Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Day In Shoal Bay.

Hi there,

Last Tuesday Jim and I went fishing to Shoal Bay.
We left at gentlemen hour, after he dropped his beloved at work, and picked me up at my place.
Yes some people have to work during the week while other are going fishing, and usually I am the one at work.
But having the day off, I tagged along, for a very pleasant day.

We launched at Buffalo Creek, where we quickly saw our first croc of the day.

Crocodile and fishermen.

This was not a prehistoric monster, yet it was still a crocodile, and I prefer to try to keep an eye on them. Specially when they are that close from the boat ramp.
From there we made our way to Shoal Bay, with the intention of flicking our lures to every snag that we would find.
Upon arrival, I was surprise to see the water being so clear, a rare sight around Darwin. We could see every under water snag, and even the bottom. This prompted me to use a Reidy's Junior B52, as they have a slow rising action that I really wanted to be able to see and measure, if I may say.
First cast was interesting, and i did a second one a bit longer.
Twitch twitch the lure goes down, pause, it rises at a very slow pace, nearly resting in position.
This was beautiful, and a good way of understanding how this lure is swimming.
Twitch twitch again, pause, twitch twitch and pause, I was thinking that I like the action of this lure, as it was slightly rising in the water column. When a little Barramundi materialised itself just under my lure, swimming straight for it. Twich the lure, pause, and Wham! The Barramundi turn in front of the lure, boofed it and turn away from me to swim back in its deep lair. Except that it didn't went very far before realising that it was hooked and made a bee line for the surface, where it erupted like a little rocket.
Jim had just told me that the last time that he was in this spot every Barra were giving some great aerial show, this one didn't disappoint. 
It went a bit all around the boat, before finding the entrance of the net, that Jim had placed on his way, and yes! We had a Barramundi on board, in a record short time.

First Barramundi of the day.

At 64 cm (25.19685 inches), it was not very large, but a fish is a fish, and most certainly when it is a Barramundi! I was happy, I had a fish to bring back home, good food for the family.
I told you that it came full frontal of the lure before boofing it, here is the result of it:

Lure head down in the Barramundi mouth.

We knew then that we were on the right spot, as soon after that, Jim was on a fish too, which had also taken his lure head first:

Lure in Barramundi mouth.

Jim first Barramundi for the day.

Yes, this was going to be a good day.
It was then a matter of minutes, before Jim was on again, and this time it was some kind of Trevally:

Jim and the Trev.

Not really one of these monsters that you chase on big popper… In fact I was wondering why it even attacked the lure? Greed or competition I guess…
We continued to drift aided by the electric motor, and to cast  to the mangrove lined bank when Jim got another one! And this time he was back on target with a Barramundi:

Jim's second Barramundi of the trip.

This was getting fun.
We could see when the fish were going to grab our lures.
I then decided to try a Ceto Tackle lure in a colour that I hadn't try yet, and loved the way it cast. Like a bullet.
I got a little cod on it:

Rock Cod on a Ceto Tackle lure.

The action of this lure is the opposite of the lure that I was using previously. It rise on retrieve, and dive on the pause. So a bit dangerous in very snaggy country, so I didn't use too long as I didn't want to loose it. I went back to the little one that had got me a Barramundi earlier.
And we decided to cross the bay to try another creek, the water was flat like a glass.

Crossing a flat Shoal Bay.

As we arrived to our new destination, we saw a baby crocodile, who must have been waiting for us:

Baby Crocodile in the mangroves.

By then the water had risen considerably, for a neap tide, and was now well and truly in the mangrove. I thought that I needed to fish deeper to get a fish in these condition. To remedy I put a weedless soft plastic on, and started to let it drop as deep as it would go. but with no success. So I made a long cast, deep in the timber, and joked that it would be hairy to catch a Barramundi over all this wood… Shouldn't have joked about it, it happened…
The fish took my line between the branches, I could see the line rubbing along the dead wood, and the fish jumping on the other side of it. I might have been a bit excited back then as to me, it was a sure thing that I was going to loose this one. Jim manoeuvred his boat to get as close as possible from the branches and trunks that were between us and this feisty little Barra. He even found a direct line, without any obstacle to cut my line. Reeling like a maniac, I was able to get it through, and near the boat. Jim did his thing with the net, and Voilas! My second Barramundi was on the deck:

A sweet little Barramundi.

This one had given me some serious fishing adrenaline, and in the water it went back.
Not to be outdone, Jim caught a bigger one just after that.
Not even letting me the time to savour my little victory.

Another Barra for Jim.

This one was rather nice, and Jim kept it, in the esky it went.
He didn't wast too much time to get another one, but a little bit smaller…

Baby Barramundi on Rapala.

