2020 TEBS, Round 1 The Mighty Daly

10 years! Yes the Top End Barra Series is entering its ten years anniversary… Where did the ten years disappear? That we cannot answer but we do have a bag load of good laughs and great memories. This bag continued to be filled over the weekend but the bags of fish were amiss.

In a change from tradition, this year the first round was not at Shady Camp, but on the Daly River. The river proved once more that her nickname ‘The Mighty Daly’ was well earned. This year 81 points scoring fish were caught with only 5 competitors recording a full bag of five fish. In 2019, 71 point scoring fish were recorded with 4 anglers recording a full bag of five fish. So the results only differed by a small margin and wishful thinking was somewhat short lived…

So how does it all play out? On Saturday morning, after a long awaited rain had finally fallen on our beautiful Territory, the river was high. The spirits and hopes of many even higher. Many things seemed to have clicked perfectly place. The water was steadily dropping and people smiled in anticipation. Some spots had dark streams flowing into the milky coffee river, producing great colours contrasts. Sporadic Boofing could be heard here and there as fish grazed on rainbow fish within the reeds… Before 9:00am, I witnessed another angler boat two barramundi after I’d only just caught my first… Oh what an amazing weekend it was going to be… or so I thought.

From there we started to catch up with more and more competitors who were lamenting the lack of catch. The boat I was in didn’t put another scale on the deck… This was a common theme for many.

Yes the round was not full of fish for everybody but it was full of “adventure” for many. Here are some tales:

  • One competitor hit a wave that dislodged the bin from the back of his boat. After a frantic attempt to save the said bin, he could only look at it sinking to its watery grave. This however provided invaluable practice to improve his netting technique as the angler scooped empties from the surface.
  • Another angler lost a fish in the high 90s, which pulled the jig head boat side, after being fought in from a nearly emptied spool.
  • The smallest boat on the river hit two very big logs which floated dangerously beneath the surface. Fortunately no damage was recorded to the boat or prop.
  • Another unfortunate angler broke his fishing rod by 8:00am on Saturday morning.
  • Similarly another angler in the excitement of the moment, hooked his own rod and cast it into the drink. Sadly this combo went for a swim and didn’t return.
  • There was ridiculously the guy whose clutch died before even reaching their destination. Thankfully his decky hitchhike a ride to mobile phone reception, to call for a rescue. (Thanks Daniel Hanna for the ride and his mate for helping with the phone call).
  • A better story still, was one of a well know TEBS personality, who spent a few hours near Alligator Head waving to his friends as they passed him on his sandy throne. Some might say, ‘Side by Side’ he was covered in mud. An Iron Jack Legend nomination for this round was receive by Mark Grosser, who came to rescue finally relieving this angler from a delicate and embarrassing situation. Mark you are a legend.

Here is a more bizzare tale from the weekend:

After lifting a surprisingly heavy net into the boat, an angler managed to net a double header. Much to the crews surprise a small bull shark had decided to hitch a ride on the tail of a barely legal barramundi. As this was the only legal fish the anglers had captured it was about to be dispatched and sent to the ice box. While being hung from the side of the boat, with knife at the ready, the fish flip-flopped freeing itself in a frantic fairy-tale finish.

Now, back to our fish… The mystery fish for the round was the great sport fish eloquently titled Catfish. This respectable win was pencilled in for Jeff Dawson with his impressive 71cm aquatic feline. The biggest barramundi for the round was caught by Kevin Bochow and was a very respectable 96cm specimen. The three first spots on the ladder were won by people who were able to fit five fish into their respective bags. In third arrived Jason Gerdes with a bag of 63, 64, 67 75 and 78. The second spot went to Peter Cooper with a 59, 62, 63, 79 and 86cm fish. First place on the podium, was Nicholas Hall with a solid bag made of a 56, 65, 70, 79, and 83cm fish.

 

An interesting fact, is that like in many round, one crew managed to find the Barra Honey Hole. Nick and Jason reeled in over thirty barramundi for the weekend and were the rare few smiling upon returning to the boat ramp. This crew also got a bit more than they bargained for when a four meters reptile snatched their lure practical at the rod tip. Image that for a fright…  As they say, if there is bait, there is barra, and if there is barra, there are crocs…

Next round is coming soon, and it will be at Shady Camp… How many meteries will be caught, is anyone’s guess. I don’t know about you, but I’m already sharpening my hooks…

Cancelled due to Covid-19.

2020 TEBS, Round 3 ~ Bynoe Harbour

The first round of the 2020 Top End Barra Series was all the way back in March. For many this feels almost like a lifetime ago. We have since had to learn to live with the threat of Covid-19. Round 2 which was to be held at Shady Camp was considerately postponed in the best interests of the community. Thankfully, the third round of our series was given the green light, and anglers were eager to get back on the water to chase our most famous local sports fish: The Great Barramundi. This round not only provided the opportunity to try to catch a great fish, but also the pretext to catch up with mates and have a good time in the great outdoors. Of course the round was filled with laughter….

