2022 Top End Run-off – By Chris Errity

The 2022 Wet season has kicked off with some above average rainfall on most of the catchments with reports of good early run-off fishing for barramundi on many Top End rivers.The NT has had a couple of monsoon troughs develop already during this Wet season with the first occurring just after Christmas in 2021 followed by another one through the latter half of January and continuing into early February. This in turn has brought some steady rainfall to the major river catchments around Darwin. However, since the end of February, the rainfall has dropped off significantly and the rivers have dropped quickly.

I personally have fished a few times this year on the rivers close to home. I have mainly fished the Daly and Mary and landed some great fish on each occasion.


The Daly flooded early this wet peaking at 11.2m above the crossing in early January.


The river quickly dropped again before rising up to over 10m again in mid-January and staying up high for an extended period.

I first fished there in early January when the river was around 10m high. We travelled down the river to fish around Elizabeth creek, as the river was so high. This was the first creek that was pushing tannin water into the Daly. The early signs looked good with a few mullet pushing up the river on the incoming tide and some good fish marking on the Humminbird sounder. These fish were laying deep and so the lure of choice were Reidys fish snak vibes worked slowly along the bottom in the strike zone. We managed to land a few good fish that day up to 75cm, but needed to be patient as is often the case early in the run-off season. Often the fish will come through in waves and there is plenty of time when they just don’t show up at all or refuse to feed.

Simon Chapman with a great barra from the flooded Daly in late January.

Simon Chapman with a great barra from the flooded Daly in late January.

The second time I fished the Daly, it had dropped down to only 3m over the crossing and so looked completely different. At this height, there were many more run-offs flowing into the creek, but as the river had dropped so quickly, they were all flowing fast and dirty which presented another challenge all together. Even though the water was dirty, we managed to find one creek much higher up the river that had plenty of mullet at the mouth. The mullet were moving up the river into the creek mouth and when they reached a pocket of quiet water they were set upon by feeding barra. It was great to witness them in feeding mode slurping the mullet off the surface.

As the barra were feeding near the surface we tried some Reidys B52’S and worked them slowly through the eddies and were rewarded with some good fish up to 80cm. The session lasted about two hours and we managed to land about 10 barra with most of them in the 70’s.The barra were extremely healthy and thick in the shoulders after gorging themselves on baitfish over the last few weeks. When the bite subsided, we travelled down the river and fished the incoming tide as it backed up the creeks causing the water to clear up. This produced some more good fishing and a few more barra up to 89cm.

The last trip I fished the mouth of the Daly in early February just after it was opened to fishing. This area is closed to fishing from 1 October to the end of January each year to protect the large female barramundi when they are spawning. We also fished plenty of small coastal run-off creeks that flow fresh into Anson Bay at this time of year. There was so much freshwater pumping into the bay from these creeks that they only slowed a little on the incoming large spring tides. There was not much baitfish around and we could only assume that many barra had already swum up onto the floodplains to feed and so were not present at the mouths of these creeks in any numbers even on the outgoing tide. Even though the fishing was tough, we still managed to land a few good fish including a couple in the 90’s.

Another nice barra caught on a reidys fish snax vibe at the mouth of the Mary.

Another nice barra caught on a reidys fish snax vibe at the mouth of the Mary.

I also managed to fish The Adelaide river a couple of times too when it first flooded. On both occasions, I travelled upstream looking for run-offs that were flowing clear tannin-coloured water into the main river. The Adelaide has many small billabongs upstream that overflow and pour into the Adelaide for short periods after the river floods and starts to drop. Some of these gutters are only a metre wide, but still pump plenty of tannin out into the river at the right height. Once again, the fishing can be tough and is reliant on the height of the river as it drops.


If you get there at the right time when the small gutters are flowing into the river and there is baitfish present you can experience some impressive sessions.


This year we were lucky enough to catch a few good barra up to 78cm fishing this way even though some of the run-offs were only just pushing a slight colour change into the river. I even managed to land a saratoga at one of the run-offs that must have travelled down from the billabong to feed at the mouth. Once again the best lures were small plastics and vibes worked slowly along the bottom.

