Over the weekend, the fourth round of the 2019 Top End Barra Series played out on the doorstep of our beloved capital city in Darwin Harbour. Like the backyard for a number of us, this round should basically have been a walk in the park. Well, it was not… and this seems to be the general chorus throughout the year. Barra are fickle creatures and can be incredibly hard to entice when they feel like being stubborn. Our harbour is the largest in Australia and fish have plenty of places to seek refuge. Despite the large number of competitors fishing this round, it was amazing that some competitors still had vast sections of the harbour to themselves.
Weather wise, the water was like glass throughout the mornings, becoming windy in the afternoon and into evening. With high tides each morning, all the fish hid protected deep within the mangroves. Competitors had to wait patiently for the fish to finally come out onto the flats and hope their opportunities weren’t unsettled by the onset of wind. The small windows to target fish was not an ideal scenario. Perhaps these are just excuses?
The one animal that was undeterred by wind and tide, was the super numerous and incessant midgie. They were present in plague proportion. One Tebsie apparently had mozzie coils smouldering at either end of their boat both day and night. At night it was worse and the moon was so bright that it looked like someone forgot to turn out the light. In our boat, we decided to spend the night in a little harbour creek with hopes of a hot bite session overnight. The only bites felt from dusk until dawn were not from barramundi but from the millions of insect that had decided to call us dinner.
But it was not all gloom and doom. The harbour is a beautiful place, with a great variety of wildlife. Plenty of competitors enjoyed the sight of dolphins frolicking nearby and the different species of birds would have made any self-respecting birdwatcher twitch. Although the target species may have been somewhat scarce, the harbour still offers a wide array of piscatorial encounters. For example Michael Summerton was pleasantly surprised to catch his first ever Queensland Grouper, a magnificently decorated animal. Other competitors reported catching Javelin Fish, Rock Cod, Flathead, Golden and Brassy Trevally, Queenfish, Archerfish, Barracuda and Mangrove Jack. No one was bragging about capturing the humble catfish however. This list no doubt represents a mere fraction of the species encountered by competitors.
On Sunday afternoon, I saw a very disappointed member of the TEBS fraternity at the Dinah Beach boat ramp … He had lost a barra in the 90s when both hooks broke off as the fish was within reach. Sadly, he ended up with a donut for the weekend… We can only sympathise with this poor fella, and hope his luck turns around.
Another angler was also rather unlucky and kept dropping fish before they reached the landing net. When Lady Luck finally smiled upon him and a 66cm fish did hit the deck the encounter was short lived. After a photo was recorded, a last minute jump sent the fish promptly back to the drink. Thankfully this Houdini of a fish didn’t swim very far, as it was rather spent by the ordeal. It was finally re-netted and dispatch into the esky as consolation prize.
Here are the hard cold stats from this round. Last year, the Darwin Harbour round saw three different anglers fill a full bag of 5 fish. This year, this feat was only achieved by one angler and surprise, surprise, he was among the three who did it last year. Only 61 point scorer were entered for the round.
In third position came Clayton Archbold with a bag of three fish: 50, 52 and 84cm (the biggest for the round). In second place, Tim Bolch whose bag comprised of two fish at 66 and 82 cm. Tim caught his bigger fish on a trusty gold bomber, his favourite lure for when the fish have lock jaw. The winner of the round, once again is Peter Cooper which he achieved last year. ‘Cuddles’’ bag was made of a 59, 61, 63, 66 and 68cm fish. Peter caught all his fish on soft plastics during day light hours. He fishing mostly West and East arm, changing location to hide from the prevailing wind. A good example of adapting when conditions are tough. Well done Peter, you continue to be an unstoppable force. It’s now time to study the tides and Google Earth to hatch a plan for round five when we all descend on Bynoe Harbour.
This link takes you to the score tables from round 4 and the entire series: