The NT’s Million Dollar Fish Season 5 – the tally so far

This post will be updated with consecutive captures of fish in the NT’s Million Dollar Fish Season 3, so that it displays an uninterrupted timeline of events.

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Heat versus gill nets

There has been much talk about poor catches on the Daly River this year, following a disastrous wet season.

Before blaming gill nets, fishermen should first look at catch trends from the Barra Nationals and Barramundi Classic competitions (shown above).

Rainfall and barra catch is closely aligned, and is likely to remain so.

What concerns the author more than the effect of gill nets is the effect of continued warming of the climate. Before you dismiss this, please go to the bottom of the page and use the interactive graphic.

As we know, barramundi live in an extreme environment at the best of times. Large numbers of fish die, usually in the Build-up, after rain, when waterholes become superheated and organic debris quickly rots, causing oxygen levels to plummet.

Heat is now affecting tidal waters. In the shallow Gulf of Carpentaria, there have been die-offs of hundreds of hectares of mangroves, which is prime barramundi habitat.

Coral die-off has been well publicised in overheated tropical waters.

In my view, rising temperatures are a bigger threat to barramundi stocks than gill nets.

Overheated tidal shallows and floodplains, and overheated or even dry waterholes, will damage bait cycles, if not kill barramundi outright.

If you are in any doubt about temperature trends, look at the interactive graphic below, by Climate Central. It shows hot and cold temperature records from US cities. Use the pulldown to see cities across America, and note the trend in the past 20 years.

I don’t have a similar graphic for Australia, but no doubt the changes are similar.

If the heat trend of the past 20 years continues, we’ll be lucky to have barramundi some time in the future. Only recently a USA fisheries scientist said she was recording temperatures in salmon rivers that were not expected until 2070.

Which brings us back to barramundi gill netting. If there is a case for reducing netting, global warming is it.

Fish stocks will become more fragile as it gets hotter, and harvesting may have to be reduced, or stopped, to increase the chances of survival, and, with luck, adaption.

Also check out this FFF thread.

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Adelaide River creeks fire up

Matt Flynn with a 78cm barra from the Adelaide River

Had a good session on the Adelaide River today.

Fished all the way from “Black Jungle Creek” downstream up as far as Beatrice Creek. A lot of travelling.

Black Jungle was pumping fresh but had no mullet. There were big fish on the sounder at the creek mouth, but not biting.

Got a few fish up at Beatrice Creek on the run-out, but the best fishing came on at another creek during the first run-in tide. All fish were caught casting.

Ended the day with about 30 fish between me and Craig “Crackers” Hand.

Crackers with a fat fish taken on the Reidys Judge

Fish were all sizes, with the big ones at 79cm – must be a year-class. Couldn’t crack a metre fish, but we landed every big fish we hooked.

All fish taken on lures, we even outfished the livebaiters nearby at Beatrice – they only caught one fish while we caught five. The livebaiters said cherabin were scarce.

Lures of the day were an all-gold Reidys Judge, and small guns’n’roses deep divers, plus rubbers. Most fish were caught on hardbodies.

Saw a load of baby crocodiles, and larger ones. Crackers hooked one of about 2m long on the Judge, but got his lure back in surprisingly good nick.

Most creeks were pumping loads of fresh water.

My best sessions on creek mouths at the Adelaide this year have been immediately the water falls below the carpark. So much for the theory that a lower river is better.

Sadly there were no saltie chrome barra, all had a tinge of green, either that dark from-upriver green, or light billabong/Manton green. Crackers doesn’t mind eating the green ones, and he went home with a bag limit of fat fish. I’ll wait for the chromies!

There was no visible bait at any of the creeks we fished, although there was a lot of bait fuzz on the sounder. We did not see any other fish caught. Not a boof heard all day.

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Beatrice Creek, Adelaide River, NT

Small soft plastics like this work really well


The Beatrice Creek colour change today


The Beatrice "lone pandanus" - X marks the spot to cast

Fished Beatrice Creek this morning, the neap tides are really getting the creek pumping now. Small tides seem to move a lot of water on the upper Adelaide.

There is bait gathering, including tarpon, gars, mullet and rainbows, and this creek could fire from tomorrow if it keeps pumping for a few more days.

We caught a few rats to 75cm, with small soft plastics working best, but it was slow on the outgoing tide. Might have been better on the incoming.

Don’t just fish in the colour change, fish the pockets along the banks. The pandanus on the upstream bank has a fish-holding spot next to it (see picture with X marking the spot) – anchor 30 foot out and cast.

Trolling the downstream bank snags and drop-off and the mouth produces big fish each year.

