Fishing Darwin with Fish Darwin
Author: Rob Martin, Inverloch. Passeger on 5 night barra & Bluewater trip to the Mini Mini river
If you ever want to experience some unbelievable fishing, then the waters of the Top End offers it all. Combine this with Shaun and Lori Uden and their team at Fish Darwin and you are set for a lifetime of memories.
The last week of April saw myself with my two boys Ash and Chris and my brother Ted and his two boys Adam and Jon charter a boat from Shaun Uden of Fish Darwin for 5 days live aboard fishing out from Darwin.
On Tuesday we left Cullen Bay Marina on the afternoon tide aboard Northern Exile, a 46’ West Coaster, fitted out to sleep 8 with air conditioned cabin, full freezer facilities and fully catered for our every fishing need. All we needed to supply was the ‘drinks’ (boy, do you need them up North). Our skipper was Shaun and deckie Benn. Benn was the former owner of the charter boat ‘Nitro' out of Narooma. We motored through the night heading towards the Cobourg Peninsula arriving at our destination the Mini-Mini river system at 2:00 am next morning.
A couple of hours kip after an uncomfortable trip in rough weather, then breakfast and into the 2 tinnies we towed to venture up the river in search of barramundi. The tide was starting to run in and we quickly came across heaps of fish feeding on small jelly prawns. Metre long fish were crashing the prawns in the shallows as we cast our lures in amongst them. Chris was soon rewarded with a good size threadfin salmon about 90 cm long. Great fight! Both boats were consistently hooked up. I landed the first barra for the day, a nice 60 cm keeper for the dinner table that night. The action lasted for about an hour before our guide Benn said lets move on. It was stinkin’ hot but our blood was up.
The Mini-Mini system is an awesome river system that is protected at its mouth by quite a large island. We were concentrating on fishing around snags and any little creek openings. The dirtier the water the better. The river is some 600-700 metres wide for miles up stream. It would take weeks to explore all the little tributaries. We returned to the Northern Exile for a late lunch and a ‘nana nap for the more seniors!’ After our rest, Jon, Ash and Chris took one tinnie and set out to lay about 6 crab pots up various little tributaries of the main river. Ted, Adam and I went in the other boat with Benn to explore another river outside the mouth and around the point a few kilometers. The boys set the pots and returned after an hour or so to check the traps. Each pot revealed 2-3 good sized mud crabs. A couple of non-too friendly crocs had left their marks on one of the polystyrene floats. Let’s not hang around here for long. Yum, chilli crabs for tea tonight. The other boat had a different experience. Whilst we found no barra, at the mouth was a large school of blue salmon. We trawled back and forth having triple hooks ups and some great antics by these 2-3 kg fish. Arriving back just on dark, a quick hose down and shower, a few beers and gastronomical experience for tea. Barra, blue salmon, threadfin salmon and chilli crabs. It was bloody hot, but we were knackered (well I was anyway) so bed by midnight. Next morning we followed the same routine, chasing barra but the tides were against us so trawling was the order of the day. Both boats caught 2 barra early but it then slacked right off, even though we traveled up different tributaries for miles. Back to the boat for lunch. A quick team meeting and we decided to up anchor and head out to sea for some deep sea reef fishing. The waters were calm, the weather hot (33o every day, 250 at night) and the fishing fantastic. We fished a couple of reefs that skipper Shaun had found while we fished the river system. Golden snapper or finger mark bream were the main target, beautiful eating fish and dogged fighters. While we fished, Benn took off in the tinnie to explore other reefs that looked promising. This was efficient use of resources.
After some solid fishing we anchored for the night over one of the reefs, hoping for a jewfish later that night. We ate, drank and fished till midnight. The action just didn’t let up. Golden snapper, flower cod, catfish, reef sharks and a heap of other species kept us occupied. Next morning, bacon and eggs, bait on the hooks and lines in. Chris couldn’t get his line in quick enough. What followed for the next 40 minutes was absolute mayhem. Quadruple hook ups on golden snapper, rods fully loaded up, fish hitting the deck and screams of “I’m on”. Skipper and deckie were frantically removing hooks, bleeding the fish and dropping them into a tub of fresh water. When the action petered out it was time to fillet the fish, bag then up into individual freezer bags and into the freezer. This was to become the routine for the rest of the day. We fished probably 10-15 different reefs that day with mixed results. As soon as the reef sharks started to show up on our lines we up anchored and moved on. The skipper never stopped working. Jon hooked a nice GT and Ted a great queenfish.
That afternoon we decided to start our trip home, fishing some different reefs that Shaun had sounded on the trip over. The sea was calm and it was a terrific cruise home, arriving to anchor over a reef near Darwin harbour about midnight. Again we tried for a jewfish but to no avail. Next morning we fished for a couple of hours then cleaned up and back into the marina by 10:00 am. That night we boarded our flight home with enough fillets to remind us in the months to come of our trip to the top end. It is an untouched wilderness that beckons you to return. The Mini-Mini system is just one of a myriad of places to explore. We had a ball and can’t talk highly enough of the efforts of Shaun and his team. Rob Martin. Victoria