Shady Camp and Coastal Round

Last weekend was the first round of the 2019 Top End Barra Series. About 110 very keen anglers were waiting with growing impatience, just like small children long for Christmas. It finally happened last weekend with competitors converging on Shady Camp, like an annual pilgrimage.

Craig Grose 103

Once again, Shady didn’t disappoint, with a large number of big, Mama Barra falling to the lures of enthusiastic anglers. Participants in the TEBS were fishing far and wide, from Tommy Cutt all the way up to the Wildman. Anglers appreciated the opportunities to spread out throughout the lower Mary System. The range and quantity of data collected by TEBSies is a great way to assess the health of the system. Despite the lack of rain this year, there is no doubt that the system is still producing the goods.

Kell Shipp 104

Some had launched on the Friday to have the opportunity of a first raft up, or simply to pre-fish and find their honey hole. As a matter of fact, on one of these pre-fish escapades, Craig Latimore nailed a 116cm Barramundi. Not only is that a great fish which could have given an awesome fight on any given day… it was foul hooked, not very far from the end tail making it all the more challenging. Now, imagine trying to reel in a 116 cm Barramundi that you can’t turn around… Now from what I heard about raft ups, well what happens on a boat stays on a boat. But let me say that one well know Tebsie came all the way from NSW to be part of them and has since returned down south, hopefully not too impaired from the experience.

Craig Latimore 116 (Prefish)

Talking about the nights slumbering aboard cherished vessels, competitors need a quick reminder to be ‘crocwise’. Rossco had a lizard spending the night either removing barnacles from its back or hoping to tenderize its dinner. Tim Bloch also had bit of a shock when going to answer a call of nature, at night, only to find a crocodile resting his head on the back pontoon.

The fishing seemed to be better all across the board on the Saturday than on the Sunday, apart from a few exceptions. Most of the fish were caught on big lures, with the large Reidy’s and Classic models doing most of the damage. In place like the mouth of Sampan and Tommy Cutt, it was at times difficult to get passed the plagues of threadfin. While they are great fun to catch, they are not the sort after prize and are sensitive about mediocre methods of catch and release.

When it comes to the winners for this first round of the year, here is an interesting little fact which might make one place a hot spot next year… The top five anglers for the round were all fishing in the vicinity of the Wildman. They might still be debating if it was better to fast troll or slow troll, but they were all there. Of the first three, there was one fish registered under 90cm (89). To understand the quality of the fishing over the weekend, you have to realise that Wade Johnson, who caught two meteries and two solid kickers, only arrive in forth position… which is frankly ridiculous. Wade, we’d feel sorry for you but it is impossible to sympathise with someone who just put two dollars in the piggy bank. It was an incredible weekend, with possibly the largest collective score in the history of our competition.

Wade Johnston meterie No#2

Before we chat about final placing, we’d also like to share the fact the Chris Armstrong a newbie to our competition took out the biggest fish for the round at 109cm and significantly upgraded his PB. Fantastic effort mate! There were five meteries caught in total, well done to each of the skilled anglers: Kell Ship, Wade Johnston (2), Craig Grose & Chris Armstrong.  In third place for the round, we had Tim Bloch with a bag of 91, 91, 92, 92 and 93 cm. Now this is what I would call consistency. Coming second for the round was our reigning champion for 2018, Peter Cooper, with a bag of 90, 90, 91, 92 and 97 cm. It is worth noting that Peter was also fishing solo, which is a tremendous effort. The winner of the round was none other than the Shady Camp specialist himself, Craig Latimore, with a full bag of 89, 91, 93, 96 and 96cm… I don’t know about you, but for me that is definitively a weekend to be remembered. Congratulations Lats!

Chris Armstrong (Tebs Virgin/Biggest Barra) 109

All eyes now turn from one favourite haunt to another. Will the Daly surprise us and deliver the goods or will it be the usual test of endurance which knocks many off their pedestals?

