Home' Destinations : Destinations 25Aug2011 Contents THE HERALD
The bets are on. Big time. One dollar for the first fish. Two dollars for the first
barramundi. Five dollars for the biggest fish. Ten dollars for the biggest bar-
We also throw in a dollar each for whose bag will be first off the Darwin
airport baggage roundabout, and another dollar for the first person to see
someone they know, standard travelling bets of little significance up against
our prime reason for this father/daughter trip to Australia's northern outpost -
to catch the legendary and elusive barramundi.
Two days later, having enjoyed the somewhat damp sights of Darwin as the
wet season runs a little longer than expected, we are on the Arnhem Highway
to Kakadu, out through Humpty Doo before stopping at the Corroboree Tav-
ern for breakfast as dawn raises its head.
As the sun climbs we pass the historic Bark Hut Hotel, roaming dingoes and
kangaroos to arrive at Aurora Kakadu to drop off our bags before the short
hop to the boat ramp on the South Alligator River, which rises on the Arnhem
Land plateau and flows 160 kilometres to the Van Diemen Gulf of the Timor
Sea. It is only on my return that I satisfy my curiosity about the name and
discover that in 1820 Lieutenant Phillip Parker King -- who, coincidentally, per-
formed surveys of the Newcastle and Port Stephens areas -- named the river
(and the East and West Alligators) in the mistaken belief that the crocodiles in
the estuaries were alligators.
Our trip has been timed for the end of wet season run-off, usually mid-
February to late May, when the record barra are landed, and we're on board
one of Darren's Barra Safaris two seven-metre custom-built boats with skipper
and guide Andrew Orley, a Queensland native who has been taking these
Northern Territory trips for almost three years now, and Kenny, a former wool
classer and now Parkes school bus driver who tells us his life's dream has been
to catch a big barra.
Darren Nickolls, the Darren of the company title and a veteran of 13 years as
a NT fishing guide, is on the second of the boats with a father and two adult
sons from the NSW south coast, and as our boats slip into the water a few
more boat-to-boat challenges are added to the punting list.
They've been getting a few barra, Orley tells us as the 240 hp four-strokes
kick over and we wheel into the current, with his best day 33 ''keepers'' (legal
barra have to be more than 50 cm), while he knew of days when over 50 had
''The biggest barra this year has been 108 cm,'' he says, feeding our dreams,
''but we have caught them to 138 cm.''
He guns the boat and we head towards the sea, zig-zagging to avoid sand
bars we can't see in the wide expanse of brown water engourged by the
recent rains, and within 200 metres we pass the first of the reptiles that mis-
takenly gave the river its name. By the end of our two days of fishing we have
no doubts about the prevalence -- and size -- in the wild of these leftovers from
The art of barra fishing, it seems, is to nip up the tiny creeks and esturaries
that flow into the main river, get lures into the water and slowly trawl. There's
no shortage of spots to try on the Alligator, as Orley reels off the names Six
Pack, One Tree, The Rookery, Salmon, Brook Creek, Minefield Creek, and the
presumably hopefully named Last Chance Creek.
We try our first side creek and, unbelievably, BANG! Within two minutes the
daughter -- for the sake of convenience let's call her Naomi -- strikes. Despite
my heartfelt (but silent) prayers to the fishing gods, she reels a barra alongside
the boat, it's netted and onboard in a shot. And 75 cm long. But it's only got
one eye. I claim this handicap should at least reduce the bet by half, but my
pleas fall not only on blind eyes but deaf ears.
There are not many worse things than being trapped on a boat with a smirk-
Avoiding crocodiles and catching barramundi provides CHRIS
WATSON with great reasons to holiday in the Northern Territory.
Coffs Harbour: A Holiday Mecca
From the Big Banana to the Pet Porpoise Pool Coffs Harbour
has so much to offer.
Great Location Sandcastles Holiday Apartments are
located opposite main beach, Park Beach bowling club,
close to restaurants & shops
1 & 2 Bedroom Apartments - spacious, fully self-contained
with own private balconies and air conditioning.
12m Heated Pool & hot spas, sauna, BBQ's & U/C security parking
Plus Austar and free broadband*
Freecall 1800 025 163
63 Ocean Pde, Coffs Harbour • 02 6652 6599
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