Then Jim got two hit on the same retrieve, enough to get us excited.
Immediately I cast my lure in the vicinity of his cast and yes, I can see some fish following my lure, but turning back at the last second. They are fast and long, Queenfish maybe? We are not sure but want to catch one of them. We both cast our lures again, and I am on! 
The fish is rapid and goes from right to left in no times. Going deep, and then on the top, then down again. What is it?
Well, it wasn't a queenfish, and I am sure that for the ones among you who have fished these waters before, you might be starting to get an idea… 
It is long, fast, go in every direction possible, and is grey looking…
Yes, I had at the end of my line a little shark!
Lucky me, it was rather small:

A little shark, taken on a lure.

They are very good food, and I sometimes keep one. But as I already had a Barramundi in the esky, this one went back swimming to tell the tale to his mates.
This is about when we saw the storm, lighting an all, coming our way:

Storm on the way.

Now, from what I heard, storm on Shoal Bay, can be a bit rocky. So we started to make our way back, just in case. With the goal of fishing closer to home, so we could make a quick escape if things turned a bit sour, weather wise.
Closer we went, and started fishing again.
And Jim got the fish of the day!

Monster Barramundi.

Yes, it did attack a lure…
Greedy little thing.

Then he got a cod, and watching the rain falling around us we decided to go home.

Rain on the bay.

All in all it was a great day. We had started not too early, and went back home not too late.
Life was smiling on us.
Thanks again Jim, for a great day on the water.

So we didn't catch any super sized Barra…

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

2014 Top End Barra Series Round 2.

Hi there,

Not long ago, the second round of the 2014 Top End Barra Series took place, on the upper side of the Adelaide River.
A river reputed for its hard fishing, so much in fact that many of the competitors in the TEBS, had never fished it. As many of the fisher folks of Darwin and surrounding, who prefer other rivers or regional estuaries, who offer much more reliable Barramundi fishing.
But that is where it was, and that is where we went.
With the advantage, of being relatively close to Darwin, we had a late start, and Brett who had invited me on his boat, thanks again, picked me up at around 6:20am, much later than the usual.
Also, we had some "inside intelligence" coming from my friend Jason, who had very kindly sent us the marks to his best spot on the river, when to fish them and with which lures. Thanks Jason.

We arrived at the boat ramp, to find the parking full of trailer, obviously, some people had taken the matter more seriously than us and were already on the water.
So we launched without any delay and started to make our way up, trying to find our first fish, here and there. Without much success I must confess.
Still, the weather was looking good and we were still full of hope. When a dragon fly came to rest on the tip of my fishing rod, I of course interpreted that as a good omen.

The fisherman's good omen.

Yet, we couldn't raise a scale, and the nice weather was starting to get rather hot.
To compensate we decided that a pizza would do us all the good we needed, and started to warm a delicious Moroccan pizza on the BBQ:

Moroccan pizza warming up.

We went under the shade of a tree, to eat it, and Seano with Kieran stopped to have a chat with us.

Mates under the sun, watching us eating in the shade.

We did ask them if they wanted us to warm or cook anything for them, as the BBQ was still hot.
But they already had had enough of fishing this hard river, and were on their way to another creek somewhere. Having decided to forfeit this round. It was not even midday yet, and some of the participant in the competition had by then decided to call it quite. Yes it is a hard river to fish, which has broken more than one angler.
The pizza had hit the spot nicely, and left a little taste of "I want more" in our stomachs, so the garlic bread went straight were the pizza had been. Slowly warming up, as we restarted our way up the river, in search of good fishing.

Just past Goat Island, we found a few other boats, and started a nice raft-up.
It was around midday and not the best time to fish, so every body was happy to have a bit of a laugh, a few drinks and some of the garlic bread that we shared with other boats.
Glenn, one of the organiser of the Top End Barra Series (or TEBS as it is now known by many) even joined the raft-up for a little while. At that time I did prefer to be me than him, as a few people asked him why on hearth they had chosen to do a round, in this place, at this time of the year…
But it was more a friendly banter with a strong camaraderie undertone than anything else, as most were still having a very good time. This is what makes this competition so pleasant, the social aspect of it. Which is often more important that the competitive side of it.
Toward the end of the midday raft-up a boat went toward the front of it, and gave a nice refreshment to the occupant of the first few boats:

Shower on the river.

From there, we headed back down to Marrakai Creek.
On which we saw Paul and his mate trolling, obviously, once again we were not the only one to have an idea as to where to find a fish or two. And yes we finally found a fish! Or should I say, Brett got a fish. It wasn't a big one, it was in fact a rather small one, we could even have called it a rat. But it was the first Barramundi of the weekend and it lifted our spirit.

First Barramundi of the weekend.

This little fish in a very beautiful location was just was we needed to regain a bit of confidence.

The Marrakai.