Daly Round

In the Top End Barra Series, it’ a bit like the days in life, the rounds follow each other but don’t all look alike. The first round of 2019 was a chrome overload, the second one was more on the chrome stress side of things. Very low level of water on the mighty Daly River, made her a bit of a vixen to fish. The recent rains made the river incredibly dirty, which limited trolling and the drains were competitive, over fished pieces of real estate.  Although many found it hard, some stood up to the test and came back with well-deserved glory. As after all, to win without challenge, doesn’t warrant much praise.

Saturday was hot and slow for most. With boats passing each other and lamenting on the lack of fish. Or even worse, that they could see on the sounder as many as 30 big fish on a short troll run, but that pass after pass, none of them wanted to take a lure. By the end of the day, the murmurs on the river was that only a handful of fish had been boated, and a few of the TEBS participants, decided that a raft up was the only sane thing to do at this point in time.

During the night, boofing all around the boat woke many up .On three separate occasion, my skipper and I got up and flicked lures for long stretches of time sadly without any success. Fish were all around and feeding aggressively, but staying way clear of our lures. The mozzies on the other hand, found us without a problem, and were even more ferocious than the barramundi. Oh what a night!

By Sunday morning, many had decided to call it quits and the car park was steadily emptying. A few stayed on and had revenge. Over the weekend, only 71 barramundi reached point scoring length and this round will be remembered as one of the more challenging.

Usually fisherfolk who venture to the Daly, do so with the expectation of finding one or more, large silver Barra mamas… Well the biggest one of the round was an 86 cm specimen hooked by Darren Heaven. A beautiful fish, yet still so far from the magic meter mark. In relative terms, it was more valuable than a Shady meterie, given the overall appalling stats. But what was a much more common size to land was the dreaded 49cm fish. To the extent that a few boats joked between themselves about the 49s Club, and how many 49s each had amassed for their Facebook albums. As a comparison, the first round of the 2019 TEBS at Shady Camp had someone with a bag of five fish at 46th place on the scoreboard. In the second round, only the top four competitors got a full bag…

It seemed that small soft plastic lures where the go to catch fish this year. Was it due to the poor wet season and the small size of the bait in the river? Some have commented that most of the fish they caught were very lean and looked rather hungry. Talking techniques, Clayton Archbold and Sonia Barnes impressed the competition, using their Garmin 8410 SSV Panoptics Telescope (supplied by Frenchy’s Marine). The pair used the s

 

ounder, to find active fish in the upper reaches of the Daly, place vibes in the strike zone for however long it took to entice a bite. Incredible…

In the third place came Kevin Bochow, with a bag of 54, 55, 60, 72 and 74cm. He caught all his fish on the ever reliable Reidy’s vibe. In tied first place, we had Clayton Archbold whose fish were 55, 61, 66, 74 and 79. Also in first place, we find the ever consistent Peter Cooper, last year Grand Champion, who looks like he will not give back his crown without a fight. Peter’s bag got filled with barramundi at 63, 65, 68, 68 and 72. Peter caught all his fish on rubber during the daytime. He fished the lower part of the Daly and only found a small bite window at high tide each day. Congratulations…

Well done to everybody who caught a fish and those that persisted and refused to give up. If the fishing gods were not on your side on the weekend, remember, rounds follow each other but don’t all look the same.

Billabong Round

It was a typical dry season weekend, sunny throughout the day with the temperature plummeting at night. Anglers were spread across the billabongs, with Corroboree being the most popular, as you’d expect. At Shady Fresh, there were large numbers of juvenile fish to keep anglers entertained. Scoring fish however were virtually impossible to come by. Hardies produced a fish for a couple of anglers but pickings were slim. Corroborree was where the bulk of the scoring fish were caught but don’t pack the boat and go just yet though… For every competitor who landed a fish, there’d be at least two dozen who didn’t. Here are some sobering statistics: only nine competitors caught the seventeen scoring fish, with the bulk of these fish landed by our series leader Peter Cooper. Well done also to James Park for capturing the biggest fish for the weekend, at 83cm, trolling at night.

