by Jarrod Day
When anglers think of fishing in Darwin, their initial thoughts are of catching big barramundi. Though the marketing campaigns behind Barra fishing are huge, there is plenty of other species to target while in the Territory.
This is what night fishing is all about. This beast was caught by Wayne.
I recently returned from a five day fishing adventure with Darwin Reef & Wrecks and while we did fish for a wide range of species while at sea, the most amazing was the productiveness of the night time fishing.
Golden snapper are brutal fighters and are a lot of fun to catch.
Darwin has plenty of night time fishing options but of all it is the golden snapper and black jewfish that are highly prized.
Reefs and ledges: Finding productive fishing grounds can be challenging as there is so much water out here but for the most part, books such as the North Australian Fish Finder will provide you with some GPS marks to get you on your way. If you’re down the coast, well known locations such as the Peron Islands and nearby offshore reefs are productive areas where fish can be found. These areas tend to be fished quite heavily but they continue to produce solid fish. If you want to find your own areas, then you’ll have to be quite in tune with your GPS/sounder. A GPS map system will give you a map reading of the bottom, sort of like a GPS in your car for the road. For an angler, reading this to find reefs and ledges can be quite easy. Simply look for contour lines which are close together where the bank will be steep or look for small secluded circles which will be small reefs. Once found, all you have to do is fish them to find if they are going to be productive or not. In all locations, fishing the tides is vital as these fish will hold on a reef or ledge where bait is funnelled. Once an area is found, using your sounder to see if there are fish in the area is vital otherwise you could waste a lot of time fishing them with no result.
Ryan displaying a solid jewfish during the night.
Wrecks: Darwin harbour is full of old ship wrecks and barges which are well known locations for jewies and goldies. The wrecks hold a plethora of fish and can yield a great catch of fish. Fishing the wrecks is no easy task though as the fish have a knack of busting you off on occasions. Anglers fishing the wrecks really need to go hard on fish early otherwise they will lose their catch quite quickly. Ideally, when fishing a wreck your best to anchor just off from it but still within casting distance. Doing this will allow you to get the upper hand on fish without them busting you off in the first few seconds of the fight.
Darwin Harbour wreck GPS coordinates:
Catalina (3) S12.29.80 E130.54.60
Con Dao 3 S12.29.30 E130.53.20
Chang 1028 S12.27.25 E130.52.95
Kelat S12.30.00 E130.52.63
Ellengowan S12.32.46 E130.51.94
Zealandia S12.28.95 E130.50.98
Neptuna S12.28.24 E130.50.97
Landing Barge S12.29.00 E130.50.70
Bluebird S12.28.40 E130.50.55
British Motorist S12.29.13 E130.50.30
Bellbird S12.28.20 E130.50.05
USS Peary S12.28.60 E130.49.75
Usat Mauna Loa S12.29.95 E130.49.10
Yu Han 22 S12.30.05 E130.48.30
Dsac Barge S12.24.80 E130.48.15
Song Saigon S12.28.59 El30.47.97
Ham Luong S12.28.65 E130.47.90
J Holland Barge S12.28.55 E130.47.88
Mandorah Queen Sl2.26.78 E130.46.75
Nr Diemen S12.25.38 E130.45.72
Jabiru/ Kookaburra S12.10.30 E130.41.5
Galah/Heron S12.9.70 E130.40.8
Bus Stop Sl2.11.11 E130.41.24
Marchart 3 S12.10.60 El30.40.60
Pipeline Reef S12.11.69 E130.40.36
Brolga/Eagle S12.11.00 E130.39.5
Cockatoo S12.10.20 E130.34.7
SS Brisbane S12.26.00 E130.26.3
Gary displays a nice jewie from an epic session of a dozen fish caught and released.
Gear: These two species are brutal fighters, meaning you can’t use to lighter tackle to catch them. As a general rule, rods in the 10-15kg range with reels loaded with 50lb braid will be adequate, any lighter and you’re most likely going to lose your fish.
Rigs tend to be of a paternoster style tied from 80lb trace with a single 6/- or 8/0 circle hook. My preferred hook is the Black Magic KL but as an alternative, you can use a pre-tied Black Magic snapper snatcher rig. The current runs quite strong offshore from Darwin so heavy sinkers will be mandatory. Most are of a snapper lead design with weights of 14oz to 17oz standard.
Jewfish have a big mouth but seldom take big baits, half a squid is enough.
No presentation required: What is most amusing about fishing for these two species is that there is no use for bait presentation. In the southern states, anglers pay particular attention to bait presentation mainly due to the clearer water and the fact that the fish are quite fussy. In the Territory and with its muddy/discoloured water, the fish are far from fussy so the bait can be just 'slapped' on the hook so to speak. Jewfish can still be fussy at times but as a whole, half a squid bait threaded onto the hook is good enough. Some anglers do prefer to go a little further with their bait selection and often a cocktail bait such as a Californian squid stuffed with a pilchard works a treat. Still, providing you have a piece of squid on the hook, you’re in with a very high chance at hooking a quality fish.
Scotty holds a respectable jewfish for the camera.
Fishing during the night for these two species is highly addictive and a lot of fun. If your up NT way and are on the lookout for something to really stretch your arms, head our during the twilight hours for a night fishing session to remember.
Brendan was also chuffed with this model from the deep.