Top of the Tide Barramundi

Fishing the Top of the Tide Barramundi feeding grounds in the tidal mudflats and creeks of the Mary River for massive metre-plus barra.

Fishing tidal mudflats
Spring Tides give access to Tidal Mudflats.

Barra Fisherman Nathan Litjens explains how fishing the tidal mudflats, creeks and barrages along coastal Top End can produce massive barramundi catches.

Look for the biggest Spring tides in the cycle to gain access to baitfish feeding grounds. Water needs to cover the flats within these systems to attract the baitfish. The baitfish are a vital link, as obvious as it may sound. They are what attract the Barra in the first place, but we need to understand the reason the baitfish enter the system at all.

Bait fish attract Barra
Baitfish on the move
at the Top of the Tide.

The nutrient-rich mud has been sitting moist in the baking hot sun, and a myriad of tiny organisms such as bacteria, algae and other single celled life forms have been reproducing like mad, carpeting the mud in a thin film. On the low tide you will see Fiddler Crabs sifting through this rich mud, picking out the food with their mouthparts, but it's during the high tide that the baitfish such as mullet and scats will move up over these very shallow flats and swallow gob fulls of this rather unlikely food source, expelling clouds of mud from their gills and rear ends. While they are up there gorging themselves on these few tides that allow it, the predators will be waiting patiently in the channels for the tide to fall just slightly and force the baitfish away from the safety of the flats. If tea-coloured fresh water is present, you will likely see schools of Rainbow fish on the move as well.

Top of the Tide Barra
Top of the Tide Barra.

The Barrages are slightly different. They hold Barra because the bait is there, but the main baitfish types you will find at the end of the Wet are clouds of migrating Tarpon and Rainbowfish. Large schools of mullet don't tend to arrive until the Runoff is nearly over.

As soon as that tide turns and starts heading out, the massacre begins. Leaping schools of mullet with charged-up Barra hot on their tails and the inevitable loud "boofs" that follow are par of the course. Rainbowfish will sit in the backeddies, making sudden dashes to move upstream and get systematically demolished by packs of Barra that simply slurp them off the surface.

129cm 26kg Barramundi
Danny landed this Barra on his first trip
thanks to Allan's knowledge of the creeks.

Secret spots are tightly guarded by guides that know them. Finding them and working out exactly when and how to fish them has taken years of practice. But, as a general rule I would say to head up high into the systems, but not quite so far as to get stranded if you are fishing the salt flat areas and pick a likely looking junction where two or more creeks meet.

Coastal Creeks are often very good at the mouths, where you either tie up or anchor and await the turn of the tide. In both cases you generally want some tea-coloured fresh water draining into the main channel just before the tide turns.

Top Of the Tide Fishing

Choosing your Barra Lures

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