FISHING World writers John Newbery and Martin Salter recently returned from a trip to Melville Island Lodge in the Top End where they were hoping to escape the cold Sydney weather and sample some of the serious barra action for which the Tiwi Islands are renowned.
John is a Melville regular but pommie newcomer Martin was keen to find out the contribution that Mike Baxter’s impressive operation makes to the island economy as part of his ongoing work following his Keep Australia Fishing report.
Unfortunately, the Northern Territory had also experienced a significant 5 degrees C drop in water temperature a few days before they arrived, meaning that the big barra were reluctant to come out to play. Although the pair caught their share the best was only 73cms in a shared catch of 20 fish. Not bad but a far cry from the 100 fish catches to 90 plus cms the week before.
Numbers and size was down, but a few barra were still about.
Luckily the action was made up by an impressive array of other species, some 18 in total, which shows why Melville’ reputation as one of the top Australian fishing lodges is based on more than barramundi, great food and comfortable accommodation.
In addition to barra the lads landed saratoga, mangrove jacks, golden snapper, black jewfish, red-throat sweetlip, Spanish flag, alligator gar, black spot and gold spot cod, tarpon, blue salmon, queenfish, GTs, barracuda, fork tailed catfish, emperor and the inevitable reef sharks. If they had gone wider there were Spanish mackerel as well as tuna to be had, while the rivers and creeks hold good stocks of hard fighting threadfin salmon.
Martin with a hard fighting blue salmon.
Martin very nearly missed out on his first ‘toga when a sea eagle swooped out of the sky just as he hooked up on a surface lure.
He said: “I knew that the upper reaches of Goose Creek would be my only chance of landing this rarest and most frustrating of Aussie fishes before I return to the UK. I had just worked out how to get them to hit my fizzer but was having the usual nightmare trying to set the hooks in their bony gobs when the sky turned black as a ‘toga and the eagle collided either side of the lure. Incredibly the fish stayed on and the bird went away hungry!”
This ‘toga hunting sea eagle went hungry.
A nice saratoga from the famous Goose Creek.
Unlike other venues Melville is not so tide dependent and with so many reef systems, bays and creeks close by there is always somewhere worth fishing.
Salter added: “Melville Island really does have everything a mad keen fisho could want and if the barra are not playing ball there’s such a variety of other species to go for that its almost impossible not to have a good time.”
Fighting a queenie (top) and Martin with a nice fingermark or “goldie”.
For more on Melville Island Lodge go to http://www.melvillelodge.com.au/