Believe it or not, this is the most exciting time to be in the far north. Huge thunderheads drift across the afternoon sky, at every moment threatening to unleash torrents of water into the soaked earth below.
The already swollen Archer River braces itself for another top-up from its catchment. Rain falling in the hills, which have themselves a view of the east coast, join myriad other tiny creeks to form an eventual torrent 300km further downstream to the west.
Isolated lagoons and overflow stretches of the river are again joined as a single, unified stretch of water and the game is on for all inhabitants to keep their wits about them. Saltwater crocodiles go on the march, leaving their salty estuarine homes for a taste of sweeter water and sweeter prey. Watch out any pig, wallaby or bullock that finds itself crossing flooded swampland.
Barramundi take this opportunity to escape the confines of their current location and head downstream or charge on ever further upstream in the search for sweet water full of prey. Many smaller barra that called the previous wet season their first birthday are now ready to take a chance out in the main saltwater rivers down towards Archer Bay.
Saratoga and sooty grunter are creating new and exciting ways to make it through skinny water into the most remote places to feed. Small insects, amphibians, fish, reptiles and even mammals best not make a splash in the water around a cruising saratoga or it is game over.
Many of the pelagic species we take for granted during the dry season are difficult to find. Queenfish, trevally, mackerel tuna and others are well outside the sediment plume which may extend 10km out to sea this time of year. It is worth the trip just to see the brown turbid waters of Archer Bay mix with the green waters of the Gulf.
Catfish and bull sharks have other ideas. They love these conditions and are busy scooting around in the dirty water, trying to sniff out a feed. As with many of the species in this environment, they are just as adept at life in the fresh, as life in the salt.
Kids from the local community at Aurukun don’t seem to mind all this activity. They will come down to the landing en mass during the weekends and swim till their hearts are content in the river. The same spot where it was no surprise to see an 8ft croc eyeing off a wandering dog just months prior!
They swing out of trees into the water which had been used as shade for fisherman back in December. When asked how come they don’t mind swimming now, they all just give reference to them ‘old people who said it was alright.’
Aurukun Fishing Charters prepares to ramp up for another busy year of fishing charters, safe in the knowledge that with every drop of rain comes the promise of fantastic fishing ahead. Finishing off some pre-season refit activities we eagerly await the chance to explore some new ground.
Places which required a day’s walk with GPS in hand are now accessible by a flat bottomed punt. Solid ground is nowhere to be seen and the fish may be spread far and wide. This doesn’t stop those keen to catch a barra and view the landscape at its most amazing.
Cyclone permitting, this is the most exhilarating time of year to be in the wet tropics.Reads: 840