By Warren Smith | November 23, 2022
FISHOS use all types of vehicles in the pursuit of finding and catching fish. This includes boats, cars, motorbikes, pushbikes (some are helped along by batteries these days), but I reckon helicopters are probably the most exciting way to go chasing fish.
I remember hearing stories of people using choppers to access the remote and difficult areas of the Blue Mountains when growing up in Bathurst. The trout would head up the streams to spawn in great numbers if we received good rainfall at the right time of the year but as I mentioned the streams are in some of the steepest countries to be found in Australia.
My friends and myself did a few walk-in trips over the years and most involved a full day hike in and the same to get back out. Not so bad when your young and fit but I still remember sitting around a campfire located in one of Blue Mountains deep gorges talking how good it would be to get a chopper to drop us and our gear in and then picking us up a week or so later. At this stage that dream was still to happen, but I would defiantly love to get in there after all those spawning trout.
These days you can find heaps of places around the world that use helicopters in pursuit of one or another type of fish. Recently my nephew Jeremy acquired his helicopter pilot license and then scored a job in Darwin with HeliFish.
Jezza has always loved fishing since the day he was born, and this surely must be the dream job. Getting paid to fly around the Top End’s breathtaking landscapes and dropping into spots only reached by choppers and putting fishos into some great fishing. I’ve done a couple of trips over the last few months and every trip has been awesome.
The first flight was with Jez’s dad Ken, who writes the Outdoors column in Fisho, and it was around mid-June which is normally a slow time of the season for barra fishing. But on this day it was all happening. We landed on a barrage (like a dam wall) and were straight into a barra.
Ken fly fished and Jez and me cast soft plastics. Not all the barra were big, but we landed a few legal ones amongst the 70 odd fish that came from that spot in a couple of hours. Jezza said we needed to leave as he had one more spot to try at a coastal creek. It was slow to start with, but we walked up the creek a short distance and things began to change. The first couple of barra were in the 70 cm range followed by a few threadfins and then more barra. We kept of a couple of these for dinner as the creek is salt water. Jezza fired the chopper up again and we headed for a short 20-minute flight home into a setting sun. 80 odd barra in a few hours is what I’d call sensational barra fishing at any time of the year.
Next chance was very recent when a gentleman by the name Chris Bogacz had booked a full day’s fishing and kindly allowed me to tag along with him and Jezza. What made this even better for me was that the destination was the coastal creeks around the mouth of the Daly River. I’ve been up and down the Daly by boat a few times over the years, but this was the very first time to fly over it at helicopter height. You just don’t realize what’s hidden behind that row of continuous mangrove trees or what’s a bit further up that small creek that you can’t get a boat up.
HeliFish has exclusive rights to land on this Aboriginal owned country, so you have it all to yourself. We fished numerous spots through out the day and ended up with around 20 odd fish, mostly barra but a few threadies put in an appearance as well. While fishing one spot we had a bit of a David Attenborough moment that I have never witnessed before. A croc around 3m was trying to catch a feed from a small drain on the opposite side of the creek when a very large snake about the same length of the croc emerged from the tree line about 20m up the bank. The croc spotted him straight away took off up the bank to confront the snake. The snake reared up, but the croc was unperturbed and latched on and began shaking the snake until it was in three pieces. He then happily claimed the head section and headed back to the water and left the rest for the Whistling Kites.
The three of us looked at each other saying things like “bloody hell”. The flight home was awesome as a couple of small afternoon storms had formed and we dodged them while the escarpment country of Litchfield Park with its spectacular waterfalls passed on our right. To me I could have an ordinary day fishing, but the flights would more then make up for it. Heli Fish is in the process of negotiating for more exclusive areas to take keen anglers in the future and along with their proven spots that cater for all ages and styles including fly fishing, lure casting and live baiting. If you’ve ever been in the Darwin area and keen for something different I can highly recommend grabbing a couple of mates and heading out for a days fishing you’ll always remember.
Million Dollar Fish
Another reason to visit the Top End is this year’s Million Dollar Fish competition.
The Million Dollar Fish competition was introduced in 2015 to lure anglers to fish the Northern Territory’s pristine waterways. Underwritten by SportsBet, it is Australia’s richest fishing competition.
Million Dollar Fish sees a number of tagged barramundi released across the Territory’s five main fishing regions: Arnhem Land, Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine and the Tiwi Islands. For Season 8, which runs from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023, this included 100 fish worth $10,000, plus a barra worth $1 million.
All the $1 million fish from previous seasons also remain active, so there are nine chances to snag the big one. The $1 million fish are active year-round, while the other tagged fish are only active during the official Million Dollar Fish season.
Since the competition launched, dozens of fishos from around Australia have cashed in by reeling in a tagged barramundi, and hundreds more have won epic prizes from competition partners through the Lucky Prize Pool.
More info at milliondollarfish.com.au.