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Melville Island 29/04-02/05


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Hi Folks,

This could be a long one, but I'll see how I go!

After a day's travel we arrived at Top End Sportsfishing's camp on Melville Island at about 4 in the afternoon. The "camp" is incredibly well decked out, with electricity, hot and cold water, multiple showers and toilets, ice machine, massive drinks fridge etc. You sleep in converted shipping containers that are air-conditioned, and your beds are made up each day while you're out fishing, so calling it a "camp" is a bit of an anomoly! Its very luxurious and the food was awesome. Les and Annette Woodbridge run the place and they were incredibly friendly as were the guides who were all great guys. I took up a 6' BD Bass Predator 3-5kg baitcaster, a 6'6" BD 4-7kg spin rod and a 5'6" G-Loomis CBR 15-25lb, a Shimano Chronarch spooled with 20lb Fin-S braid and a Tica Taurus 4000 spin reel spoole with 12kg Fireline XDS. I also had 30lb fluoro for leader and a bunch of lures and soft plastics. The afternoon I arrived I had the guides take a look at my stuff, and the first thing they said was the 30lb fluoro was too light, they use 50lb mono for leader, one of the guys also joked about my spin rod asking me how the hell I was going to cast it accurately. Les took a look at my 3-5kg baitcaster and said it was "on the edge", while one of the other guides had a go with the Loomis and loved it.

Headed out into Snake Bay on Day 1 with my Chronarch on my Loomis, and my spin rod (which I didn't end up using that day). We were on a 6.5m fully surveyed plate boat with 6mm bottom and 5mm sides and a Suzuki 140HP 4-stroke (which I was happy to see!!!) . Had the guide re-tie my leader with the 50lb mono, and tied on a gold bomber which ended up being on my rod most of the day. Started casting around snags and drains, and it wasn't long before Stephen pulled the first barra of the day, and then another soon after. Nothing too special around the 45cm mark. His next fish suprised me a little, a 50cm lizard (the southern variety that is, a flathead, not the northern lizard - croc). I made a decent cast on top of a submerged log and bang I was onto my first barra, a little specimen, but I was still stoked. As the guide went to take a picture my camera decided to die even though I had put brand new batteries in that morning. Tried other batteries from another packet when we got back but still didn't work, so all the pics are on other guys cameras, will post them as soon as I can. Went on to catch 4 barra that day with the best being 64cm/6lbs which was also the best of the day between the 9 of us up there. Betwen the three of us on the boat we caught 11 barra that day. Also caught two jacks, one of which was very nice 45-50cm I reckon (didn't measure it), a small cod and a catfish. My old man got a very feisty barracuda. The amount of snags and drains I saw was amazing, and many we just drove on past as I drooled. The three of us also caught a lot of "treefish" that day, our casting definately got better over the four days.

Day 2 saw us hit the other side of Snake Bay fishing small creeks and also drains in the main part of the bay too. The evening before I had been speaking to Mike who was an investor in the camp and fishes there every 6 weeks or so (lucky bastard!!). I mentioned that my Loomis was little heavy for the calibre of fish we were getting, but I was scared of getting a big fish on my 3-5kg. That morning Mike came out with a Millerods Salty Barra Light 3-6kg, handed it to me, and said try that today. I thanked him, and he said it was his spare (he used Loomis IMX and GLX rods), and that I could use it for the rest of the trip if I wanted, which I did. That day Dad and Stepehen both dropped some good barra (estimated in the 80s), and we had an awesome little session in a drain were Stephen pulled a very nice threadfin salmon and a barra, and my old man and I both got a good one each too (I think mine was a 58 from memory). It was amazing how many fish were milling around in such a small amount of water, the water was very dirty so you couldn't see into it, but it seemed like the fish must have been bumping shoulders in there. Later on in another little drain filled with fallen trees I made a precarious cast in behind a log, twitched my gold bomber, and bang, zzzzzz, off he went straight into a snag, I reefed back on the rod but I was too late, the fish bricked me in the snag and busted me off. I was very dissapointed as it was the only gold bomber I had taken with me, lucky the guide had bucket loads of them :1clap: I'll be takin a sh*t load of bombers next time I head up there....Ended up with 14 barra on the boat that day, plus a fingermark for the old man, a threadfin for Stephen, and a bunch of jacks.