Can we blame the poor wet for more mediocre fishing or are the fish simply lying dormant in the cool weather? No one really knows… Despite the lack of fish caught, competitors were generally positive about the weekend and just pleased to spend time exploring these unique habitats. A special mention must be made to ‘Banana Man’ who put on an eye-blinding laser show on Saturday evening for everyone to enjoy. If anyone works for customs however, you might want to catch up with this competitor as he seemed to have a boat filled with assorted types of contraband.

 

After round three, the series winner from 2018, Peter Cooper, is absolutely dominating the competition. From this point, he looks virtually unstoppable. ‘Cuddles’ is proving to be a very cunning competitor with vast amounts of TEBS experience. As Regis (TEBS Journalist) is away gallivanting the globe, the rest of the report will be made up of key information gathered from the top 5 round leaders who managed to raise a scale.

 

(1) Peter Cooper:

Peter fished Hardies Lagoon landing a few fish dropping plastics deep in the timber. He caught one fish trolling at night another at daylight trolling in the same spot. Peter found the fish by listening for boofing fish at night and returning during day light. Late on Sunday, Peter returned to Hardies to land a final scorer in the spot from the day before after the timber had the night to rest.

Stand out lures: Rapala X Rap and Zerek Flat Shads.

 

(2) Simon Bochow:

Simon and his dad caught several fish between them fishing Corroboree Billabong. Most of their fish were caught peppering snags with Fuze Baits. At night, Simon jagged a scoring fish on a Strada hard body.

 

(3) James Park:

James launched late on Saturday arvo at Corroboree. He fished most of the night with Kel before dropping him back at the ramp to catch a flight to the Gold Coast. James landed his two scorers at night trolling a large Bomber and a custom coloured Classic.

 

(4) Evan Dixon:

Evan fished Shady Fresh, Hardies and Corroboree on Saturday. He caught several undersized fish at Shady casting shallow, dead weed beds with a weedless plastic. Realising Shady was a bit of a nursery, the decision was made to move on to Hardies Lagoon. After casting for a number of hours to no avail, he and his decky decided to complete the full tour of billabongs and camp in Corroboree. On sun down, Evan caught his only scorer for the weekend. The 70cm fish was caught casting dead weed beds in the cutting after traffic had died down.

Stand out lures: Castaic Jerky J 5 inch (flasher rig) and a Z-Man 3 inch Minnow

 

(5) Brendan Harkness:

Brendan fished Hardies on Saturday. He managed a 67cm barra casting across weeds and lillies with a Z-Man Frog. He lost another two fish within the same hour.

 

Over the weekend, the fourth round of the 2019 Top End Barra Series played out on the doorstep of our beloved capital city in Darwin Harbour. Like the backyard for a number of us, this round should basically have been a walk in the park. Well, it was not… and this seems to be the general chorus throughout the year. Barra are fickle creatures and can be incredibly hard to entice when they feel like being stubborn. Our harbour is the largest in Australia and fish have plenty of places to seek refuge. Despite the large number of competitors fishing this round, it was amazing that some competitors still had vast sections of the harbour to themselves.

Weather wise, the water was like glass throughout the mornings, becoming windy in the afternoon and into evening. With high tides each morning, all the fish hid protected deep within the mangroves. Competitors had to wait patiently for the fish to finally come out onto the flats and hope their opportunities weren’t unsettled by the onset of wind. The small windows to target fish was not an ideal scenario. Perhaps these are just excuses?

The one animal that was undeterred by wind and tide, was the super numerous and incessant midgie. They were present in plague proportion. One Tebsie apparently had mozzie coils smouldering at either end of their boat both day and night. At night it was worse and the moon was so bright that it looked like someone forgot to turn out the light. In our boat, we decided to spend the night in a little harbour creek with hopes of a hot bite session overnight. The only bites felt from dusk until dawn were not from barramundi but from the millions of insect that had decided to call us dinner.

