Report: Good early season bite at the Barra Lodge

WE can laugh about it now, but the last nails went in only hours before the first guests arrived at the “brand-new” Arnhem Land Barramundi Nature Lodge.

That was at the beginning of March, and an A-grade team of fishing guides were biting the barbs off their trebles in anticipation of some great fishing.

There’s no hiding the fact that the wet season of 2015-16 has been a disaster. The quality of fishing in some of the big tidal rivers close to Darwin has been abysmal. During what is normally the best time of the year to fish – the run-off – there was hardly any flood water running off the big tidal river floodplains. Fortunately, the Barra Lodge’s vast catchment areas received some great falls only this week from the monsoon that drifted across to Cape York. But well before that, a lack of run-off didn’t seem to matter at the Barra Lodge.

Joe Ray almost made the metre-plus board with this beautifully-conditioned 99cm salty barra.

Three days before the first guests arrived nearly three weeks ago, the guides went out on a reconnaissance and surprised themselves with the quantity and quality of barra caught. One boat landed 140 barra, and that was whilst checking out different spots and often leaving the fish biting.

After such a great “preview”, it is no wonder that the guests who fished these first couple of weeks from season start have had a ball. Most boats have been catching 20 or more barra a day, with some beauties amongst them. One angler, Don Russell, had little to complain about; he caught two metre-plus barra on consecutive days.
Don said: “We had Jason Hill as our guide for the 2 days when I caught the 1.0m and 1.08m barra. I think he was more excited than I was… which really shows that he loves his work and tries really hard to satisfy his clients.

Plenty of other well-conditioned mid-range 70-80cm barra have been caught by Lodge guests, reinforcing the fact that “run-off”, while important, does not mean that a below-average “wet” constitutes a barra drought, as recent Lodge guests have been finding out!

Black jew are always great to catch on a lure because they tear off at great speed and with serious power. They are very much a serious sportfish.

An interesting start to the season has been the abundance of strapping big black jewfish. These are an occasional incidental catch whilst lure fishing for barra, and they go like the clappers. For many Top End barra anglers, catching a black jew on a lure is a bucket-list ambition. Well, judging by the number of big jew caught so far this season, the Barra Lodge is certainly the place to tick that one off.

Out on the blue water, it’s been very much same same. Abundant Spanish mackerel, marauding queenfish and tasty reefies on lures. It’s also been good to see the return of the giant herring. These amazing sportfish turn up every three or four years, and tend to hang around right through the dry season. Giant herring have been likened to a cross between a bonefish and a tarpon… because they run like crazy and bound out of the water like there is no tomorrow.

There’s no doubt that the facilities at the Barra Lodge have been raised to an extraordinary level with the complete refurbishment of this iconic fishing lodge by new owners: Outback Spirit Tours. Gone are the four cabins that were certainly showing their15 years of wear and tear. In their stead are 12 brand-new deluxe safari suites with plush bathrooms and split-system air-conditioning. Guests are being blown away by the lavish accommodation, especially given just how remote the Barra Lodge is.

“We wanted to create something truly special in this idyllic wilderness location atop an escarpment ridge overlooking the Tomkinson River Valley,” Outback Spirit’s Courtney Ellis said. “Just from the early comments we’ve received about the new Lodge accommodation, we believe we have achieved that.”

For more information or to book call Alex or Roger on 08 89831544 or email for details on fishing during the peak-season run-off and build-up. 

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