So, Where? On Bynoe Harbour. When? Last weekend. Weather Report? Just about perfect, if not on the fresh side.

The round also wasn’t without a few hiccups. Nick Hall for instance managed to set the hooks on his largest catch to date: himself! The treble went straight through the skin of his calf. To ease the pain Nick took to some refreshing beverages with the company of Josh Scanlon. After a few more ales a similar experienced was again relived. A misjudged cast by Nick’s decky sent a vibe into Josh’s back. That’s one way to tie off in a raft up?! Luckily in both cas, with the help of a side cutter, the hooks where able to be pushed through and removed. Also in true TEBS spirit, Tim who was towed out of a delicate situation in round 1, passed on the favour towing a distressed crew with outboard issues back to the ramp this round.

A nice family story was enjoyed by the Bartolo crew. 1 year old Wilton, who fished hard all morning on Sunday, had the opportunity to pose with Mum and a barra. A barra that looked nearly as big as this lucky toddler. This young man will be a force to reckoned with in the future.

 

Last years’  Bynoe Harbour round was much later in the season, with winds destroying water clarity. This year the dreaded dry season winds seemed to have taken the weekend off greatly improving fishing opportunities. When it comes to barra fishing, Bynoe Harbour is reputed for its flats/sight fishing. This approach was the plan for many. For a few this strategy was effective. One person with a different approach was Charli Syme. Charli saw a nice school of big fish on his sounder. Hiding in about 4 meters of water on the high tide, Charli tea bagged his vibe on the school’s nose. A method certainly in stark contrast to flats fishing….  You know the old saying, if at first you don’t succeed… Well, it took three hours to get one hit. One single bite which gave Charli the biggest slab of chrome for the round. For anglers, it’s great hearing of stories of when persistence is rewarded because so often it’s not.

Back on the flats, James Park bagged his five fish. He worked from the mangrove edges to the gutters as the tide slowly dropped away. James used a wide variety of lures, from small soft plastics and vibes to shallow hard bodies. Switching between these presentations to trigger a bite. His bag of 63, 63, 64, 65 and 66cm fish put James in the third position for the round. He caught a total of 11 point scorers, which was impressive considering the doughnuts delivered this round.

In second came Kevin Bochow with a bag of 63, 63, 63, 64 and 75, well done Kevin. In first place, Simon Bochow,  in the same boat, provided the biggest bag for the weekend at 65, 65, 66, 66 and another 66. The prize for the biggest Queenfish for the round went to Jame Park with a fish that measured 84 cm to the fork. The total number of barramundi recorded over the 50cm mark for this round was 74, which is an improvement over last years total. The number of full bags also went from 3 in 2019 to 5 in 2020, so this year seems better all around. Thanks to those anglers, who contributed to selecting the best tides for this round.

The next round of TEBS is scheduled for the lower Adelaide River and estuary system on the 12th & 13th September. Best wishes to everyone until then.

Round 4 – Adelaide Estuaries

It has been a challenging year for many, so fishing weekends are certainly a privilege. It certainly appeared that way over the weekend, with slightly less competitors taking the opportunity to hit water. You probably would be forgiven for thinking otherwise however, given the rugged state of the dirt tracks. With the weather warming, tides and wind easing last weekend certainly looked like it was timed to perfection. Competitors were spread from Leaders Creek through to the top of Castle Creek on the Adelaide River.
With prime conditions this year, the results for this round were certainly an improvement from 2019. Last year there were 17 scoring fish and this year approximately 40. To be honest however, the results given the optimal conditions fell well short on expectations. Who knows why? Is it due to consistently poor wets? More pressure on these fishing locations? Or perhaps even a lack lustre effort? Personal, I think a combination of each… According to one angler, the fishing was best on Friday evening and steadily became tougher as the tides eased. Some competitors switched between locations in desperate attempt to find feeding fish, yet few were rewarded.
 
Something the two years had in common, other than tough fishing, was the same angler leading the round results. For a second year in a row, Kai Argent has showed everyone how to deliver the goods at this location. Kai filled his bag with five legal fish to 82cm. Kai is an old hat and his experience on the water is telling. Other reports for this round are scarce, but according to a few, the fish were hiding deep in the thick of snags. Only the perfectly placed cast or tight troll run was rewarded. 3” Zmans again pop up as a stand out lure. It might also be a quietly guarded secret, but dark lures are returning to fashion with the theory of contrast growing momentum.
 
