The Corroboree Billabong round is often a difficult one in the Top End Barra Series. Yet it still is one of my favourites. The scenery is second to none, the water usually calm, and it is reasonably close from Darwin. This year it was all of that, and oh boy, it was also a cold one!

From the arrival early on Saturday, we could feel the fresh and crisp morning as a warning of the weekend that was going to be. Dwight Shepherd reported that the temperature at the boat ramp was then of 10 degrees Celsius. About every second TEBS participants that we saw in the morning’s first light, was wearing a beanie. A beanie, and yet we live in the tropics not in the desert! I even heard of a few anglers who had arrived at Shady fresh on Friday evening, but found the weather so cold that they decided to wait until Saturday to launch.


But there we were, to catch some fish, and we would try to do just that. All competitors had varying degrees of success, I might add. For us it was just a few hits here and there. But mostly only half-baked bites on the lure, by usually small fish who didn’t stay connected for longer than one or two seconds. Mark Grosser and I got a small window of opportunity at around 11:00am, with one fish each in two consecutive troll run, both fish caught in a ten meters radius. And that was it for the day in regards to point scorers. We later on found a pandanus that seemed to have a lots of fish hiding between its roots but they were nearly all very small barramundi, with a few tarpon, and a nice sleepy cod in the mix. We did see a biggish fish with would have been in the 70s cm but it just followed the lure, gave it a kiss and turned away. No real love there.

During the rest of the day, we moved all over the main billabong and came across many of the TEBS competitors. Some of them fishing hard, and some busier perfecting the art of the ‘raft up’. Which after all is a big part of what makes the TEBS what it is, a very friendly competition, full of laughs and good camaraderie.

With the evening approaching, we made the plan to have dinner, and use the cover of darkness to catch some unsuspecting fish who by then should have been looking for their own dinner… Well the first part, our dinner, was an absolute success. The second part of the plan? The one about catching fish at night? Well, it wasn’t exactly a success, it was more like a no show from the piscatorial adversary. Nothing, nada, zip… So time to sleep it was, with as much protection from the cold as possible. No need for air-conditioning.

As the first light of the day arrived, life seemed to make a comeback on the banks of the billabong. In the chilled morning, hopes of big and numerous fish was alive again. Even if some fisho started to troll, from the warm comfort of their sleeping bag. But for many it was a kind of Groundhog Day. Fresh in the morning and windy in the afternoon, without any expected fish fighting at the end of the line. So, the people who did catch some fish, how did they do it?

Mostly, it was a question of persistence, persistence and persistence… Kel Shipp who ended up third for the round, got his bag of five fish, as did the first two. But one of Kel’s barramundi was a tagged fish which should provide valuable information to Fisheries.

Ben Judd said that he had to do the kilometres and the hours to get his full bag. His efforts brought him the biggest barramundi for the round, at 86cm. He caught his biggest scorers at night and persisted through the cold until around 3am. A great effort that placed him second for the round.

From the little tidbits of information that I got, it seems that the largest proportion of the fish were caught on small soft plastics and vibes, then trolling hard body lures. The S- Bends seemed to be a stand out location. For some anglers apparently this section of the billabong came to life in the middle of the night for those that could fight the urge to sleep and hide from the tropical blizzard.

Now, will I be back on the billabong one day? You bet I will! And I might even pack a beanie, you know, just in case…

Regis Martin