But no matters how beautiful the place was, one little rat of a fish, is not enough, and we wanted more.
Brett then made the decision to go back up in a little creek in which he had found success in the past.
At the mouth of the creek, we once again found some Top End Barra Series competitors, casting their lures in hope of a fish.
We passed them, and went up the creek, to find a little junction with an even smaller creek.
We positioned the boat a few meters upward this nice little intersection, and this is when the fun started to kick in.
Just there one more time, Brett gave me a great demonstration of technique.
in about two hours, he caught over eleven fish. I say eleven, because that is the number that I photographed, but he had many other that I did not photograph.

Barramundi on a Reidy's B52.

As you can see, we were very happy with the Barra starting to come overboard.

Another Barramundi on the B52.

The fish were no monster, but they were numerous, and we started to hop that we would find a few point scorer among them.

Brett with another Barramundi caught on the B52.

I was catching nothing, and Brett was getting them all, on a Reidy's B52.
It was for me, about time that I start to do something about it. So I finally put a B52 at the end of my line, and … Yes A Barramundi boofed my lure, as it was just resting on the surface. It mad me jump, but it didn't stay connected. 
Brett caught a few more..
Then just at the boat, another Barra hit my lure, we saw it, and I lost it…
What was going on. Brett was starting to have a few friendly teasing words in regards to my absolute inability to catch a fish. While still giving me some advice on what I was doing right, and wrong in my retrieve for this type of fishing, in this season.
I tried to listen, and to put in application the method he described to me.
And I was finally hooked on a Barramundi!

My first Barramundi of the weekend.

Now I was happy, we both had point scorer Barramundi, no doughnut on this boat!
Brett caught a few more, and me not. 

Brett with yet another Barramundi.

The tide was falling fast, and we would have to think about getting out of there before we would get stuck. My B52 kept scraping the bottom of the creek, so I put the same soft plastic that got me my first metery in the previous round of the 2014 Top End Barra Series. Brett said, I bet that you will make two cast with that and get a fish on the second one.
Well, the first cast came back empty handed. And about half way through the second one, my line went tense and a nice feisty little Barra erupted out of the water: I was on! On the second cast, like Brett had predicted.

my second Barramundi of the weekend.

All these fish, despite being rather smallish, were fighting well above their weight and length.
It was surprising how they could pull line in comparison of their size.
We did lost a lot of them.

But it was starting to get late, and we really didn't want to get stuck in the creek for the night.
So we headed back at the mouth, where our friendly competitors were still there casting.
It didn't took us too long to anchor the boat not very far from the mouth, and to start getting ready for dinner. While the dinner was cooking, we kept ourselves busy, casting fizzer in the dark.
Now, this is something that I wanted since a long time: a Barramundi, on a fizzer at night.
And it happened!

First Barramundi on a fizzer at night.

Once again, not a giant, but still good enough to get a few points.
More importantly, I had just caught my first Barramundi at night on a fizzer.
This year in only two rounds, the TEBS has already spoilt me: my first metery (at 102 cm) in the first round. And now my first night time Barra on a fizzer. Yes I am very happy and lucky this year.

The nice aroma coming from the BBQ, let us know that dinner was cooked: Roast Pork!
I don't know for you, but for me, roast pork on the boat after a day of fishing… That is living in luxury mode.

Pork roast on the BBQ, on the boat.

The nice hot roast, with cold beverage, and an electric storm in the distance, was a perfect end to a great day. Filled by fun, friendship and a few Barramundi.

Electric storm on the Adelaide river, at night.

This was a great show, and sleep was easy to find after that.
For the following day we had a great plan…
We would wake up early, and go back where we had done so well in the evening, and restart to catch plenty of fish. This was going to be a glorious fishing day!
Well, we did get up early.

Fishing the Adelaide river in the morning.

But that about it for the glorious fish capture…
We didn't catch a single fish on the second day.
I did miss two of them. One being a rather big one, that went for my fizzer, but didn't hook.
Brett kept telling me to be more patient when using a fizzer. To wait for the line to strip from the reel before doing anything. But I will need a lot of practice for that. Because as soon that I see a fish boofing my lure, I hook as hard as I can. Which usually as the simply disastrous effect of ripping my fizzer out of the fish mouth before it is even remotely hooked…
Yes, I need to work on my self-control.

After a few hours, of sweating and not a single hit on any of our lures, we decided to call it a day, and to head back home.

The Adelaide River.

The Adelaide River upheld her reputation of being a very difficult river to fish.
It has broken the spirit of more than one fisherman, but for my point of view, I still had a great weekend. We had caught a few fish, and many laugh, I was happy.
Thanks again to Brett for inviting me on his boat for the weekend.

How did I scored?
Well I came on at the eleventh position, out of nearly one hundred people fishing.
This won me a $50 voucher to be used at the Roma Bar. As it is a place that my dear lady likes, I think that one day, her, the little one and I could go there one afternoon, and have some fruit juice. So very happy with that.
And Brett?
Well he won the mystery size and got a $100 DUO lures pack.
So we both scored good.

The only problem now?
Well it will be a few months before the next round of the Top End Barra Series, way too long.

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