Outdoor activities, Northern Territory, Australia

Fishing in the dry season

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Fishing, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Each day between May and September, a clear blue sky, a light south-easterly breeze and a sensational sunset typifies what is known locally as 'the dry' season.

This season is also the peak bluewater fishing season. Spanish and broadbar mackerel, often in prolific numbers, are attracted by the bait schools along the Top End coast at this time of year, and other pelagic sportfish are also prevalent.

Longtail tuna, cobia, queenfish and giant and golden trevally commonly travel side-by-side as they work the bait schools. For the dedicated fly fisherman, this time of year presents the opportunity to land a host of exciting species.

Reef fishing for quality table fish also heats up during the dry. Popular species like golden snapper, tricky snapper, black jewfish, coral trout and red emperor are readily caught on both inshore and offshore reefs.

It is also the perfect time of year to explore the variety of habitats favoured by barramundi. Most big tidal rivers continue to provide quality barra fishing well into the dry season. Once the floodplains drain; the river waters clear and maintain clarity.

Reasonable water clarity is important for successful barra fishing, particularly if artificial lures are being used. The coastal mangrove estuaries and creeks are also prime barramundi waters, along with the freshwater, landlocked billabongs. These become accessible by vehicle as the access tracks that traverse the floodplains harden and dry. Each year, Northern Territory Fisheries Research conducts its annual barramundi monitoring on the Mary River system. This information is then used to assess the health of the barramundi population to ensure that the fishing remains sustainable for future generations.

The Top End offers great fly fishing. The giant herring migrates to shallow, inshore Top End waters during the dry season. This is a highly spirited, predatory sportfish that can be sight-fished in clear, shallow water, thus lending itself to fly fishing techniques. Once hooked, its fight can be described as a cross between that of the thrashing, high jumping tarpon and the tear-away bonefish – it will smoke off 100 metres of fly line and backing in seconds, stop dead, then go bounding across the surface of the water in a completely different direction, leaping repeatedly in its efforts to shed the fly. NT giant herring are usually 3-6 kg in weight, but don't make great eating as their flesh is laced with small bones, which is why they are also called 'pincushion fish'.

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