This creek produces huge fish sometimes, so hold on!

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Flying the FFF flag, bwahahaha

Took the the tin lids to East Point today, with a couple of rods and a packet of prawns.

Aside from sand crabs, there wasn’t much happening. One rod took off for the water and my wife saved it, but the fish kept going out to sea and broke off.

Aside from that the pictures tell the story.

Dropped in at Hurley’s Aquariums on the way home. To misquote Saturday Night Live: “I got a fever, and the only prescription … is more fish!”

Got home and realised I’d missed the AFANT meeting. Oh well, I wasn’t keen on hearing Inpex explain how they would blow up Darwin Harbour’s Walker Shoal without doing any significant damage anyway.

The one that didn't get away

Maggie at work

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Adelaide River run-off 2011

The Adelaide River is slowly improving after Cyclone Carlos, it’s almost crackalackin’ but not quite … just waiting for the yellow-tailed salties to move up the river now. Here’s a few pix.

The author with an Adelaide River barra of about 80cm

Lincoln's lure gets spat

Lincoln's lure gets the flick ...

And the barra is free ...

A 74cm Adelaide barra, caught with Cosmos

A 79cm barra caught with Lincoln on Monday

My first barra for 2011, caught last Thursday

Double Haul at work in the sunshine

Double Haul at work in the rain

I hope to fish a lot more this year, after most water time in 2010 was spent making Dr Depth maps for NTMAG and FISH FINDER.

The Adelaide River was well and truly in flood in late February, falling nicely at the beginning of March, with regular top-up rain.

The half-day trips so far have been good, one with Crackers (no fish), one with Cosmos (caught about 20, biggest 84cm) and one with Lincoln (about 20, mostly rats, biggest 79cm).

Guns’n’roses seems to be the colour, and they like small lures.

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Kimberley, Tassie, Brisbane and Hotham

I spent the past six weeks travelling to the Kimberley, Tasmania, Brisbane and Hotham.

The Kimberley trip was a 12-day stint with Mal Miles of www.darwinbluewater.com.au as part of a prize for lucky NTMAG reader Jon ‘The Fisho’ Vogel.

It was a great trip to some new areas, and will feature in the Feb 2010 NTMAG.

Tasmania was a work and play trip – a long story – suffice to say it rained the whole time as Tassie’s years-long drought had broken in a big way, with eight weeks of non-stop rain.

The place was glowing green and beautiful, but our tot got a chest infection and no fishing was done.

Instead we tucked into venison pies, Tassie seafood, checked out local arts and crafts and enjoyed the log fires – a nice change.

I was disappointed to see the extent of forestry in Tasmania – companies like Great Southern and Timbercorp have ripped out large tracts of natural forest to install monoculture plantations, and the forest clearing continues.

Sadly, there have been problems with the forestry – not least that Great Southern and Timbercorp went bust.

The forestry issue is a lesson for the NT. We are still in a position in the NT to fight these sort of things, and at least demand proper management of agriculture.

So, then it was on to Brisbane where the traffic was crazy. It was dry, dusty and fairly f…..d up with unbelievable traffic. We were there shortly after the NSW dust storm went through.

The Brisbane I remember as a kid was green and lush. Coming back to Darwin was a relief.

Darwin is a great place.

Today I went to Cape Hotham, my first barra fishing trip for a while.

The fish were biting on lures for the early push out tide. Fresh barramundi for tea, and all free of chemicals. We take clean fish for granted, but they don’t in Tassie.

And the Saltwater Arm/Leaders Ck road was smooth – great stuff!

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Something different ….

I wrote this in 1995 before 9/11-style terrorism, when travel journalists were sometimes allowed to sit in the jump seat behind the pilot on commercial jet flights.
Thought I’d post it for something different.

