2023 TEBS Round 1 – Daly River relocated to Shady Camp

Author: Peter Curry

Round 1 for TEBS 2023 was scheduled at the Daly River 25/26 February.

Fishing the Daly River during the wet season offers windows of opportunity for some spectacular fishing. In February the Daly River has an average of 17 days rain and long-term rainfall anywhere between 77mm to 680mm, with an average of 280mm. Most Fisho’s hope for a good solid wet season to rejuvenate the river systems and set up the fishing for a good year ahead. Year to date, it has experienced 14 days rain and just 206mm.

Statistically 2023 has not been a particularly wet year for most of the Top End in general, so the rain is welcomed. Rainfall in the catchment area as far away as Katherine is the biggest driver of the Daly River water levels. With water progressively making its way down the river. What could go wrong?

As the dates for the competition drew closer, a lot of attention was placed on weather forecasts, which was predicted to be poor. A post was put up on Social Media highlighting concerns that the river conditions could become unfavourable, bordering on dangerous and the possibility of road closures before or during the competition. After careful consideration of many different options, it was decided that the round would not go ahead at the Daly River due to safety concerns, but instead be moved to Shady Camp.

Weather forecasts for Shady Camp were also not particularly favourable, which saw a good number of anglers stay at home, or only fish one day. The rain pounded down on Friday night and Saturday morning saw scattered showers. After hooking up the boat on Saturday morning between showers, it was with trepidation that I set off hopefully to arrive at the dirt section of road just on daylight. Water was over the road on the Arnhem Highway in several places and Scott Creek running 200mm over the road, the dirt road section was slow going, muddy, with plenty of potholes. With plenty of water running over the barrage launching on all tides was not an issue. The persistent rain kept the rain jackets on all of Saturday, but fortunately most showers were light and not long lasting.

Early morning low tides usually bring a ‘conga’ line of boats out the front of Sampan Creek, however, with the strong Westerly winds and swell trolling ‘out the front’ proved very difficult. As a result most of the fishing was within Sampan.

With so many negatives due to the weather, it was nice to see plenty of brave TEBS competitors out on the water, with new 2023 ‘red’ shirts and hats on full display. Bite windows were short with the bigger tides, unusually large back eddies formed at certain periods of the outgoing tide and the fish joined them. Those that saw the development were rewarded with some solid fish. After a soggy weekend the results are in and despite the conditions, some outstanding fish were caught!!!  Thirty four anglers entered scoring fish, ten with a full bag of five fish and eight scoring 1,000 points or more.

A new TEBS record for a round score of more than 2,000 points was achieved by none other than Jack Oswald, our previous year’s winner. Funnily enough, Jack together with Ben Banks got all the way to the mouth of Sampan only to realise that they did not have a scorecard. Fortunately, Anita Carver and her crew were able to come to the rescue with a spare score card.

Jack also scored the biggest barra for the round at 114. It was literally the very last cast on Sunday afternoon when Jack hooked up on the fish. The fish wound its way around the Livescope pole and into the sticks, before coming to the net. What a Ripper of a fish! With catches like this, the 2023 measuring board and sticker may require an extension piece (but it seems safe for now).

Tristan Christie and Amelia Byers had a great weekend at Tommycut. Boating over 30 fish between them, which is a great effort. Tristan managed to break a rod tip on the Livescope pole mid-fight with a sizable fish.

Dwight Shepherd had a good weekend with a full bag of fish and also a great score. He also set a new PB with a 110 caught at Tommycut. His fishing partner for the round was Anthony Dent who registered just one scoring fish at 105, which was caught on the way back to the boat ramp on Sunday afternoon.

 

Lachlan Markey also put in a solid weekend achieving his full bag late on Sunday afternoon. He was fortunate not to lose a rod to quite a decent fish after leaving his lure dangling in the water while taking control of the electric motor. Unfortunately, that fish jumped off.

Tim Bolch braved the conditions and ventured to the Wildman for the weekend. Describing it as ‘wet and soggy’, Tim also encountered a crocodile that was a little too friendly, and with that returned with a respectable bag scoring just below 1,000 points for the weekend.

Camping conditions, were probably best described as miserable for anyone not set up properly. High winds and heavy rain made finding the right location to camp quite tricky. Anchor management also proved tricky, too little rope, or not enough rope? Plus, the constant bumps on the hull of the boat during the night of floating debris coming down the river probably kept a few on high alert. A couple of guys camping out at the NP campground did not bring any insect repellent and had to borrow some from fellow competitor. Not sure that ‘well it’s a new boat’ is really the cause for not packing the Bushman’s.

A crocodile on the Eastern side up from the first corner of Sampan Creek proved itself to be a quite a menace for some anglers, taking caught fish and appearing whenever a fish was caught. Craig Grose thought that he was really onto something big when casting to a large shape seen on the Livescope. However, the hooks let go and a ‘3m ish’ croc poked it head out of the water not looking too impressed.

TEBS competitors spirit of decency, good will and fair play was common in many of the weekends experiences. We all need to be mindful that this is a family friendly competition and promote those values whenever possible.

Next round will see us back at Shady Camp on the 18 -19th March. This round should see more favourable tides and coming towards the back end of the wet season should also see more stable weather. Hopefully that will bring out more competitors for what should be a great round.