 

But it was not all gloom and doom. The harbour is a beautiful place, with a great variety of wildlife. Plenty of competitors enjoyed the sight of dolphins frolicking nearby and the different species of birds would have made any self-respecting birdwatcher twitch. Although the target species may have been somewhat scarce, the harbour still offers a wide array of piscatorial encounters. For example Michael Summerton was pleasantly surprised to catch his first ever Queensland Grouper, a magnificently decorated animal. Other competitors reported catching Javelin Fish, Rock Cod, Flathead, Golden and Brassy Trevally, Queenfish, Archerfish, Barracuda and Mangrove Jack. No one was bragging about capturing the humble catfish however.  This list no doubt represents a mere fraction of the species encountered by competitors.

On Sunday afternoon, I saw a very disappointed member of the TEBS fraternity at the Dinah Beach boat ramp … He had lost a barra in the 90s when both hooks broke off as the fish was within reach. Sadly, he ended up with a donut for the weekend… We can only sympathise with this poor fella, and hope his luck turns around.

Another angler was also rather unlucky and kept dropping fish before they reached the landing net. When Lady Luck finally smiled upon him and a 66cm fish did hit the deck the encounter was short lived. After a photo was recorded, a last minute jump sent the fish promptly back to the drink. Thankfully this Houdini of a fish didn’t swim very far, as it was rather spent by the ordeal. It was finally re-netted and dispatch into the esky as consolation prize.

 

Here are the hard cold stats from this round. Last year, the Darwin Harbour round saw three different anglers fill a full bag of 5 fish. This year, this feat was only achieved by one angler and surprise, surprise, he was among the three who did it last year. Only 61 point scorer were entered for the round.

In third position came Clayton Archbold with a bag of three fish: 50, 52 and 84cm (the biggest for the round). In second place, Tim Bolch whose bag comprised of two fish at 66 and 82 cm. Tim caught his bigger fish on a trusty gold bomber, his favourite lure for when the fish have lock jaw. The winner of the round, once again is Peter Cooper which he achieved last year. ‘Cuddles’’ bag was made of a 59, 61, 63, 66 and 68cm fish. Peter caught all his fish on soft plastics during day light hours. He fishing mostly West and East arm, changing location to hide from the prevailing wind. A good example of adapting when conditions are tough. Well done Peter, you continue to be an unstoppable force. It’s now time to study the tides and Google Earth to hatch a plan for round five when we all descend on Bynoe Harbour.

 

This link takes you to the score tables from round 4 and the entire series:

http://tebs.fish/2019-round-scores/?fbclid=IwAR2zCixVP8cimzFXGTgKDNGQzOvaERPBt2hbvU6fJci9Zbbz7cwrLqqT6_I

 

Last weekend, was the fifth round of 2019 Top End Barra Series. It was held in a place that many Darwinians call “Our other harbour”, this meaning Bynoe Harbour. Bynoe Harbour is known for being very big, with many islands offering protection when the wind blows… Well windy it was, and the little islands didn’t offered as much protection as many had hoped for. The wind blew above 15knts on both days. While forecasts modelled the wind would be better on Sunday, sadly this was not the case.

In a places where fishing for barramundi on the flats can be absolutely excellent, as if on cue, the wind would start at the prime time each day to squander opportunities. For many of the TEBS competitors, the solution was to try and hide in small creeks and find the limited fish in clearer, more protected waters.  The windows of opportunity over the weekend were incredibly short and being in the right place at the right time was key. Turns of the tide, once again seemed to be the ticket. These events pushed clarity into the gutters and provided enough flow to fire the fish up. Fishing wasn’t easy, and once again, talent, perseverance, knowledge and sometimes pure luck made all the difference.

Along with the windy conditions, big fires roared through the region. Many competitors cut their weekend short to get out of a potential fire hazard or to go and take care of their properties. Many competitors were incredibly escorted by the firemen along Barramundi Drive, with visibility cut to a couple of metres. Not exactly what you dream of when returning from a long fishing trip…

A recent survey from the NT Fisheries Department, have shown that there is an alarming small number of juvenile Barramundi in the Daly River this year. This is in stark contrast to the last two rounds of the Top End Barra Series, where competitors have found cricket scores of them in both harbours. Hopefully the promising numbers of juvenile fish in saltwater habitats will aid the low numbers in other fisheries.

