwin, the harbour is an excellent spot for smaller barramundi, as is nearby Shoal Bay and Bynoe Harbour. Anywhere with mangroves and tidal creeks, barramundi won’t be far away. A bonus in the NT is that gill nets have been banned from many areas.
The Northern Territory has a stocked dam which provides good fishing at times. Manton Dam is about an hour’s drive south of Darwin, and is a picturesque and safe place to take a family barramundi fishing.
Billabongs are popular venues for mostly smaller barramundi, which are caught in a setting among lillies and loads of wildlife. Billabongs also hold freshwater sportfish such as saratoga and tarpon. Never be tempted to have a swim though as big crocodiles are abundant in the NT.
Barramundi live in a great range of habitats and therefore fishing methods are varied. Most fishing takes place in the salt water and the NT’s tides have to be taken into account.
Barramundi fishing is usually best in early morning, late afternoon and at night. The best tide is usually the last three hours of runout and first two hours of run-in, when barramundi and bait are forced out of the mangroves and into mud drains and tidal flats.
The most popular way to catch barramundi is on lures. Some people use live bait to tempt them but this is considered unsporting by some.
Lures are usually trolled or cast to likely places, which includes snags, rockbars, undercut river banks, and coastal flats where bait is being working by fish.
Lure colour and size are greatly debated but there is no doubt that some days barramundi will show preference for certain lures and colours. At times the fish will feed on a specific food item and a lure will need to imitate that item to get strikes.
Tiny lures can be useful at times, especially during the wet season run-off. Small prawn imitations are very effective in the saltwater as even large barramundi are voracious eaters of small prawns.
The main consideration is that the lures are strong – barramundi will literally tear apart lightly built lures. Fortunately there is a huge range of strong lures available specificially for barramundi fishing.
The soft plastic lures or "jellies" are very effective on barramundi. Click on the following link for more information about barramundi fishing lures.
There are many good places to barramundi fishing. However the big rivers where netting has been banned are where the most big fish are taken.
These include the Roper, Mary, Daly, McArthur, Finniss and Adelaide Rivers. The South and East Alligator Rivers in Kakadu National Park have no netting and are also good fishing spots.
Other good waters accessible to the public include the Victoria, Towns, Robinson, Wearyan, Calvert and Keep Rivers.
The Tiwi Islands north of Darwin have large rivers that fish very well and the Tiwi Land Council has a permit system available through the Amateur Fishermen’s Association NT.
The remote rivers of Arnhem Land are difficult to access because the Northern Land Council rarely approves permits for fishing purposes. The fishing can be very good but not necessarily any better than the rivers where netting has been banned.
There are many other exciting fish species in the Northern Territory that live in the shadow of the famous barramundi. Living in much of the same habitat in the salt water are threadfin and blue salmon, queenfish, trevally, black jewfish, mangrove jacks, grunter and golden snapper. In the fresh water saratoga and tarpon are a popular side catch.
Salmon, queenfish, trevally and salmon-catfish are the most likely bycatch while actually lure fishing for barramundi. Other species generally have to be targeted with bait.
Most of these species are excellent to eat, and some people argue that they are better than barramundi. Either way it helps to mix your catch rather than just take barramundi.
The NT coast is also home to longtail tuna, spanish mackerel, cobia and to a lesser extent sailfish, and many of the grounds are just a short distance from the barramundi hotspots.
On any day several fish species can be caught when fishing the NT coastline.