 

 

 

Round 2 – Shady Camp

Author: Evan Dixon

Top End Barra Series is somewhat of a petri dish, where fishing ‘theories’ can be tested. With a large sample of anglers, fishing the same location, patterns can emerge, and findings can be surprising. It is not often that our competition is held at the same location twice in a year, yet alone only three weeks apart. The first round of TEBS 2023 was moved from the Daly River to Shady Camp in a move to preserve the safety of our competitors. The conditions were widely considered less than ideal, with heavy monsoonal falls, 25knt winds and spring tides. Round two was in stark contrast, where we had clear skies (for the most part), 10knt winds and neap tides. You’d be forgiven for thinking round one would be a disaster, however, you’d be wrong. Surprisingly, anglers found large numbers of trophy fishing willing to feed while competitors braved the miserable weather. In round two however, with ‘prime conditions’, many competitors reported fishing to be tough and bites windows to be short.

With nice weather over the weekend, anglers were spread across the Mary River system. The major rivers (Sampan, Tommy Cutt and the Wildman) seemed to have produced most of the scoring fish. Reports from the coastal creeks were scarce. While anglers employed a large variety of techniques to successfully catch fish, including traditional casting and trolling, one more modern method again reigned supreme. Using live imaging technology to target mature, tidal fish is the technique that dominated once again. In my opinion, using this technology is the only way to be competitive in large river systems. This is supported by the list of top ten anglers, who nearly all employed varieties of this incredible technology.

 

Despite some tough fishing over the weekend, there were some incredible captures including seven fish that reached the magic metre: 117, 111, 105, 103, 101, 100, 100. These comprehensive stats (Current Results – Top End Barra Series (tebs.fish)) also include over twenty fish caught in the nineties. The largest fish at 117cm was landed by a name all too familiar to our regular report readers; Peter (Cuddles) Cooper (seven thousand times TEBS champion, knower of all that is barra and now live imaging enthusiast ?).

 

I’d like to provide my own little anecdotal tale about this capture… On Sunday afternoon, my crew and I went to farewell Cuddles and return four jerry cans he had been storing on our boat. He was fishing solo out of a small punt, and we were riding aboard the Titanic. Cuddle’s face wore the look of what I interpreted as dejection. We later found out that his expression was actually the look of frustration. We had interrupted his ‘hunt’. Cuddles had been following around this behemoth fish and our presence was somewhat of an unwanted distraction. Cuddles later reported to have spent 10 minutes floating around again only to rediscover the fish. He then enticed the round winning fish to bite after twenty minutes of persistent harassment. Ridiculous….

Many of the top 10 anglers reported seeing huge numbers of large fish in the system. It was consistently reported that these fish were tentative and enticing reactions was just a matter of persistence. Tristan Christie (3rd) reported fish following lures for large lengths and never committing. Jack Oswald and Ben Banks, who placed 1st and 2nd respectively in round one, pin balled between Sampan on the high tide and Tommy Cutt on the low. Why should you care? They again both placed in the top 5 in round two making them a force to be reckoned with.

There were also some interesting tales of bycatch over the weekend. Jack Oswald bagged himself a 125cm jewie and a Queensland grouper which took him around half an hour to subdue. Both threadfin salmon and blue salmon were thick in some places and provided some great entertainment and no doubt delicious fillets to our competitors. A proud moment was watched on by many, as Molly (5 years old) out-fished her mother, Tenielle Lockwood, and father, James Park, bagging herself several large models. And what is a TEBS tale without a catty… James Mitchell, who placed a respectable 6th this round, landed a metre long specimen. This may never have happened if he bought a Garmin Livescope instead of a Hummingbird 360. Shout out to our sponsors!!!

 

Finally, our TEBS story would not be complete without a couple of tales of mishap. On Friday evening, on the Wildman River, while rafted up enjoyed a few refreshments, Craig Latimore and Tim Bolch (TEBS Chairperson) noticed their boat taking on water. The scuppers were jammed and their boat was sinking… The quick-thinking men took off for home and got their boat ‘on the plane’ to drain the water. This was rudely interrupted in the worst place ever. At Point Stuart, in choppy conditions, the boat ran out of fuel. In some hectic moments, while the boat resumed taking on water, tanks were switched, and fuel was reprimed. A lucky escape but a disappointing story for two anglers, who would no doubt have post massive scores from their favourite river system.

Dwight our club treasurer also experienced a mishap of his own. Way up in the dead forest, on Saturday evening, he lost all power to his boat and was unable to start it. Before being eaten alive by mosquitoes, he was rescued by one of our series sponsors, Marcus Knight from Northern Propellors. Marcus managed to find a fault in the boat’s wiring and got Dwight back in the game. Dwight went on to catch several impressive fish on Sunday, placing him in 5th. Perhaps Marcus could have left him there a bit longer…

 

 

It was another great weekend on the water for our competitors; raft ups were plentiful, spirits were high and camaraderie was none less than you’d expect. All eyes now turn to Bynoe Harbour. Will live imaging still reign supreme or will experience and knowledge of this expansive habitat prevail?

 

The top end anglers for round two are listed as follows:

1st Peter Cooper

2nd Jack Oswald

3rd Tristan Christie

4th Ben Banks

5th Dwight Shepherd

6th James Mitchell

7th Jesse Rhatigan

8th Lachlan Markey

9th Benjamin Vidgen

10th Craig Grose

Round 3 – Bynoe Harbour

 

 

 

Round 4 – Darwin Harbour

 

TEBS Round 5 – Salt Water Arm

 

 

 

Round 6 – Billabongs

2023 Series