*****

"May I visit the cockpit," I asked the frightfully polite and proper Malaysia Airlines stewardess.
"Yes, that will be OK Mr Flynn, but I must go and ask the captain."
It was only a short trip to the cockpit, but there were a million smiles along the way.
These were all from the crew _ there weren’t many passengers in business class on the Monday morning flight from Kuala Lumpur to Darwin.
Not that anyone missed the lack of Aussie company – the lucky few passengers were receiving virtually undivided attention from the lovely Malaysian hostesses.
But while I will one day perhaps forget those hostesses, I won’t forget the sight of that cockpit.
There sat two pilots in front of a panel.
There were no controls, no steering column, no joystick with which the pilots of yesteryear would have wrestled their planes through storms and war zones.
The throttle controls _ instantly identifiable to anyone who has watched one or two airport dramas _ were the only thing I recognised.
Hell, even the dials that used to cover every inch of cockpit wallspace in older jets were missing.
In their place were a few computer-generated images.
"My God, this thing is automatic _ we’re relying on a computer," I thought.
The pilot, after introductions, must have recognised my horror.
"It’s all fly by wire you know," he said. "I still have this joy stick, but the control inputs are now electronic signals."
"What joystick?" I asked.
He leaned back and there it was _ a joystick in his left hand that looked pretty much the same as one you would buy at a Dick Smith’s outlet for a home computer game.
It was all a bit much. Earlier I had relived the old fantasy that the pilots got food poisoning and I volunteered to fly the plane.
Some help I would have been: "Can we reboot? I think I’ve crashed the computer."
Also surprising was just how small the cockpit was.
The Airbus is a wide-body plane and the passenger compartment is known for its spaciousness.
But the cockpit was like a dark corner in a pinball parlor, with darkened faces slightly illuminated by various colored lights.
As I sat behind the pilot and co-pilot, they would occasionally talk to each other and then twiddle a knob.
"The ningcalibrator is osmollating a little over 6.023. Maybe we should slice the 3.14," I vaguely recall the co-pilot saying.
"Don’t worry about it," the pilot said.
The ride started getting bumpy
and I looked up at the windscreen.
"My God, lightning!" I exclaimed, as strands of blue electricity crawled slowly over the cockpit window.
"No, no. That’s St Elmo’s fire," the pilot said.
"We see it quite often."
Right.
It was the weirdest thing.
Like evil hands, it caressed the glass as if trying to seduce its way inside to wreak havoc with the flight computer.
I asked: "What happens if the plane is hit by lightning."
It was a question I had always wanted to ask a jet pilot.
"Not much," the pilot said. "It just leaves a small mark."
Later I was invited back to the cockpit for the landing in Darwin.
I was strapped into a seat behind the co-pilot.
In the distance I could just see the lights of Darwin runway, like a scene out of so many airport movies.
As we neared the airstrip the cockpit quietened.
Ah yes. The pilots were concentrating on the landing approach …
I said nothing. I didn’t want be a mystery voice on the black box flight recorder asking "what does this bit do?" just before the jet plummeted to earth.
Closer to the runway there was silence.
Suddenly the cabin door swung open.
The steward pushed his way through and called: "Glasses, any glasses!?"
The pilot and co-pilot passed out there empties.
Nearer still, another shock.
The flight computer talked.
"100," it said in a loud stern voice.
It was referring to altitude, I suppose.
"50," it said a little louder.
Then, just off the tarmac, in an urgent and loud tone.
"Retard! Retard! Retard!"
From this I gathered that a)the computer was politically incorrect b)something had been lost in the manufacturer’s translations c)we were going to crash unless someone did something quick.
But the pilot took the retard remark as a queue to pull back the throttle and flare the plane for a gentle touchdown.
And the Airbus did just that, landing about as gently as something that big and heavy can.

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Rubber ducky poppers ON SALE NOW

Just did a trip with BarraBeast to scare the fish on the Adelaide River.

Before leaving, Beasty ripped a rubber ducky from his son’s grasp and said "that’s mine".

We hit the mouth of the Adelaide and Beasty soon hooked and lost a metre fish in The Narrows (I forget what type of lure) but it was quiet, so we went up Cape Hotham for a look around.

A net boat was there (of course) and despite being baitfish around, flat calm and perfect tide for our spot there were only a few fish about, most of them small.

Lost one 70-80cm barra at a creek mouth and got a couple of blue salmon, plus a couple of small barra.

Beasty rigged up a rubber ducky popper and sure enough got a small barra at a spot I had just flogged with a gold Bomber. An absolute kwackup. Now looking for a Chinese factory to make them.

Funny that my only run-off trip this year (due to work commitments with the FISH FINDER book) had to be near a net boat.

As you may recall the NT Government put the net closure line on the Adelaide River in close to the river entrance when they closed it to netting, and it looks like history will repeat itself at the Finniss – seems hardly worth closing the rivers unless the closure lines contain a good area around the mouth.

But it was good to catch up with Beasty and have a cast.

His new Suzuki 90hp is brilliant, very quiet, plenty of power. I gotta get some WWI flying goggles now …

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Personal best snapper

Just found this one, my personal best snapper, caught it when I was 15 at Brighton Jetty, SA.

Good snapper jetty was that one. Didn’t catch much else there though, apart from sharks and rays and occasionally a run of two-spot sand crabs. Tommies didn’t hang around there much although the squid showed up sometimes.

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