Wednesday, 23 August 2017
In the past 20 years I’ve penned 100’s of articles on Australian Fishing Destinations, and I have seen some rippers.
But it’s not as often these days that I am inspired to write a column on my fishing adventures...unless something special comes along - like my recent visit to Groote Eylandt!
Groote is like taking a step back in time, even by remote East Arnhem Land standards. There’s absolutely mind blowing fishing, amazing beaches and scenery that very few have seen, and flora and fauna that has virtually disappeared from parts of main land Australia, for example the Northern Quoll and Hopping Mouse are still common. The absence of Cane Toads on the island has helped preserve these species.
The weather was very inviting on the morning we landed at Groote, so after a quick unpack and a bite at the lodge we hit the water with Nick Darby who heads up the fishing tours. The breathtaking scenery and ancient feel of Groote combined with the sunshine was warming us to the bones - to be cruising through all this in state of the art fishing boat with nothing spared made me realise this operation was set to impress.
First stop was a couple of Queenfish and Trevally spots 20 minutes ride from the resort. I’ve seen some brilliant remote fishing for these species in my time but this was next level. Schools of Queenfish to 8kg and GT’s to 22 kg were absolutely everywhere and open to all techniques thanks to the zero fishing pressure. They stayed on the bite for hours smashing poppers relentlessly, following the boats prop and even chasing lures that were left dangling above the water! The Spanish Mackerel, Cobia and Billfish action is also next level, but I’m saving that for my next visit.
Back at the resort one couldn’t help but relax and realize how good this set up is for families and corporate conferences etc. Comfortable rooms with a view of the beach plus all the mod cons including a day spa for your better half make it a great a great place to relax after an arm stretching. And Gihan who runs the bar and restaurant was pretty handy at expertly crafted cocktails - just the tonic to make the sunset and company even more enjoyable.
Of course I was at Groote for the fishing but it was nice to experience plenty of other activities on the island like visiting ancient rock art galleries, bush walking and indigenous cultural tours. The small town of Alyangula near the resort also has a golf course complete with resident crocs! There’s also a tennis court, squash courts and plenty more. It’s a lovely little community with friendly locals and a warm climate that is not stifling hot thanks to the island breeze.
Back to the fishing and our next target was Golden Snapper and Jewfish...and despite being catchable just 200 meters from the resort Nick Prefers to take you to the better spots amongst the archipelagos where an hour at each spot was enough to catch goldens to 55 cm and jewfish to 112 cm. These fish went like absolute freight trains in the shallow water. We had a ball then left them biting.
One of the big secrets to Groote is the options. Ever been hampered by trade winds on a northern trip? I have many times, its standard fare in many places especially in the dry season and it makes getting to the best fishing grounds impossible at times. Thankfully this is not the case at Groote! Being a vast island some 30 miles long and 40 miles wide by that’s surrounded by other islands there are always places you can stop and fish in calm water and when needed this is exactly what Nick does.
Pushing up towards the North East of Groote uncovered an abundance of jewfish , goldens and other reefies such as Nannygui. The chefs back at the lodge prepared these to our liking – just another great part of what the lodge offers.
The scenery whilst wetting a line was awe inspiring...reminiscent of Kimberly headlands but with superb clear water thanks to surprisingly small tides. The area is dotted with white sandy beaches as good as any I have seen and these environs are simply unbeatable to experience.
Casting poppers and shallow running lures we caught coral trout with ease and in between reefs and headlands there was flats’ fishing for yet more species. It really is one of those un-explored places where the exceptional fishing and natural water clarity make it a premium sight fishing destination. Both permit and bonefish fisheries are likely to develop along with other species and techniques – it’s that sort of place. Besides being a gun reef and game skipper, Nick is an avid and experienced fly guide and I’m extremely envious of him developing new options in between charter days!
All the time I was wondering where Nick gained his professionalism as a charter operator. As is turns out his dad has been a guide for years and was instrumental in setting up lodges around the top end. Obviously this knowledge has been passed down to Nick whose fishing, boating and client skills are quite simply without peer.
We finished the trip with some jack and coral trout fishing along with one more insane Queenfish and Trevally session.
Time is shorter for this little fishing resort critic these days...but Groote is one place I’ll be heading back too, and I’ll be taking my family - it really is something special.
More on Groote and how to get there:
Groote Eylandt is the fourth largest Island in Australia, it was named by explorer Abel Tasman and in Dutch the name translates to “Large Island”.
The local Anindilyakwa people have one of oldest surviving languages and cultures in the world.
Groote is a 90 minute flight east Darwin on Air North, there are also flights out of Cairns and Cape York.
Nicks boats are amazing 7.5 m Key West centre console with a top speed of 50 knots and are complete with state of the art electronics and first class fishing gear all round. He caters for bait, lure and fly fishing and nothing is spared in the quality department.
You can find out more at www.grootefishing.com.au, but best of all Nick organises everything for you including flights - interested parties can simply email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will call you direct to customize a trip to suit your needs. No passing the buck here – Nick will personally see too it you have the fishing trip of your lifetime on all levels.
Essential gear? Take a camera and spare cash for a day spa rub down...your muscles will need it.