Sooty grunters rule!

I AM in a rocky gorge in the stone country of Kakadu National Park. I have had to slog from the car for an hour to get here. I have carried our portable fishing pack, with two collapsible rods, a spinning reel and baitcaster, a folding net, Swiss Army knife and a small tackle box with a few lures.

There is a lush green forest around me and my family. There are lots of clear rock pools and I can see many types of fish, big and small. I can see saratoga, sooty grunter, freshwater garfish, catfish, rainbows and a striped fish I haven’t seen before. I’m really excited and ready to try to catch my first saratoga or sooty.

As I start to get my tackle ready, I snap my rod in my excitement. I’m annoyed and embarrassed. I put it away and my Dad lets me use his rod with my great reel. I rig up with a small minnow lure and cast out.

On the first cast a saratoga follows the lure, tries to eat it but does not swallow so I miss it. On the second cast it’s the same; I feel a knock but no hook-up, but on the third I hook and catch a small sooty grunter. Within 20 minutes, I have caught five or six small sooty grunter. They’ve put up a good fight for their size, but I want to catch a big fish.

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As I am fishing, my dad goes up to another pool which is a lot smaller than the one I’m fishing in. My dad calls me up, saying there are two or three large sooty grunter in the rock pool. I rush up but stay a good three metres back from the rock pool to see where the fish are and decide the best way to cast and place to cast from.

I find the ideal spot at the bottom of the pool, cast in to the top of the pool and let the lure stay there so the fish don’t get scared. Before I can turn the reel I have hooked up to a large sooty grunter. I fight the fish with care so it does not go under a rock. At this point I am scared that the fish could snap the line on a rock but get him up on land after a short fight. He’s managed to take line even in that small pool! He’s a beautiful fish – bluish green, almost like a black bream and about 35cm. Dad takes a few photos and I let him go. This was so exciting.

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Little did we know crows were raiding our food while we were away. We rushed back to find they had taken every bit of food we had except for a bacon and cheese roll.

You wouldn’t believe the fun I had catching a large sooty grunter in a rock pool the size of a kitchen table. It is exhilarating because the fish is always in line of sight and you can see how big or small it is.

As I am walking out away from the rock pools, I am already planning my next trip and comparing this trip with the barramundi fishing I had done the day before. I loved catching the barramundi, but even though the fish I caught today were a lot smaller, there is something about seeing the fish take the lure that gets me really excited. Sooty’s rule!

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