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Thread: NT Fishing Safari

  1. #1

    NT Fishing Safari

    Hi Ausfishers
    I thought that I should post our current wanderings throughthe NT for anyone that may be interested. The wife and I left Brisbane 6 May for a 2 month fishing safari thoughthe NT in our Mazda BT 50 with slide on camper. All preparations were made with great expectation of a fishing bonanza.
    We headed west from Brisbane with pit stops at Wallumbilla,Longreach, Mt Isa, Tennant Creek, and Mataranka. I suggest avoiding theroadhouses and stick with the major towns to access cheaper fueland overnight accommodation. The Federal hotel at Wallumbilla offers freecampsite at the back of the hotel with hot showers as long as you don’t mindsharing with the gas and oil workers. Good pub meals for $16-25 at night too. Other towns we stayed at various caravan parks and campsites.
    Our first charter was with East Arnhem Fishing charters atNhulunbuy with our guide Anthony. He hasa Hooker 5M open boat and 40HP tiller steer outboard. At $250 each for a 5 hour charter, it is notcheap but he works hard to put us on the fish and give us value for money.
    After catching livies called Indies (similar to yellowtailed scad) for the first hour around the harbour pylons, we moved out fromGove harbour into the blue water to our first mark off East Woody Islet. Apparently, there is strong current linewhich attracts the baitfish and predators, usually trevally, queenfish andmackerel. Our day was a queenfish daywith 6 good hits and landing two quality fish which were then released afterquick photos.
    Then the wind picked up and the bronze whaler sharks movedin and we decided to try our luck elsewhere. My float lining 30lb gear was smoked at the first strike before Anthonyupgraded my leader to 80lb. He suggests using9/0 suicide or circle hooks minimum to land some of these quality fish. Wire is optional, but Anthony tells me thathe loses 20-30 sinkers / hooks a day to mackerel, his biggest expense by far. We then moved to a yacht wreck for our secondmark in the lee of a bulk bauxite carrier out of the SE wind which had nowpicked up to 10-12knts. We switched to bottom rigs and scored some good hitsand lost rigs to mackerel (I guess). Nothing was landed for the next hour until my wife scored a Cobia (96cmand 6.0kg) and I picked up a black Jew (74cm and 3.5kg) just before low tide.
    Two nice fish for the icebox and deep freeze on the tripfurther north. We were pleased with ourcatch and returned to the ramp by 12.00PM. They have a great wash down system at the ramp for the boaties with automaticsprinklers under the trailer and side hose jets for the boats. You only need towash out the boat afterwards. Anthonywas a great guide and provided us with a memorable experience. My wife always out fishes me and this day wasno exception. However, the trip out to Nhulunbuy, 710 km each way over gravelroad may deter some fishos but we believe it is worth the trip. The weatherreport was not good with rain predicted for the next few days form the cyclone,so rather than risk being caught for the next week in Nhulunbuy, we decided tohigh tail it back to Katherine and wash down the truck before the next gravelroad excursion.
    After 2 days recoveryin Katherine, we headed towards the Douglas river region for a crack at the Barra. No luck there after two days so we moved on toPerry’s on the Daly for another session. Dick is proving a very knowledgeable and helpful host. His campsite is a little off the beaten trackbut well worth the extra 20k over a gravel road for a truly getaway experience.The facilities are a little old but clean and reasonably proceed $36 night fora powered site. The Barra season hasbeen very poor this year with record low numbers of catches for the Nationalsand recent Daly River Classic comps. In the recent Classic comp only 216 fishwere caught from 52 boats during the week compared with the normal1000+catches. So this season is proving tough for fishos including us with noenquiries after 2 days trolling lures and flicking soft plastics on the localbillabong and Daly river to date. Temperatures are still warm during the day32-34 degrees and 20-22 degrees overnight. Humidity is still around 75-80% witha definite summer feel about the region.
    I will be back with another report at the next opportunitywhen internet access is reliable. Cheers SS.

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  3. #3

    Re: NT Fishing Safari

    thanks mate,good report.

