The second leg of our Australian journey was in Kakadu, the country’s largest national park. The indigenous people of Kakadu mark six annual seasons on their calendar. We arrived during Yegge, on the shoulder of the wet season, the time of year when early morning mists hang low over carpets of water lilies.
The wetlands were still full of water and life so we booked an early morning fishing trip on the Yellow Water billabong. The fishing tours are not cheap, but they are limited to only four passengers, unlike the Yellow Water tours which cram 30 or more people onto a boat.
We were, of course, in search of the famous Australian barramundi. “Barra” are a catadromus fish, they migrate from freshwater downstream into the ocean to reproduce. They are aggressive feeders and spectacular jumpers and they have a frenzied following among Australian anglers that can only be compared to the bass fishermen of North America.
The morning started slowly. We worked the flooded banks and the edges of weed beds with medium sized lures. I had a few follows and small hits. Even without fish there was a lot of wildlife to see – more birds than I can remember, a lone buffalo, and of course, the saltwater crocodiles.
After the sun was fully up the fish became more active. Everyone on board landed at least one or two barra, but I was lucky enough to find a bigger specimen. I was retrieving a bright orange crankbait over the top of a huge bed of weeds when a big barra ambushed my lure from below. Though not a huge specimen it was over the 56 cm minimum length required to keep fish in the park. However, we were informed that the fish that have been in freshwater for a long time, usually discernible by their greenish hue, are less delicious than their silvery cousins in saltwater. So, after a couple of quick photos, I released my prize back into the billabong, careful not to linger over the surface of the water lest I pique the interest of a nearby croc.
On a side note, we did eat a fair amount of barramundi on our trip. The fish was almost always served breaded and fried and the quality varied from restaurant to restaurant, but overall it was a very tasty fish.