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NT'S SHALLOW REEFS

Richard Quincey

Recently I was lucky enough to score another inshore reef fishing adventure in the Northern Territory. It was made all the better as I got to catch up with family who enjoy fishing as much as I do. It is becoming an annual event and one I am keen to continue, or maybe even increase in frequency if the minister for finance agrees to a loosening of economic policy. 

It was Friday morning when we headed out of Dundee, about 140 km drive southwest of Darwin, for a three day trip. In a very suitable eight metre aluminum plate boat, appropriately named 'Leviathan', we were able to travel a little further than most and get to some of the less frequented, yet not remote places. Four of us slept comfortably on board in some unique canvas stretchers that run across the boat sitting on the gunwales. This is the third extended trip on Leviathan for me now and the best three night's sleep I have had on any boat.

Our days were spent out on the shallow reefs and at night we anchored behind some headlands and islands. Having spent my life on the east coast, I still find it unusual that the sun rises over the mainland and sets out to sea. It is clear to me that sunrise and sunset are much more spectacular in the NT and worth the visit on their own. 

Okay, so onto three days of fishing. We fished in water that ranged in depth from between 10 and 30 metres, and I generally used an outfit with a 4000 size spinning reel loaded with 30lb braid and a 10kg rod. I also kept my jigheads on the lighter side, using between 1/8oz and 1oz TT Lures HeadlockZ HD and Snake Head jigheads, depending on the wind and current. We did a lot of drifting, which suited this approach. In fact, with the run that seven metre tides create, drifting was the only thing that let me use such light heads.

I am no expert at the soft plastics game, I just know that they work and I need to learn how to fish them properly. Most of my plastic surgery has been fishing estuaries or flats for flathead, barra and jacks, and I have just started using soft plastics on headlands and the reef. On my first offshore trips I went toward the larger plastics in the ZMan range and tended to work them hard all of the time. I caught good fish, however, the amount of fish I caught was often less than people on the boat using bait. 

Being out fished is frustrating and most of us have the urge to swap sides or request a change of spot.  For some it even causes a case of the fake dry spews and a request of the skipper to head to shore. I was close at times during last year's Northern Territory trip and this made me rethink my approach this year. 

I packed more plastics toward the middle sizes of the ZMan range and used a lot of ZMan 5" StreakZ and Scented Jerk ShadZ, as well as ZMan 3" MinnowZ and a few ZMan 5" GrubZ. I had some of the Pro-Cure Bloody Tuna Super Gel Scent and also Inshore Saltwater Super Gel Scent, and I used this regularly on all of the plastics I was sending down. I also took some advice from one of the Tackle Tactics Pro Team and reduced the action I was putting on the lure. 

The results were good, with improvement in the frequency of hits. I caught my share of fish and a really good mix of species that included coral trout, tricky snapper, Spanish and school mackerel, black spot tusk fish, trevally, queenfish and many species of cod. I did not develop the urges to pack the plastics away and never thought of getting the dry spews.

For much of the trip I was the only person on the boat using something other than bait. As it goes with fishing, we had our quiet times and other times the fish bit well. I had a couple of sessions where I was getting a good fish a drop, with tricky snapper (grass sweetlip) forming a good proportion of the catch.  They are a good clean fighting reef fish and I enjoy catching them.

The soft plastic highlight of the trip was trying the ZMan 3" Scented CrabZ for the first time, rigged on a 5/0 HeadlockZ HD jighead. My verdict is that the CrabZ fished as well as any other plastic that I sent down and I will be adding a few more to my tackle box. As with the other plastics in the ZMan range, the TT Lures HeadlockZ is a winner with the CrabZ, holding them in perfect position. 

Overall it was a great trip with lots of good company, amazing scenery, some memorable fishing and this trip reminded me that if I am not catching fish, I should change things around a little and try something different. It also reminded me to look up and enjoy the beauty of the places I get to fish and not take the experience for granted.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017