  4. #4

    Re: NT Fishing Safari

    Good read well done

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  5. #5

    Re: NT Fishing Safari

    Great read mate thanks very much. Look forward to the next instalment

  6. #6

    Re: NT Fishing Safari

    Day 26
    After the disappointment of the Daly River, we headed northtowards the blue water around Darwin. Asluck would have it, one of the campers with us at Perry’s scored a nice Barrafrom the billabong on surface popper the day we left. The fish appeared a little dark from the excesstannins in the stagnant billabong for my liking, but a nice fish just thesame. Perry’s is a great spot if youwant peace and quiet with plenty of room between the campsites. The facilities could do with an upgrade tomake showering a little more pleasant for the women, however, both Dick and Carolare very welcoming hosts and will go out their way to make your stay ascomfortable as possible. The mosquitoesand midges are something else though, extremely viscous around dusk and wecould not stay outdoors after dark on most nights, especially if the wind isnot blowing strongly. I have onememorable incident to mention. I jaggeda 3/0 TT hook into my left ring finger tying down a double blood knot thatslipped during the process. No problem,I managed to push it through the fingertip and Dick kindly cut off the barbedtip to allow me to extract the hook remnant in reverse. Much to my wife’s concern, the hook extractionwas not painful and further inflammation and surgical removal was avoided,given the closest emergency medical centre was in Katherine, some 200+ k’saway. A quick surgical dressing wasplaced for 24 hours and no problems to date.
    We moved on towards the coast via Litchfield National Park,and enjoyed the swimming at Buley Rockhole and cool relaxation at the WangiFalls and camping at Tumbling Waters for a few days. You could easily spend a week in this park, butour schedule was reasonably tight as we had a blue water charter booked withDundee Beach Fishing Charters in few days and a need time to explore the Darwinregion as well. So we checked out WaigetBeach where there is a ferry terminal for direct access to Darwin. A few fishermen were fishing off theterminal, but there did not seem to be much action during our 2 hour visit.After a cuppa on the beach we moved on to Dundee Beach for our 5 day stay atthe Holiday Park, right next to the pub and 2 lane boat ramp.
    This is a great park with a recent upgrade to facilities,lots of shade trees and good value at $36/night for a powered site. We had a few days taking it easy before thecharter and watched the continual procession of boats going in and out thewater over the weekend. I am conservatively guessing about 50 boats arrivedfrom mid-afternoon Friday through to early Saturday morning. All boats are a similar design with rearconsoles and open forward casting decks, no doubt for casting lures. Most boats had 150+hp motors or twin outboardoutfits. Most of the inshore fishinggrounds are within a few k’s of the shoreline in 10-15M deep water with someboats travelling 40-50k’s to reach their favourite marks.
    I tried a couple early morning sessions on plastics andchrome slugs casting at bait balls from the shoreline on the incoming tidewithout any success. One of our campneighbours caught a small queenie and a trevally using similar tactics. However, the best report was from a SAneighbour, Joe, who has been coming to Dundee for the last 14 years for 4months during the SA winter. He goescrabbing in a 3.8M Dart with his wife and scores 12 + mud crabs daily from his4 pots. He has a secret spot in thecreek behind the caravan park and keeps the park staff well fed with muddiesfor a rent free stay each year.
    As expected the weather had been very mild with light SEwinds up to our booked charter day. Itthen decided to come in at 10-12 knots early in the morning restricting ourfishing to the inshore reefs with Jewies and Fingermark the most likelytargets. We fished with Shaun on a 7.2MAMM rear console plate alloy boat with twin 135HP Honda outboards on the back.We headed south after launching at 7.30AM into the chop with an expectationthat the wind would moderate during the morning and swing more northerly in theafternoon. There were four fishos on thecharter including myself and wife, another guy from Newcastle and a local tomake up the 4 spots. No luck on thefirst reef fishing for Jewies in 2M around a partly exposed rock bar on theearly flood tide. This catch patterncontinued until mid-morning when our luck started to turn with John, our fishybuddy from Newcastle boating some nice Fingermark on bonito strip baits. I was in the opposite stern corner of theboat and landed 2 lemon sharks, two bull sharks, 3 catfish and a barracudaduring the same session. My wife caught2 nice Fingermark between 35 -55cm during the same session. There were multiple surface bust ups fromfeeding tuna so we tried our hand at casting chrome slugs into the schools andlanded several bonito (it least that is what I call them in Queensland, butthey have a different name in the NT) and long tail tuna. All were fish released except for 2 bonito tobe used for bait during thre afternoon session. My luck improved after lunch as I landed a 49cm coral trout and 2 moreFingermark, both around 45cms before we called quits at 3.30PM. No PB’s for me,but a great day on the water and my knowledge of reef bottom fishing tacticshas improved from the experience. In thelast hour we had an inquisitive cobia hang around under the boat but could nottempt it with dead baits, plastics or hard bodied lures. The only time when we did not have a livey onboard after releasing multiple redfish in the morning session!
    By this time the wind had swung around to the NE andstrengthened to 15 knots so we pounded our way back to the ramp at WOT. I am still copping the flak from my wife overthis and it will be hard to convince her to go out in choppy seas over 10 knotsfor some time in the future. At $400each for an 8 hour charter, this exercise was not cheap, but the guys did workhard to put us on the fish during the day and the coral trout was a bonus forme on the day. In all, we kept the trout and 4 Fingermark for the freezer andfuture fish / chip dinners on the road. My impression of Dundee Beach is that it is quickly becoming fished out withheavy pressure from the two charter operators (Dundee Beach and Angler’s Choiceout of Darwin) both running 3 boats daily catering for the fly in fly outfisherman and then all the other recreational fishos coming from Darwin eachweekend. There are currently no sizelimits in the NT except for Barra (55cms), only bag limits of 3 species perfisho. Main target species are Jew,Fingermark, Nannygai and Mackerel from what I can gather. It is a great spot with plenty of fishingoptions depending on weather conditions and reminds me of Stanage Bay in manyways.
    We are now taking a few days off fishing to travel to Jabiruand enjoy the sights and Aboriginal artwork of Kakadu National Park beforeheading south to Borroloola for our next NT fishing safari. I will report in at the next internet opportunity. Photos will be added to the bottom of thisthread using my mobile phone. Cheers SS.