In mid-January, I had a trip to the South Alligator River in Kakadu. The South received plenty of early rain in the upper reaches, which filled the floodplains quickly. I travelled up to the top of the river onto the floodplains and it was an inland sea of floodwaters. It was great to witness this so early in the season. There were many birds and other wildlife present, but too much water to have any successful barra fishing and so we headed back down to Nourlangie creek.

We travelled about half way up Nourlangie and found a few run-offs pushing tannin water into the creek. There were a few tarpon present and mullet as well. We worked these areas over the incoming tide and landed some good fish up to 80cm. The best fishing was just over the turn of the high tide when the water current slowed down and the barra moved around more freely feeding. As the tide dropped away, the barra stopped feeding as the water flow increased, leading to a substantial decrease in water clarity. Small suspending minnows such as the Berkley Baza bait worked well in this area.

The South also fished well for me through late February and March upstream, but on the neaper tides when the water clarity improved. I found some areas with good structure in eddies that held fish right through the outgoing tide. The lure of choice were Reidys vibes worked slowly along the bottom through the structure. It was difficult at times not to snag up, but persistence paid off in the end with plenty of good barra landed in the 70’s and 80’s. This method resulted in a couple of day trips with up to 40 fish landed.

Eddie Carroll with a solid 97cm barra from the mouth of the Daly.

Eddie Carroll with a solid 97cm barra from the mouth of the Daly.

The Mary also fished well on a few occasions this run-off. The mouth has been fishing particularly well, especially on the incoming tide when the floodwaters are backed up. As the tide comes in the river flow slows and the water clarity improves significantly making lure fishing more effective. Some anglers prefer trolling, following the barra and baitfish up the river on the incoming tide. Reidys B52’s have been extremely successful on the troll, accounting for some great fish and reach a depth of around 2m when trolled 30m behind the boat. Neap tides have proven to be more successful for trolling as the water clarity has been superior and good fish have been caught up to 10km from the mouth as they move up the river on the incoming tide.

Another popular method at the mouth of the Mary is to use an electric motor to spot-lock in the eddies and along the edges of the channel, casting lures to fish as they move past on the tide. Large soft plastics and vibes have produced plenty of good sessions fishing this way. The use of side imaging and live scope available on the sounders today have made this type of fishing much easier as it allows the angler to pinpoint and find what depth the fish are holding at. Is it not uncommon to have up to ten boats working one small area in this way when a school of barramundi is found holding in a certain spot. Upstream, anglers have been fishing run-offs that are holding plenty of fish at certain times during the tide cycle. However, the top of the high and first of the outgoing tide seems to produce more fish when targeting run-offs in this area.

I have also fished the coastal creeks around the Mary on the spring tides chasing the larger barra that tend to turn up in these areas at this time of year. I have had a couple of successful trips landing a few barra over 80cm including one that measured 100cm. I have also hooked some huge metre-plus barra during this time that have unfortunately either busted me off or thrown the hooks after a couple of jumps. I had one particular day when the barra turned up to play, but definitely won the day with some of the larger fish hooked gaining their freedom.


We were anchored at the mouth of a coastal creek on the incoming tide with another seven boats when an hour into the incoming the barra turned up. Within an hour bite window I pers

A nice metrey from the mouth of Swim creek near the Mary.

A nice metrey from the mouth of Swim creek near the Mary.

onally hooked six good fish, but unfortunately only landed four of them and lost a couple of good ones. I landed two fish in the 80’s, one at 98cm and another that measured 100cm. However, I dropped another good fish around 95cm and an even bigger fish around 110, which really hurt.


This big girl smashed my lure only a metre behind the boat, put her head down in the current and smoked me out the mouth running around 100m past all the other boats before finally pulling up.


As we prepared to exit the creek to chase her she went off on the flats jumping around with gusto before throwing the hooks. I was disappointed, but had experienced a great session.

On the same trip fishing different areas, I managed to hook another two big barra around the 120cm mark that unfortunately parted ways during the fight.


One smoked me into the trees before straightening my hooks and I pulled the hooks on the other one right at the boat just as my mate went to net it.


This was devastating, as I had done all of the hard work to get the big girl to the boat just to have her roll within reach and throw the hooks. All I could do was simply lie down on the casting deck for a few minutes to contemplate what could have been.

Matt Britain with another beautiful chromie.

Matt Britain with another beautiful chromie.