Jessie River

A mangrove jack fish caught in the Jessie River, Steve Cooper

The run from Milikapiti to Lethbridge Bay at the entrance to Jessie River is about 40 km, or a little over an hour. The Jessie is a big  river and the rock bar near the mouth is famous for producing barramundi and black jew (mulloway). Not this day, though. After a few trolls over the rock bar with lures, we headed upstream.

Our run was stop-start as we fished snags and creek mouths along the way. The tide was falling and barramundi were feeding on jelly prawns washing out of the small creeks and drains into the river. At almost every stop, we cast lures into snags and hooked up on barramundi. The fishing was steady but not spectacular.

Several kilometres upstream, we hit the jackpot: a rich vein of silver seemed to be hanging on a single black stick of timber that protruded from the water. In fact, the stick was a branch, part of what remained of a long-dead mangrove tree that now lay parallel with the riverbank.

Steve ‘Trelly’ Threlfall cast his lure, which plopped on the water alongside the stick. He gave the lure a couple of twitches and started to wind: boof, splash! A barra about  70 cm long struck. One cast, one fish is good, but Steve enjoyed a run of 12 barra on consecutive casts. Perhaps the secret lay in the sarong he was wearing; many northern anglers wear sarongs because, they claim, the wraparound skirts help them stay cool when fishing. Hmmmm.

We must have caught 50 barramundi off that snag and, as we moved closer to free a lure, we saw why. Beneath the arched roots of the mangrove trees, it was like peak- hour traffic in Melbourne. Hundreds of barramundi lay nose-to-tail. I dangled a gold lure near some and got an immediate strike.

In another creek, we came across schools of mangrove jack. They were so aggressive that they were shouldering each other out of the way to get to the lure.

After lunch, we crossed the river to another large creek mouth. First cast raised a fish about a metre long that didn’t take the lure. Several casts later and the treble hooks held on to an 86 cm fish, followed by a few barra in the 70 cm range and another of 82 cm.

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