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  8. #8

    Re: NT Fishing Safari

    Day 32

    Sadly no more fish catches to report. We have spent several days trying land fishing with lures and plastics in the Kakadu NP (East Alligator River) and Limmen NP (Roper,Towns and Limmen Rivers) without success. Not even a promising bite to date. The locals tell us that 2019 is the worst year for fishing the runout for some time. The fish have just simply shutdown completely due to the cold weather and lack of a decent wet season . Fishos have come from the NQ tablelands, NSW, SA, WA and beyond and are all returning empty handed. Our recreational activities have included bushwalking, swimming and the enjoying the unique landscapes and aboriginal culture / art of these parks.

    We have now moved on to Borroloola, but the weather gods have also conspired against us and our booked offshore charter has been cancelled due to the persistent SE winds (15+) of late. Ah well, that's fishing. We are now planning our return home via the Savannah way into Queensland. Cheers SS.

  9. #9

    Re: NT Fishing Safari

    THanks for the reports. I would love to own that AMM, what a beast!

  10. #10

    Re: NT Fishing Safari

    Day 42

    Back to reality on Sunday after 42 days on the road. Gladly, we came back before the onslaught of grey nomads in caravans and RV's from SA and Victoria arrive in June through to August. Ali in all, we are pleased that we did it now before retirement. No major mishaps along the way, except a split tyre wall after the Nhulunbuy side trip which required replacement later during the trip.

    Some statistics for those Ausfishers who may be considering a similar trip in the future;

    Distance travelled in 6 weeks was 11,330 km, used 1,601 litres of diesel, 21 fills at average 76 litres per fill, total fuel cost was $2529, dearest fuel at roadhouses and Cape Crawford at $2 per litre, average fuel economy was 13.8 litres per 100km with a GVM of 3.5 tonne, replacement one off road tyre in Jabiru cost $350.. Oil and filter change cost $132. Caravan and campsites cost $1059, food approximately $890 for 2 adults. Beer and other drinks not recorded.

    Three fishing charters for 2 adults cost $1400 and we caught 23 fish between us, released 16 and kept 7 reef fish for the meals during the trip. No barra though!. Would we do it again - you bet. Cheers SS

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