Fishing The Wildman- Chris Errity

I only managed to get over to the Wildman a couple of times during the 2023 run-off, but it was well worth the effort. The Wildman has always been one of my favourite rivers to fish. There is a fair effort involved to get there early in the Wet season as it can only be accessed from Shady camp on the Mary River. This involves a boat trip of around 70km to the mouth of the Wildman and another 25km up to the junctions on the river. However, the new road into Point Stuart opened this year and allows you to access the river from a ramp only 20 minutes away from the mouth depending on weather conditions. This ramp can usually only be accessed in mid to late April depending on the amount of rainfall that has fallen in the area.

Steve with another nice fish landed on the Escat.

Steve with another nice fish landed on the Escat.

This year I fished the Wildman late in the run-off. I had one trip in late April and then another one in early May. Both times I used the Point Stuart ramp. Even though it is a longer drive by road than to Shady camp, the much shorter trip by sea makes it an often-better choice, especially if the winds are from the east. On my first trip I was fishing with good mate Steven Bormann. We had heard that the Wildman had fished well upstream on the last set of spring tides and so we decided to give it a shot two weeks later during similar tides.

We arrived at the ramp at around 7am near the top of the tide. This ramp can only be accessed near the high tide as it is built out over a shallow mud flat. We travelled down the coast to Love creek first to fish the mouth over the high tide and on the first of the outgoing. The conditions were perfect with light winds and plenty of mullet at the mouth of the creek when we first arrived. There were a few threadfin and blue salmon feeding already and we knew some barra would be amongst them as well.

As the tide turned and started to run out the fish started feeding more voraciously and it was not long before Steve hooked up on a good barra.

At 82cm this was a solid start to the session and we were keen to sample some more action. However, the fish came off the bite much earlier than we anticipated and we only ended up landing a couple more in the 60’s along with a couple of nice threadies. Undeterred we headed off to fish the junctions up the top of the Wildman. The tide was much later up the top of the Wildman and had only just turned when we arrived. Once again conditions looked reasonable with a good colour change present at the junction. We deployed the Minn Kota in the right arm of the junction where the water was much cleaner. Steve tried a smaller suspending lure while I tied on a custom coloured Reidys big B52. The colour imitating that of a red scat, which is a species of baitfish often encountered in the big rivers during the run-off.

Errity with 93cm of pure swamp dog muscle landed at the top Wildman junction.

Errity with 93cm of pure swamp dog muscle landed at the top Wildman junction.

We both cast feverishly for around an hour as the tide dropped away, but only managed to land one barra. Surely things would pick up soon. As we started to doubt ourselves on the decision to travel all this way to fish the Wildman my red scat was smashed by a big fish. This was an extremely solid, dark coloured barra and it was not happy at all as it peeled line from my reel to try and bury me in some nearby structure. I thumbed the spool on my Revo Beast and put some hurt on the big girl before turning her and guiding her into the net. This was an incredibly solid fish that measured 93cm before release. Suddenly we were a little keener and wondering if we had indeed made the right decision.

Over the next couple of hours, the barra continued to bite as the river dropped and they made their way down past us and through the junction. The red scat was the standout colour and accounted for 90% of the catch. We landed a few more good fish with most of them over 80cm, but could not beat the 93cm caught at the start of the session. However, we did hook onto some very solid fish that simply were just too big for us on the day and managed to bust us off in structure while fishing in such tight conditions. It had been an awesome session with around 20 barra landed and one well worth the effort, particularly late in the run-off season.

After such a great trip I returned to the Wildman in early May to fish the mouth of the river during neap tides. The mouth of the river clears up much better during the neap tide cycle with cleaner water experienced during the turn of the high tide and from the start of the incoming as the tide starts to push in. This time I was fishing with good mate Braden Menzies and we were keen to try and land a metrey or two which is why we were targeting the mouth of the river.

We arrived at the mouth a couple of hours before low tide and fished a few drains that were flowing into the main river. We could see some good fish sitting at the mouth of one drain on the side scan and so decided to give it a crack. We tied on a couple of Reidys vibes and worked them slowly along the bottom where the fish were sitting. Almost immediately I hooked up on a nice barra that measured 65cm. We continued to work the area thoroughly, resulting in another three barra up to 70cm – a great start for the morning. As the tide dropped out the fish moved away from the gutter and so we decided to troll the mouth as the tide first started to push in.

Brado with his magnificent 107cm barra trolled up at the mouth of the Wildman.

Brado with his magnificent 107cm barra trolled up at the mouth of the Wildman.

As the tide started to rise, we located a good school of larger fish moving up around the first bend in the river. As we trolled past them, Braden’s B52 was crunched. This was a big fish and it did not want to play nice. It stayed deep and fought doggedly for around ten minutes before finally showing herself to us as it leapt clear of the water on several occasions.

This was well over a metre and the reason why we were here on these tides at this time of year.

I netted the barra to Brado’s relief and it measured 107cm, which was his biggest barra for the year so far. It was a beautiful looking silver barra and in very good condition which was common for this time of year.

We followed the tide up the river trolling for another couple of hours, but only managed another couple of barra in the mid 60’s. They were still showing on the sounder, but just did not want to play. We waited for the turn of the high tide to see if we could land a few more, but they had shut down and we could not convince them to feed. It had been a great trip and we managed to land a solid metrey, which is what run-off fishing is all about and one of the reasons why we just keep coming back chasing these amazing fish.