Day three and a lot of the guys (who weren't full-on fishos) decided to fish half-day and go to a Tiwi-Dutch festival which was on to celebrate 300 years since the Dutch landed on the Tiwi islands (of which Melville is one). I said screw that, I'm fishing all day so ended up with only me, Pat and the guide on the boat. We made a half hour run round to a place called Goose creek, which is a long river on melville that ends up fresh at the top. Unfortunately due to the recent cyclone the top of the river was blocked by fallen trees, so we couldn't get up to the fresh (and the saratoga), but we got into plenty of barra. Early on, I cast a Storm mid-Thunder into a drain and got hit hard. After a few minutes of fighting I got the fish up to the boat and saw it was a good one, but it took one look and the net and screamed off again. This happened twice more with the fish seeing the net and taking off, but the guide finally scooped it up for my and the groups best fish of the trip at 70cm and 7 and a 1/2 pounds. A quick photo and it was released. I was stoked to say the least, and decided that I may as well try for a barra on soft plastics for the rest of the day. I rigged up a 4" bass minnow on a Nitro jighead and got a good hit from a barra I saw, but then snagged up, meanwhile Pat pulled 4 out of the same gutter with a gold bomber. I decided I had to rig up weedless, so put a 5" Atomic grub on a weedless, weighted Gamakatsu. We came across a nice drain and I threw the plastic in deep, with no fear of snagging up. After flipping it over a few branches I let it sink down and I was on. Pulled a nice 60cm job, and was happy to tick another goal of the list. A little later we came across a very small drain that was leaking clean fresh water into the dirty saltwater. Again I cast in deep and pulled a 58cm. The weedless rig worked really well, and even the guide was suprised by my accuracy with the spin rod. It definately helped that if I overshot the mark I didn't get snagged up, and allowed me to get in under trees and over mangrove roots that I couldn't with a hard lure on the baitcaster. I switched between a few different plastics, and chucked on a 4" Berkley Neonz lizard, which our guide called the ugliest lure he had ever seen. "Barra are stupid, but not that stupid!" he said, which encouraged me to try to prove him wrong and get a barra on it. I got a nice hit and thought here we go, only to pull in a good size archer fish. I then got some familiar feeling bumps, and saw a piky bream following it up. At that point I admitted defeat and switched to something else. We ended up with 14 barra between us that day, Pat got 8, I got 6, but mine included the 70, 60 and 58.

Day 4 was a very tough day. Our guide said it was one of the worst days he has ever had. We went back to Goose creek and the spots where we pulled multiple fish the day before were dead. I started the day with a catfish which was a bad omen. We hit a bunch of great looking snags for zip, even though we spotted a fish or two amongst them. They just weren't hungry. After throwing a bunch of different lures and plastics at a spot called the honey hole for zip, we decided to troll it. On the third run, Stephen got a big hit, and the fish fought it down deep. It seemd like a big barra was on its way. After a 15 minute fight we fnially got colour and to Stephen's dismay, up came a huge Queensland groper, that went 36lb. I would have been stoked with that fish but Stephen is a barra snob, anything that isn't barra is crap to him. We took some photos then swam the big fish for 5 minutes before it kicked and off it went. Next troll Stephen gets another big hit, and this time its definately a big barra. It headed straight into the mangroves and within 15seconds or so had bricked him. Stephen was not happy! The rest of the day was very slow. I got a small cod and a small jack trolling, and the other two got a barra or two. As we reached the mouth of Goose Creek at about 3.30, we saw jelly prawns frantically jumping around and spotted some threadfin amongst them. We started manically throwing bombers at them, but they weren't interetsed in anything except the prawns. The guide switched me to a Nilsmaster spearhead in blue and white, and I wa on first cast to a good threadfin. Unfortunately I dropped him next to the boat, and estimated him at 80+. Dad then hooked up to a decent barra which he also dropped near the boat. Despite the fish still being there busting up the prawns, they lost interest in our lures again, and we moved along. We spotted a good barra sitting in a snag, I cast first and snagged on a small branch about 6 inches from its head. Dad then cast before my lure had hit the water and landed just behind it, and Stephen almost bonked it on the head half a second later, and it lashed out at his lure and he hooked up. Stephen made a nice extraction and the fish went 66cm which was a good way to end a bad day. We got back to camp and heard the other two boats had had a fair day, and had found lots of nice clear water to sight fish in - I was jealous!!!

