Arnhem Odyssey Part 2
  |  First Published: December 2005

This month I’ll continue my feature on east Arnhem Land, focusing on some of the estuary and land-based fishing in the area. Although having a boat is a big advantage in these parts, not having one doesn't mean you’re restricted to catching just bread and butter fish from the bank. In fact, it is quite common to hear of anglers landing parrotfish and coral trout from the rocks.

The Remote Creeks

Once you head out into Melville Bay and hang in close to the shore, you’ll be faced with hundreds of creeks that are rarely explored. We found that entering the tight mouths of these creeks could be tricky, but in the end it wasn't a drama.

These creeks are amazing! The thick mangrove systems are unlike anything you see down south. On our first day of fishing up the creeks we experimented with different baits and lures and had varying degrees of success. Fishing with Brendan Dawes, a jack fisherman from the Gold Coast, proved a great experience for me. He showed me a few techniques that turned out to be deadly on the northern jacks.

As far as lures went, I found that the C-Lures Jack Snack worked well, as did Killa Lures F18s. The most effective approach was to cast into the shadow line of the mangroves with a well-worked retrieve out. I was lucky to have the opportunity to test-run Dad's Father's Day present (he just didn't happen to be there at the time!), a Daiwa Advantage rod matched with a Daiwa Millionaire reel. The combo worked really well, landing a swag of jacks.

Anything is possible in these remote creeks. Everything from barra to cod will snap up a bait, lure or fly if properly placed. In terms of livebait, prawns and poddies worked a treat on the jacks, with a strike almost every time. Squid and flesh bait also worked quite well when rigged on a single hook set-up.


No boat? No worries!

Fishing from the bank can be almost as productive as fishing from a boat. There’s a vast array of fishing locations for land-based fishers, all accessible by 4WD.

Buffalo Creek

Buffalo Creek is just a 15-minute walk from the centre of town, and is home to a variety of species. Buffalo seems to fish well on a good moon phase, using livebait. Locals maintain that this creek is responsible for some very reasonable catches. Buffalo runs behind the Surf Club and on a big tide runs through to Arafura via Town Beach.

Crocodile Creek

The name speaks for itself! Crocodile Creek is indeed home to a few 4m plus crocs. A thick mangrove system lines both sides of this fishing hotspot, and it’s not uncommon to see trevally smashing baitfish in the middle of the creek.

Navigating through the thick mangroves can be tough going, especially with a lot of gear. There are a few spots further up in the system which are accessible by 4WD, and the drive is well worth it. My younger brother Liam has pulled some thumper jack from these spots, while casting lures amongst the mangroves.

Crocodile Creek fishes quite well on either side of the tide, and works especially well on livebait. It’s important to take plenty of insect repellent though, as the sandflies and mozzies are out for a blood-fest.

Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach is a 50km drive from Nhulunbuy, and is accessible only by 4WD. This particular beach is nestled between rocky headlands and is the third beach in a series of four that runs along the coast. Big catches of mackerel and tuna have been taken off the rocks in recent months.

Turtle Beach is one of the more picturesque locations in this neck of the woods, with spectacular bauxite ledges jutting out over the boiling Arafura. It's one of those places, that when you arrive at it, you just know it's going to be a tough session.


The Northern Territory is renowned for its large crocodile population, and during my stay at the Top End there were three croc-related deaths. It’s vital that you stay alert while fishing or boating, as these ancient predators are as stealthy as they are deadly. Many people think that crocs only inhabit thick mangrove systems in far-away creeks, but this is so far from the truth it's not funny. Up here crocs are regularly taken in traps close to beaches and boat harbours. If you take the appropriate safety precautions though, croc attacks shouldn’t be an issue.

Wet season

Good planning is what makes a trip memorable, and issues such as weather, the season, tide and moon phase all play a big part in planning a successful trip. The Top End has two distinctive seasons – the wet and the dry.

During the wet season many of the roads are cut off by floods so, unless you have a well-equipped car and know the area well, travelling during the wet isn’t a good idea.

During the dry or ‘granny’ season (so called because it's when most southern rellies come up to visit), most tracks and roads are open.

The Northern Land Council and Dhimurru

The Northern Territory is home to many Aboriginal communities, and if you want to visit their land you’ll generally need to get permission first.

If you plan to travel within traditional Aboriginal lands in the Arnhem region, for example, you first need to get permission from the Northern Land Council. You’ll also need a permit if you want to visit the Gove region, and you can get one from the office of Dhimurru in the township of Nhulunbuy.

Remember that if you visit traditional Aboriginal land without getting permission from the appropriate authority first, you could get fined. This is another reason why it’s important to do your homework before making a trip to the Northern Territory.


This concludes Part Two of my adventures in the Top End. Next month I’ll give you an in-depth report on the town of Nhulunbuy, and some of the charter and guided tours available. I’d also like to give a big thank you to Ken and Neil from Gove Sportsfishing Charters, for all their help during my trip.


1. Some structure that we got to play on.

2. The author with a Top End mangrove jack.

3. Some of the tackle we used on the NT trip.

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