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Three men on a boat fishing

Fishing in the run-off

Visit during the ‘run-off’ between March and April, supposedly the best season for barramundi fishing around the mouths of creeks and on the rivers.

During the run-off, rain eases as the monsoon dissipates. The big rivers start to regain their shape as the floodplains drain into the sea.


Local anglers call this time of year the ‘run-off’, and claim it’s the best season for barramundi fishing, with lots of action around the mouths of creeks inside the rivers.

There are a couple of reasons as to why the run-off is a premium time for barra fishing.

Firstly, the barra are still up on the plains or in the channels and must move out before water levels get too low. Their exit points are into the main river creek mouths.

Secondly, all other aquatic life must also make a timely exit. The small fish, tadpoles and crustaceans that barramundi eat are funnelled down these creeks and barra hang around the creek mouths to ambush them. While in a feeding frenzy, they can be caught one after the other on artificial hard-bodied lures and lead-head soft plastic lures that resemble the baitfish they’re feeding on. Similarly, fly fishermen can enjoy considerable success using flies tied to a pattern that matches the baitfish.

There are also many tidal rivers in the Top End that provide great fishing during the run-off, but the window of opportunity is not usually at the same time for all of them. The tropical summer rainfall figures and flooding levels vary from catchment to catchment and, while the Daly River south of Darwin, for example, might be well into its run-off season, the South Alligator River in Kakadu National Park might still be heavily flooded with water levels rising.

The run-off is very popular with locals, who have often been biding their time over the summer to get into some serious barra action. Thousands of interstate anglers also descend on the Top End during the run-off.

Depending on the extent of the tropical summer on different river floodplains, the run-off is usually over by the end of April.


March and April are great months for bluewater fishing across the Top End. With the strong northerly winds of the wet season finished, and the easterlies of the dry season yet to start, calm seas often prevail.

Both sport and reef fish are active in the bluewater at this time of year. They too are benefiting from all the food being flushed down the rivers and out to sea. In particular, pelagic species like queenfish, giant trevally and golden trevally, and reef fish like golden snapper and black jewfish, which are just as comfortable close inshore as they are on wide offshore reefs, are easily targeted.



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