The end tally was over 60 barra in 4 days on 3 boats and 9 anglers. Species tally was 9,9 and 8 on the three boats, my 70cm was best barra and Stephens 36lb groper was the biggest. I achieved all my goals except a threadin, and I'll definately be back up there shortly for more. I'll end this mammoth post there, pics to come shortly.



Edit: Below are some of the pics, still waiting for my 70cm barra and SP barras...


My first barra


64cm Barra from Day 1


A nice jack


A small cod, but a new species for me.


36lb Qld Grouper from the last day


Dad with an average threadfin.


The Milikapati Boat ramp

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Thanks, Ben - a riveting read! One day I'll get up there and tangle with some of those bigger fish...one day.

Any special techniques to impart about lure retrieves, or anything extra you learned from your guides? I always find that's the best part of any organised fishing trip - the steep learning curve over a few days.

Thanks again, mate.

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Guest Jocool

Ben...That was an awesome read. Sounds like you got value for money! :thumbup: Can't wait to see some of those pics you have mate.

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Telco - would definately take my own stuff again, feels good catching fish on stuff you have chosen and rigged yourself. I reckon ideally I would get a Calcutta or similar for the Loomis rod and troll with it, or cast with it aswell if the big girls are around. For a short stiff rod it casts really well. I would then buy another (yeah, I need another one) baitcaster in the 4-7kg range, similar to the Millerod I ended up using for most of the time up there. My current preference would be something in the Heartland or Battler range, or I'm still thinking of getting some Kistlers from the States. I'd use my Chronarch on that. The BD spin rod/Tica Taurus combo worked really well for throwing plastics, so I'd take that again too. I'd also take heaps of bomber style lures in gold and silver, plus some 15'+ lures which I didn't have any of this time around. From what the guides said, VMC extra strong hooks are the only thing they trusted, they didn't like the look of the bigger Owners I had, but I never got to test them on fish either. I'd also take a lot more weedless hooks for plastics, plus bullet weights to sink them in the snags. I got a good fish on the 30lb fluoro leader I had, but would probably get some 40lb for insurance. Using their 55lb mono didn't seem to put off even small fish. FYI, the gear they provide is Shimano Curado baitcasters spooled with 30lb Fireline and 50lb Snyder mono leaders, and Penn rods. I ended up using one at the end of the fourth day, and it was no where near as nice as my Millerod/Chronarch rig, but it got the job done. I wasn't a fan of heavy Fireline on a baitcaster, much preferred the limper Fin-S I had on mine.

Sputnik, one of many things I learned which I can apply to all my fishing is that accurate casting makes a big difference. Many times we would pepper a snag with casts, then someone would drop the perfect cast deep in the back of the snag and bang out came the barra. The guide called it "putting it in the kitchen" A couple of inches made a big difference. Varying the retrieve would also make a difference, slowing things right down and twitching lures in the strike zone for as long as possible helped with shutdown barra, whereas speeding up seemed to help with threadfin and blue slamon. I learnt heaps!

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Thanks swoff - we released him, but yeah I know, a fish that large shouldn't be held up in the boga grips like that, but we swam him for about 5 minutes after the picture and he gave a good kick and motored off. So hopefully no long term damage was done.


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It's all good Ben, I wasn't having a go at you guys. I'm just surprised that the guide allowed a fish that was intended to be released to be lifted like that.


I know you weren't having a go swoff, but I was being defensive cause I know how bad it looks! I was suprised at the time that the guide told him to lift the fish like that, and I was more concerned when the fish took a while to recover. It was good to see when the fish finally started kicking hard and took off after swimming it for a few minutes. The guide did mention supporting big barra though, maybe they have more concern for the "trophy" fish, ie meter plus barra, than other less desirable species?

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