Fish turn it on for inaugural Melville Challenge

AS detailed last week, a team of six Fishing World writers visited the NT this week to take part in the inaugural Melville Challenge, a charity event organised by Melville Island Lodge owner Mike Baxter as part of an ongoing support program for students at the Tiwi College.

The Fisho writers – David Green, Sami Omari, John Newbery, Peter Zeroni, Jamie Crawford and Jim Harnwell – today visited the college to distribute fishing gear generously donated by Shimano, Plano, Halco, Rapala, Atomic/Gamatkatsu and Platypus. This top quality gear will set the college up for serious fishing opportunities and will hopefully help the students learn about sportfishing. The long-term goal is for students to develop an interest in becoming a professional fishing guide at the Lodge, increasing their exposure to recreational fishing and providing employment opportunities.

The Fisho writers showed students the basics of casting, tying knots and using lures. More details and images from this “fishing workshop” will feature on the Fisho site as soon as possible.

Prior to the visit to the Tiwi College, the Fisho guys spent a few days fishing out of the Lodge, which is situated at Snake Bay on the northern side of Melville. The first day was a cracker – no wind, clear skies and the pelagics and reef fish were going nuts. Team 1 (JH, JC and JN, guided by legendary NT guide Warren “Wazza” Smith) scored 40 Spanish mackerel to 10 kilos before lunch on trolled and cast Halco Laser Pros, plus numerous sizable longtail tuna. The afternoon session was marked by some monster 8kg golden snapper for JN on green Atomic jerk shads plus a cracker 29lb black jew for JC. JH caught a smaller jewie of about 16lbs and all three anglers were comprehensively wiped out by larger models.

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John Newbery (left & top) and Jamie Crawford had some fun on soft plastics and accounted for fish like big golden snapper (fingermark) and black jew (right & below). Jim Harnwell also got amongst the jewies (bottom).

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Team 2 (DG, SO and PZ) also enjoyed champagne mackerel action before they focused (pardon the pun) on the unique photographic opportunities offered by the insane mackerel congregation. The boys trolled their Halcos hookless and snapped some outstanding images of big Spaniards getting airborne. PZ, an avid photographer, took some amazing shots of quality macks getting serious air.

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  Jamie and a nice mack taken on a Laser Pro.

Next day saw both teams head up nearby river systems to cast and troll for barra. Some quality fish to 70cm were caught and released. Fisho editor Jim Harnwell caught a nice “golden” jew on a jerk shad at the famous Jessie River Rock Bar. The fish weighed in at a 28lbs, earning JH bragging rights (in his mind, anyway!) for the biggest “estuary” jew while JC retained his lead for biggest “offshore” jewie. David Green caught a slightly smaller jewfish, again on a softie, cementing the rock bar’s reputation as a famous big fish producer.

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Harnwell was pretty happy about scoring bragging rights with this Jessie River “golden” jew. Pic: Pete Zeroni

The following few days were spent chasing saratoga and barra in the amazing Goose Creek system. An uncharacteristic cold snap made the fishing tougher than usual but multiple ‘toga, plus good numbers of barra, made for some exciting fishing. Jamie Crawford caught the biggest barra for the trip, a 79cm model, while Sami Omari caught a magnificent 65cm ‘toga, his first of this unique species.

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Sami Omari and a solid ‘toga from Goose Creek.

Both crews enjoyed the amazing scenery offered by this spectacular river system, and had the opportunity to eyeball some huge crocs as well as checking out a few massive buffalo wallowing on the flood plains.

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Nearing the end of his two-month NT odyssey, Fisho’s David Green made an appearance at the Melville Fishing Challenge. 

Stay tuned for all the details on the Tiwi kids using and enjoying their fishing gear. In the meantime, check out for details on this fantastic indigenous education and employment initiative. For full details on Melville Island Lodge, check out

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 Goose Creek barra.

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