Saturday, March 15, 2014

2014 Top End Barra Series Round 1.

Hi there,

Yes the Top End Barra Series restarted, and this year for me, it began with a bang!
This is not only the story of the first round of the 2014 Top End Barra Series, this is also the story of how I caught my first ever Barramundi over a meter in length.

The first round took place at Shady Camp, a place well known for its big Barramundi and big crocodile. I hadn't been there since last year opening round of the Series and I was hopping to do better this year.
I was teamed with my friend Brett, a very good fisherman and skipper.
A few days before we left for the competition, he told me that I might beat my personal best Barramundi in this coming round. I was dreaming of it, but was also trying to keep my hope low, just in case it didn't turn out as expected.
Well it did turn out rather good, but lets start at the beginning.

Brett, picked me up at 5:30 am and we drove to Shady Camp, telling fishing tales, and full of expectation.
At around 8:00 am we launched and  helped a guy to jump start his boat. His battery was flat and he was drifting in the current. First rescue mission of the weekend. Then we quickly made our way to the mouth of Sampan and started to troll, with all the other boats. Of which we counted 46, and didn't saw many fishes being caught.
So at about 10:00 am, we decided to start cooking some chicken wings on the BBQ and to start heading towards Swim Creek, in the hope of more success. We went there, with a boat full of Brett mates following us and exchanging friendly banters.

On the way to Swim Creek.

I wasn't used to have a BBQ on the floor of a boat that I am standing on, and at first it is a bit of a strange thing to look at.
But when you start to taste at the goodies coming from it, there is nothing unnatural in the flames on the floor of the boat:

BBQ on the floor.

Time for a snack.

As we arrived at Swim Creek, the creek was full of boats on both side, and there was no way that we could get in. We had waited too long to get there, and we would have to settle at the mouth, and to try to cast into it.
Standing there, casting a hard body lure in the creek mouth and looking at all the boats inside of it, casting lure in each other direction. I started to wonder how any Barramundi could ever try to pass this barrage of fishing lures and stand any chance to get to the top of the creek. I also was looking at the submerged trees and all the timber along there… 
I decided to change my lure to a weedless soft plastic, that I would be able to cast straight, deep in the timber, where I though that baits might be hiding. Looking in my bag, the biggest weedless lure that I had, was a four inches flick bait… Not exactly the big lure for big fish that I was expecting to find. But that was the biggest one, so I tied one on, and started to cast it strait in the flooded branches, hoping for a medium to good size fish. All it took was maybe a dozen casts when I saw a fish roll near my line,  which immediately went tense and started to fly from my little reel.
I shouted that I was on, as I was rather surprised by the violence of the hit, and the speed at which my reel was loosing line. Brett was quick thinking and pulled the anchor and started to follow the fish a bit. Lucky for me, she went for the left and then straight for the sea side, instead of trying to bury me in submerged logs. But I thought that I was going to be spooled and said (maybe screamed) it to Brett, who took a look at my reel and said: Relax you still have plenty of line in there, all the while he was following the fish. Then I started to believe that she had snagged me, as I could not reel her in anymore. In fact, she was just a strong fish, and the drag on my reel could have been a bit tighter. 
So with the boat nearly above her, she finally came to the surface and Brett said that it could be a 99cm fish! I started to get even more excited, thinking that it would beat my best of 91cm so far. But she didn't like the look of us both screaming and looking at her like that, and went around the boat, then back towards us and around again, to finally come back to our side. We saw her a few more time, and I started to think that she was the heaviest Barra I had ever hooked and really wanted her in the net. And in the net, Brett scooped her.
In the boat we saw that she was properly hooked on the left side of her mouth, and we quickly put her on the brag mat. She was first declared to be 101 cm, and my joy just exploded.
I had finally cracked the meter mark.
This was definitively my biggest Barramundi to date.
It is only later on while looking at the photo that I realised that she was 102 cm (40.15748 inches).
And here she is:

102 cm of salt water Barramundi.

To me, this was 102 cm of pure angling pleasure, a dream finally come true.
I didn't get a photo of myself holding her, that would have been nice, but the pleasure of having her is even better.
She was revived and released, to continue to grow, to breed and produce many little Barramundi for the future.

Some people have said that after the capture and release of this very nice Barramundi, they saw me shout and dance on the boat. Well to be honest, I would love to say that this is pure exaggeration and that I kept my cool and was just happily smiling around… But that might not really be the truth, I was really excited, and started to walk on air for the rest of the day, if not the week.

We did try a bit longer at the same spot, for not a single hit. So we decided to move back in Sampan Creek, to tie the boat under the shade of a few mangrove trees, and start to cook some marinated ribs, calling for a raft up on the radio.

BBQed ribs on the boat.

The ribs were delicious, and two or three boats joined us for a bit of light banter.
I was just thinking about the nice fish I had just caught, and don't remember much of what was said.
But I do remember that across the creek last year Top End Barra Series winner was looking to be in trouble, with his boat slowly sinking in the crocodile infested waters of the muddy creek.
Brett knew what the trouble was, and we scouted towards then and yes it was a bilge pump problem, which was quickly fixed.