 

Many competitors reported that most of their fish in Bynoe were caught casting soft plastic.

Some competitors provide these offerings weedless while others didn’t. I personally caught all of my fish on soft plastics too, except for my only scorer. This fish responded to a hard bodied lure which had been neglected in my bag for several years, in the wrapping nonetheless. This was a good time to try it, and it did bring home the satisfaction of avoiding the dreaded donut. One competitor used an effective, handmade, timber lure that also accounted for several fish. The craftsman of ‘The Stick with Eyes’ also fishes our competition and responds to the name of Moz. His lure has more of a reputation than he does.

 

Species caught during the round were again varied with many competitors capturing ‘the mystery fish’ for the round being queenfish and golden snapper. Other species landed over the weekend included mangrove jack, assorted trevally, rock cod, star gazer and even flathead.

 

Along with struggling against wind and fire many anglers reported broken fishing rods, electric motors and tackle boxes which decided to part with them, disappearing to the depths. One clever competitor managed to repair their electric prop pin by modifying a hook shank to replace the missing part. A heart-warming feel good story on the other hand was the rescue of an osprey found in the water by James Mitchell and Dean Blackman. This bird was found swimming for it’s life making strange splashes that reminded the two anglers of a drunken penguin. When the anglers lowered the net the bird straight away climbed on. This animal was covered in mud and the anglers beleive that it might have been stuck in the mud before managing to float with the rising tide. It could have quickly become a croc biscuit if they hadn’t spotted it. On the deck of the boat, it walked gingerly towards the anchor well and took a moment to get itself together and dry before finally flying away to a nearby mangrove tree.

Another amusing story is the 85 cm barramundi caught by Peter (Cuddles) Cooper. Peter was fishing in very shallow and dirty water, hoping to get a fish in the 60 cm to upgrade his bag, when his lure came to an abrupt stop. It was like Pete had been snagged on a rock, before being dragged away at great speed, leaving a bow wave and dirt trail in its wake. Pete’s first thought was that he had hooked a small crocodile that he’d seen in the vicinity earlier. It was only after a few minutes into the fight that he was pleased to see a big yellow tail breaking the surface. Once the fish was netted, he realised that it had been hooked just on the side of the head which is why it might have been fighting in a very odd manner.

Peter is once again at the top of the leader board and he is now unstoppable. He might as well head off on vacation in Round 6 and sip pena coladas on the beach giving the rest of us a chance. Well done Pete…. You are a barra fishing weapon and this year’s victory was the most convincing yet.

 

Top 5 places for round 5 are as follows:

1st: Peter Cooper

2nd: Kai Argent

3rd: Dwight Shepherd

4th: Clayton Archbold

5th: Nicholas Hall

For the full round results head to :http://tebs.fish/current-results/

The annual results are being calculated and will be released shortly. It is looking like there is going to be a tussle in round 6 to see who will be crowned as Pete’s bridesmaids

The six and final round for this year’s Top End Barra Series took place as it has become custom, at the mouth of the Adelaide River. It is usually a round full of promises and big expectation, a round with the very real possibility of catching a metery. Unfortunately, the round this year was like many of the other rounds this year only breaking anglers’ spirits and delivering frustration. Out of the several dozens of anglers, only eleven  managed to record a scoring fish. This dismal result is down on last year’s 31 successful anglers and 43 competitors registering fish in 2017.

 

 

 

So how did round six play out? With an early turn of the tide on Saturday morning, many had decided to launch very early, or even on Friday evening, to fish the morning bite time. For some an early launch on Friday was more for a pre-round raft up. The ones who went for the pre-round shenanigan got what they wanted, and most of those more focused on catching fish left perhaps feeling a bit cheated. As it was only the start of the neap cycle, the water hadn’t settled and it was very dirty and this almost certainly effected capture rates.

