Posts Tagged ‘Fishing Season’
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.
Australia’s Northern Territory has three basic seasons – the wet season monsoon (usually late December to April), the dry season (May to September) and the stormy "build-up" – the time of increasing heat and humidity leading up to the wet season (late September to December).
There is usually very little "build-down" from the wet season as the cool dry season south-easterly wind arrives almost overnight once the monsoon weakens.
What does all this mean for barramundi fishing?
Barramundi love heat. They bite really well in the build-up when it is warm, and they are preparing to spawn. But this can also be an uncomfortable time to fish unless you limit trips to the cooler mornings and afternoons, and at night.
During the early wet season the weather is often cooler but barramundi can be hard to catch as the rivers flood and the fish spread out in the floodwaters.
Towards the end of the wet season the fish tend to gather in certain areas, usually the mouths of floodplain creeks.
This is the run-off season and it is a great time to fish. A wet season that drops rain consistently from December produces better fishing than a wet season that dumps it all in one lot late in February or March.
Just after the wet season is the "greenwater" period where the rivers are full of greenish (clear by Territory standards) rainwater. This is a great time to fish because water clarity is good. Territory rivers are otherwise muddy and turbid.
Once the dry season south-easterly hits, the water in rivers and billabongs begins to cool and barramundi slow down, however they can be caught right through the year, especially during warm spells. Barramundi fishing is therefore something you can enjoy all year.
Successful barramundi fishing requires an understanding of northern seasons. Let’s start from January. It’s the wet season and the rivers are swollen. Barra are moving up the rivers and out onto the floodplains feeding on frogs, tadpoles, rainbow fish and the like.
With so much water about, the fish can be hard to find, but anglers who fish inflows, junctions or eddies, or where bait is concentrated, will find barramundi.
By March, the floodplains are flowing clear water into the rivers and sea. This is the “run-off”, when fishing is at its best. Barramundi can be found lurking at the floodplain creek mouths.
The best fishing is usually as the floodplains empty their final contents.
By April/May, when most of the floodplain-fed creeks have dried up, a strong freshwater flow remains in the big rivers, and barramundi are targeted in the clear green water. Trolling and casting to eddies and structure can work well, as well as working mullet schools on the incoming tide.
In tidal waters, barramundi will travel up and down a river with the tide, providing short but furious action as they pass by.
By June, as the upper rivers stop flowing, barramundi become landlocked in billabongs, where they become creatures of ambush, waiting in weeds, snags and rockbars for passing meals. Cold spells will slow them down. Successful anglers work in close to snags, losing lures but hooking more fish.
If trolling and you feel the lure hitting snags or the bottom, you have got it right. Use lures that dive to the depth your sounder shows. Bibbed lures that float when stationary are good for trolling as they bump over snags, floating up when line is released. Sinking lures can be dropped beside deep snags.
Towards the end of the dry season, about September, as the weather warms in the build-up to the wet season, barramundi become aggressive and fishing improves tenfold. September, October and November are great fishing months, although the noon heat and afternoon storms put some people off.
The monsoon hits in December, when westerly winds and driving rain see most fisherman preparing their gear for the year ahead.
Barramundi often feed best at night, and in the early morning and late afternoon. They can easily find a lure in complete darkness. Despite the fish’s large size, small lures fitted with strong hooks often work well, especially during the run-off when tiny bait abounds, and when tiny prawns fill the estuaries.
Northern Territory barramundi fishing – DIY
You can catch barramundi without a professional guide, using your own boat. It is hard work, but a lot of fun at the same time. Click the link for more information about DIY barramundi fishing.
Meanhile, check out some barramundi fishing videos.