The Secret to the Billabong

Jarrod Day clearly has a love affair with beautiful Corroboree Billabong, less than 90 minutes drive from Darwin. In this article intended for interstate novices to Barra fishing in the billabong, he outlines the basics of trolling.

Weaving our way through the billabong, large groups of pandanus trees line the banks,  water lilies shed a blanket of green foliage on the water’s surface, and every so often a large crocodile lies basking on the bank, soaking up what heat he can absorb.

We’d just taken a right turn down a narrow arm which, after a few hundred metres, opened up into a vast waterway. Here, lily pads extended from the shoreline a good 10m towards the centre of the billabong; where the edge of the lily pads met the open water, the bank dropped away from 4ft to 9ft, a stepped decline.

Watching the sounder, one, two and then a third solid arch came into view. A little further on and more fish lay waiting for the next meal to emerge from its safe haven. We were travelling along the edge of the drop-off.

Doubling back to re-troll over where we sighted the fish on the sounder, four lures were sent out the back: two at 40m and two closer at 30m. On the bank side of the boat, the two lures were run at 6ft, just enough to work over the top of the muddy weed bed and to dart around the lily stems. On the opposite side, we ran a 9 footer, to reach the edge of the drop-off where the fish we sounded were lying in ambush.

The fish again came into view and, as the lures passed over their heads, we gave the rod tips a little whip every few seconds to get the internal ball bearings in the lures rattling. Sound signals are picked up by the lateral line along Barra — and for any fish, for that matter. This is their way of hunting as baitfish give off vibrations. The rattling sound from the lures imitates a baitfish and Barra, in particular, respond very well to rattling lures.

The lures set back in the distance came overhead of where we first spotted the fish, and in that second I felt a bump through the braided line and a sizeable billabong Barra burst from the water. Re-entering after a second or two, we all gazed to where the fish gave a little hang time and left a splash as if somebody tossed a brick into the water.

Immediately Allan put the boat into gear as everybody else retrieved their lures. Meanwhile, I was holding on tight, thumbing the spool to keep the fish from heading back to the snaggy billabong bank. Dragging it from the lily stems, the fish still tried heading towards the bank in an attempt at dislodging the hooks.

Each time the fish came to the surface, I pointed the rod tip to the water, keeping both the line tight and the fish’s head close to the water with every jump. With every jump, the fish opened its mouth. This is how hooks get bent and good Barra escape. But not this fish — each jump had its head barely leaving the water, keeping the hooks where they should be.

Billabong Barra

The reel, having a ratio of 7:1, gave me substantial winding ability, and I gathered line quickly when I needed to. In due course, the fish was boat side, yet still deep. After each downward run, I slowly coaxed it towards the surface and, as Allan counted from 1 to 3, on 3 the net was drawn and the fish was safely in the boat.

I’d fished Corroboree Billabong on a few occasions over the years and still to this day it is the most picturesque location I have laid eyes upon in the Northern Territory.

Barra attract more than just anglers

From brolgas to crocodiles, it has everything, especially the barra which attract so many throughout the year. Although many anglers head to the NT for the run-off season targeting big barra, sometimes just getting the 30-degree temperatures without the 100 per cent humidity becomes very appealing.

I am one of these types and that love nothing more than to sit back, take in the surroundings of such a majestic location and troll a lure in search of the Northern Territory’s most-prized species.