 

Even when spotted thanks to the modern technology of sounders, inactive fish refused to take any offerings. For example, Evan Dixon reported sitting on fish for six hours, dropping soft plastics and vibes on them for one single hit. Which thankfully for him, produced a 67 cm barra. Incredibly this school size fish put Evan in fourth position for the round. Yes, you read that right, a single 67 fish was enough to place you in 4th for this round. To put this into perspective, in the chrome freak show that was round 1, Wade Johnstone came fourth with two fish over a metre and two 89cm kickers. This is a testament to the struggle imposed on all the competitors in this year’s finale.

 

Some anglers tried all of the Wilshires, some tried Chad’s, Leaders and Salt Water Arm but the dismal narrative was fairly consistent. Among all the hardship, a TEBS competitor did find the time to practice some goodwill. Crossing the Narrows at about 7:30 pm on Saturday, Tim Bolch noticed a boat waving a light to attract his attention. After going to investigate the matter, it turned out the boat had lost its propeller due to an unfortunate collision with an unidentified object travelling at 50 kilometre an hour. Tim towed the boat from the Narrows to the boat ramp in Salt Water Arm. In the wind and current of the tide, the tow apparently took  two and a half hours. Once again a TEBSie has stepped up to help others in need. It was nice to also hear that the distressed boaties rewarded Tim’s efforts with a nice drop of rum. Also, although Tim didn’t come first for the round, he registered the most fish… so perhaps karma was on his side?

 

The ‘Mystery Species’ for this round was the humble and often disliked catfish. This was going to be controversial and not many people claimed to have caught ‘The Fish of Shame’. The winner of this mini comp inside of the round, apparently won with not a full blown Catfish, but rather what can be nicknamed a ‘kittenfish’. Who was it? Well let’s keep a bit of suspense until the end of tournament presentation…

 

This round’s score board was dismal, so we will keep it to the top 3.  In the third position for the round came Anthony Dent with a 72 cm fish. The second spot was won by Tim Bolch with the fullest bag of 50, 52, 54 and 55cm. The round winner is a usual figure on the Top End Barra Series podium, Kai Argent. Incredibly, Kai made it look easy and everyone else look like amateurs. He posted an impressive bag of 52, 64 and 92cm. He also said that he and his deckie had several missed opportunities with bigger fish. This was certainly not a common thread…

Even if the round was not going to decide who was first, it did decide who and in what order competitors would place in the rest of the top ten for the series. Some hopefuls lost a few spots in the deal… Take Jason Gerdes for example, without a fish to register for the round, he was bumped from third to fifth for the year. Although he might find this result disappointing, Jason can hold his head up high for achieving such a fine results in his TEBS debut. Here are some of the 2019 Annual Results… In fifth: Jason Gerdes with 721 pts, in fourth: Dwight Shepherd with 768 pts, in third: Clayton Archbold with 780 pts and second place was hung onto by Evan Dixon with 806 pts. The 2019 Grand Champion, as in a repeat of 2018 is no one other than the skilled Peter Cooper. He won with with an impressive  990 points and a 184pt margin. Congratulation Peter you have not only won the competition but supremely dominated it.

 

If you ignore the incredible results in round one, this year’s series was definitively a very hard year of fishing. This year, there were almost certainly the lowest number of fish ever landed in the history of our competition. This was a series that showed us who in less than favourable conditions was able to persist and find those piscatorial unicorns.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I do know someone who is already waiting in anticipation for TEBS 2020. Next year, will mark the ten years anniversary of this very friendly competition! My time has flown, while we have been fishing. Also, a big thanks must be made to the TEBS Volunteer Committee, who have worked behind the scenes to ensure the longevity of this competition. A special thanks as always to Ross Abraham, who works tirelessly behind the scenes to organise and coordinate this fantastic social competition.

 

Here is a link to the annual & round scores (click the tabs): http://tebs.fish/2019-round-scores/