The boat with the bilge pump problem being fixed.

Once the rescue mission was accomplished we went back under our trees, and continued chatting with other members of the TEBS.
By the end of the afternoon, we went for some more trolling at the mouth of Sampan.
Looking at the storms rolling all around us.

Storm over the mouth of Sampan Creek.

We didn't got much success I should say, as all we got for our effort was a small Blue Salmon.

Small Blue Salmon on Reidy's Big B52's.

So we decided to call it a day, and to organise a mini raft up, which at one stage was made of 5 boats tied together. Ready to eat and laugh the night away.
This time it was lamb shanks on the BBQ, very nice! We even warmed some mini pizza for Seano and Aaron at the same time:

Yummy food cooking on the boat.

This might be the first time that I did put some weight on a fishing trip.
Food was first class, no doubts about that.

In the middle of the night at around 2:00am, as everyone was deep asleep, a boat passed us full throttle, with absolute disregards for safety and all. The wake of the boat pulled the anchors of the raft up and luckily I realised that we were drifting. In fact I did ask Brett if we were drifting or not, to which he replied that I was right. A few quick shoot and every body was fully awake and trying to find our bearings in the black night. We split up the raft up and went to a quieter spot on the river, with a few boat coming with us. We anchored and went back to sleep, but I kept waking up and checking if we were drifting again. Which we didn't, but between the lighting and the air suddenly becoming real cold, I thought that we were going to be on the receiving end of a good storm. But once again it turned all around and avoided us as best as it could. We stayed dry all night long.

In the morning, we spotted a boat high and dry on the bank, that had anchored too close to the rivage. Its occupant would have had to wait for high tide to float again.

High and dry in the morning light.

We decided to start the day trolling the mouth of Sampan again, in the hope of snaring a big Barramundi. I did got a fish, it was a 64cm Barra:

First Barramundi of the Sunday.

It was no monster, yet I was very happy, as it would give me a few points on the scoreboard.
With nothing much happening we decided to go back in direction of the ramp, to fish a few spot on the way, and maybe the barrage. And mostly to have an early retrieve before the ramp become overcrowded. We tried a few spot that had worked well for Brett in the past, but with no luck. We could hear and see the Barramundi boofing around us, but could not entice a strike on our lures. What ever lure we would try on. 

We saw a lot of crocodile, as it is expected in Sampan creek.

Salt water crocodile in the mud of Sampan creek.

Not getting any fish and with the temperature rising up, we decided to head to the barrage for a last chance at getting any fishes.
At about one kilometre from the barrage, Brett turned the boat around and said to me: "Look at this creek mouth all the birds in there. If there is birds, there is bait, and if there is bait, there is Barramundi".
And he was dead right.
He quickly got his first fish of the weekend, and that was good to see.

Brett's first Barramundi of the weekend.

And from there on, having shaken the monkey of his back, Brett blitzed from zero to six fish in less that two hours.
The bait was very small, but we could see them swimming on the surface and being harassed by the Barramundi.
Using the smallest lures that we had, it become real good fun to see Brett catching them one after the other.

Another Barramundi for Brett.

And another one.

And again.

All on the same little lure.

The lure was a green four inches soft plastic from Reidy's and was definitively the outstanding lure of the weekend.

Brett then asked me why I hadn't caught anything while he was just reeling them in. Just as he finished asking it, I said I am on!
And in came my third and last Barramundi of the weekend.

My last Barramundi of the weekend.

At 70cm (27.55 inches) in was a good size fish, without being a back breaker. I was very happy to land it.

Then Brett got another Barra in the boat, and we decided that it was enough and to go home.
Brett had the five fish for a full bag, and I had a 102cm one that was my new personal best, and made me more that happy.

At the barrage we got the boat on the trailer and left before it become a big traffic jam.

People fishing the Shady Camp barrage.

On the way back we found three Jackaroo who had problems with there truck, and we gave them a lift. That was the third rescue mission of the weekend.

So where do I stand in the comp after this great fish caught in the first round?
Well, I ended up in fifth place, to me this is pretty good, out of just over one hundred anglers.
I won a new head lamp and an esky for my effort. Very happy with that.
Brett was also in the top half of the competitor.

Just a few stats collated by the organiser of the Top End Barra Series about the round one:

Out of 105 competitor, 82 caught at least one Barramundi.
These 105 competitor caught a total of 276 Barramundi over the weekend.
Of these 276 Barramundi, only 2 went over the magic meter mark.

So yes, to me it was a great weekend on all front, thanks again Brett for inviting me on your boat for the weekend.
A new personal best, and my first ever Barramundi over a meter long. Great food and great camaraderie on the water. What else can one want?
Well I can tell you, now I wish for another Barramundi over a meter long…

But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,