For me there’s nothing better than a day fishing any of the inland billabongs up here in the Top End.
At this time of year there’s even more reason to do so, as the build-up plays its part in increasing water temperatures and igniting the barra into action. The three most popular of all billabongs: Corroboree, Hardys and Shady Camp reside as part of the Mary River system and have plenty to offer the novice and expert fisho.
The easiest method of tangling with a barramundi is to simply tie on a lure that runs at a suitable depth and troll slowly along the edges of the weed beds which are now easily visible as the levels drop away until first rains. I prefer to target a solid weed edge that is no deeper than 8 feet as the shallower water should be warmer as the day goes on. Reidys Little Lucifers run at about 7 feet which is perfect in this situation and they would have to be the best selling billabong lure in Darwin which is of no surprise – they catch fish! Shallow running Bombers, Nilsmaster Spearheads, Classic 65’s, B52’s and Rapala X-Raps are also attractive options for this billabong work and all these lures can be cast around the pandanus trees, weedbeds and lilly edges in search of a fish.
Some believe that trolling is the most boring thing on earth, and that’s fine because there’s no lack of casting options in these billabongs. For heavy lilly pad work, there’s no denying that the Scumfrog weedless lures are king. Some might look at you strangely as you cast your lure deep into the lillies, the place where normally the lure would stay for life, but Scumfrogs feature a double hook that is turned back into the body making it a great “weedless” option. Walking and blooping between the lillies is just too much for most saratoga and barra; the lure often gets engulfed but spat out again due to the high difficulty of setting the hook. Sometimes it pays to wait a second or two before responding with an almighty yank.
Peter Rees did well at Corroboree Billabong using the Reidys Little Lucifer in colour M4.
These days, the soft plastic craze has hit as are all sorts of weird and wonderful variations of weedless rigged plastics. The Berkley HollowBelly is fast becoming a top end legend for this purpose. I like to rig the 5 inch version (Tennessee Shad colour) with a 6/0 worm hook and extra light ball sinker inside the leader loop (Texas rig) and cast my life away.
This is great fun around snags as you can literally bury the plastic in amongst the timber and still pull it out again. If there’s a fish on the end though, things can get much more interesting. The top of Hardys is my favourite spot; along the right hand side where the bamboo has fallen there are some ripper snags beneath the surface in about 12 feet of water depth.
Of course, night time can be very productive, especially under a moonlit sky. I’d suggest targeting three days prior to the full moon as this will see the moon up early in the evening which may save you from an all nighter. It’s out with the Tango Dancers and surface poppers for casting duties; work them above the weedbeds and make it slow with plenty of pauses. Trolling lures is also very good under the moon, and I prefer darker coloured lures to cast a silhouette.
One other thing I’ve learnt over the years is to take note of the moon cycle. Fish night time under plenty of moonlight, and in the daytime during the new moon period, particularly early morning when the barra wake up and can see your bait for the first time in a few hours. This alone should help increase your catch rates.
Happy billabong fishing.
Read more from Craig Grosvenor in Reports.