• An estuary-dwelling queenfish
    An estuary-dwelling queenfish
  • Macca with one of his favourite fish
    Macca with one of his favourite fish
  • A nice silver barra that fell to a Rapala Shadow Rap
    A nice silver barra that fell to a Rapala Shadow Rap
  • Macca with one of the many mangrove Jacks caught over 5 days
    Macca with one of the many mangrove Jacks caught over 5 days
  • Scott Simpson with ZMan eating Jack
    Scott Simpson with ZMan eating Jack
  • Melville Lodge manager Scott Simpson with a skinny water barra
    Melville Lodge manager Scott Simpson with a skinny water barra
  • Scotty with a colourful Queensland Grouper
    Scotty with a colourful Queensland Grouper
  • Mark "Macca" McClain holds a nice Goose Creek saratoga
    Mark "Macca" McClain holds a nice Goose Creek saratoga

AFTER leaving Melville Island Lodge two and a half years ago, I’ve have had the opportunity to fish at a few other places across the top part of Australia. Though most are fantastic places to fish, a recent return to Melville has confirmed what a great and consistent fishery the place is no matter what the tides are doing.

Macca with one of his favourite fish

My most recent trip was made even better by a reunion with a client that I met many years ago and have become good mates with, Mark “Macca” McClain. Macca loves casting lures in the rivers and creeks that are dotted along the coast of the Tiwis and his two favourite species are barramundi and mangrove Jacks. It just so happens that I agree with him!

We were hanging out to revisit all our old spots and get amongst them again. We left the lodge on the first morning just as the sun was starting to peek above the eastern horizon with the plan of attack to hit Jessie River. Our first stop, though, was at a small creek that just happened to be named after the man himself, “Maccas”. It didn’t let us down with the capture of a few barra in no time.

Now Macca hasn’t been up here since I left the place because of work commitments and his level of enthusiasm was starting to kick in again with all his usual calls of “did you see that” or “this is unreal!”  The one I liked the most was “this is the best day of my life!”  

We had to get out of this small creek as the tide was dropping. After only a short run we were into the very fishing looking waters of the Jessie River. ..and it didn’t let us down with a steady flow of Jacks and barra. There were a few other species thrown in as well, with golden snapper, queenfish, trevally and hard pulling estuary cod to name a few.

It was an enjoyable day with well over 50 fish landed. After a brilliant meal that night prepared by chief Damo, a plan for day 2 was hatched and it was a return to possibly my favourite fishing spot on Melville Island: Robertson Inlet. After another early morning start we had a nice run up the coast to reach our destination.

Macca with one of the many mangrove Jacks caught over 5 days

With the tide being high first up, the fishing was slow to start but this began to change quickly as the tide dropped. Robertson is a hot mangrove Jack spot and we were soon into some serious Jack attacks with a few barra appearing as well. The highlight of this day was stopping at a snag near the mouth with the last of the outgoing tide pushing masses of jelly prawns into it. The amount of barra and Jacks that were smashing into them was crazy! Using 3” Zman paddle tails rigged on weedless hooks it was a fish-a-cast until Mac got stitched up by a serious barra that buried him deep amongst the snag pile. We call it quits and with over 70 fish for the day headed home.

Day 3 saw us heading the other direction to a creek we call Rungas. This spot rates very highly on my list of favourite spots as well. Joining us today was lodge manager, Scott Simpson, while his lovely partner Summa held the fort for him. The highlight of the day happened when we snuck our way over some very shallow water only accessible at high tide and proceeded to pull a stack of barra and Jacks from some very skinny waters. Macca again gave the call that is was “The best day of his life!”


We left them biting with close to 100 fish boated. Over dinner and beers that night we decided that Goose Creek was the place to head on day 4. Goose never disappoints with the scenery or the fishing and we had a most enjoyable day with plenty of barra in the 60 to 70cm range in the tidal parts of the creek. We ran the boat upstream into its permanent fresh water section to try our luck on the saratoga. Macca was using the reliable Berkley 5” Jerk Shads while I tried out some new acquisitions from Zman, Mini 1/4oz Chatterbaits. These proved to be a hit on the ‘toga, with one caught on the very first cast. We boated close to 20 ‘toga and dropped a stack more before turning the boat towards home. It was an excellent day.

The fifth and last day’s plan was to return to Rungas but a combination of low tide at the mouth and a larger than normal swell made it too risky to attempt getting in, so we backtracked to Shark Bay. I wasn’t confident on how the fishing would go with the tide already half in, which meant fishing high tide most of the day. But Macca was full of confidence as usual and it wasn’t long before we found some willing goldies, which were soon followed by some jacks.

Scotty with a colourful Queensland Grouper

By the end of our day we had accounted for close to 30 fish. Half a dozen nice barra were amongst them. Considering its supposed to be the slow time of the year (June) we had excellent fishing over the whole five days. Over a few beers that night a plan to return in November was hatched. This time we will be going to the Johnston River Camp, also found on Melville Island, which Macca has never been to. We’re looking forward to it already.

The most productive lures for us on this trip were Zman 3” Z Paddletails (as usual) in colours New Penny and Pinfish. Best hard body was the Rapala Shadow Rap Deep 09 in colours Haymaker and Blue Back Herring. As already mentioned the 1/4oz Chatterbaits from Zman worked a treat on the ‘toga along with Berkley’s ever reliable Gulp 5” Jerk Shads. Both baitcaster reels and spin reels were loaded with 20lb and 30lb Sufix 832 braid.

While we were there the lodge boats were all being updated with brand new 175hp Suzuki Four Strokes along with the latest side-imaging sounders from Humminbird. I also caught wind of a great promotion coming up soon with BCF and the NT’s own “Outback Wrangler”, Matt Wright. A trip valued at over $20,000. Some days fishing at the Lodge and some with Matt flying around Melville Island chopper fishing. Keep your eye out for that one as it will be an epic trip to win. 

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