 
An Iron Jack nomination over the weekend went to Mark Grosser. Mark spent an hour or so trying to assist Alex Couzens at the ramp with woes of flat battery. After about an hour of swapping batteries and mucking around, the two anglers put the car battery in the boat, took it for a spin and managed to revive it. It was also nice to see a number of young TEBS families and competitors joining in on the action over the weekend. A decent raft up of half a dozen boats was also reported on Saturday night, so despite all the odds, the spirit of the competition remains strong.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Interestingly, missing the last round due to personal commitments was Peter Cooper. He is again back on the leader board coming in at a very respectable 2nd place. You’d be naive thinking a missed round would put this man out of contention. Coming in third for this round was Phil Newton, landing the biggest fish at 86cm. In fourth place was Tim Bolch, who is proving to being a consistent competitor and fifth, Alex Couzens. Alex impressively also filled has bag but the fish were a bit short on length.
 
All eyes now turn to the billabongs and reports have been promising. A few night time slappers are turning up on the social media grape vine. Whispers of trolling up the guts are well short of a secret and perhaps this year we will catch a little more than frost bite. Until then, tight lines…

Round 5 – Billabong Frenzy

Last weekend was the Top End Barra Series’ billabong round.

All the action was happening over Corroboree, Rockhole, Hardies, Mary River Bridge Lagoon, and Shady Fresh (upper side of the barrage only).

 

The billabong rounds have brought mainly misery in the past and one could be forgiven for wonder how this round would go… While it was hard for some, it was quite simply amazing for others. Others who missed the round, might now have some regrets of doing so.

 

You don’t need to be a statistician to understand this simple comparison;

In 2019 there was only 17 fish recorded for the round and this year there were over fifty fish captured. In 2019 the biggest fish was a respectable 83 cm specimen. This year three, yes three barramundi over the one metre mark have been captured and released! With the biggest fish being 104cm, caught by Chris “Banana Man” Rutishauser. Well done Chris! The swamp donkey was caught on a Reidy’s Big B52’s in the colour black, trolling at night. In 2019 only nine anglers managed to hook at least one barra. This year 21 of them were able to rejoice when their line went tight, their reels started to scream and a fish found the net.

 

In 2019 the top two fishos for the round were Peter Cooper first and Simon Bochow second. This year the top two were… wait a minute, we will come to this a bit later but we have a few other things to tell first…

 

On Saturday morning the weather was just right, but soon the wind came up and made things a bit less than ideal. Except for one guy, who amazingly had his full bag by 8:30am, with a metery landed on the fourth cast at around 6:30am… All this while other anglers were trying to find spots sheltered from the wind. The day fishing was slow, yet many anglers could be seen trolling for barra or flicking the lillies for saratoga, the bycatch species for this round.

 

As the light faded many were hoping, waiting, with anticipation for things to happen. A good number of fish were seen on sounders across the place, but few of them seemed to be hungry enough to chew on a lure. A great variety of lures were used over the weekend, but the secret for trolling seems to have been the Reidy’s Big B52 in black at night and silver or gold during the day. Contrast again playing a major key in lure selection.

 

For flicking it was all about soft plastics. I even had success catching some saratoga on a Mepps spinner lure. These lures are similar to those I used 40 odd years ago while chasing pike and zander in Europe.

 

I heard many tales, of fish that during the night from Saturday to Sunday, were so big that they tore enough line from reels to brick anglers in snags or just gill rack the poor souls’ leader lines. Tim Bolch for example, first landed a very fat 91 which looked more like a piglet that a fish. Then using the same lure hooked onto an absolute horse of a fish that took nearly all of his line and finished him off by burring his lucky lure in some distant timber.

A very short shower on Sunday morning at around 4:00 am was not enough to deter the competition participants. But alas it seems that most of the action was had over night. Sunday proved very difficult and many left early. On the Sunday by mid-morning, rumours were running wild on the water, from boat to boat, that a 99 cm fish and three meteries had been caught already. I even heard from my own ears a Tebsie say that if such rumour was true, he would eat cardboard for his next breakfast… I tell you what, I don’t envy his breakfast that is for sure!

 

 

Now for the winners, here they come:

Kai Argent, a podium regular, took out third with an already enviable bag of 61, 65, 69, 70 and 82cm.

 

First and second seem to be a bit like déjà vu. Like 2019 Simon Bochow was second with five fish of 54, 70, 80, 91 and 99 cm. A ridiculous haul in anyone’s books.

 

Did you noticed that despite three barramundi over the one metre none yet were mention in third and second position? That is because of Peter in his casual nonchalant fashion snared not one but two of them! Yes just like last year, he again snares first for the billabong round with a bag of 56, 62, 67, 100 and 100cm barramundi! What a score, frankly…. ridiculous.  Two Meteries in the same round for one angler is a rarely seen event in the history of the TEBS.

And what is more amazing, is that Peter got all his scoring fish by 11:00am on Saturday! All of them casting soft plastic deep into the snags… I don’t know about you, but I personally would love to know which snags exactly!!!

And yes, two years in a row, Simon and Peter arrive on the podium in the exact same position. I wonder now what will happen next year. I can tell you this though, it will be hard to justify moving the billabong rounds back to the dry…

 

Well before then though, we have a couple of rounds before our 2020 series draws to a close. Next up, Top End Barra Series heads to Darwin Harbour.