We went back to the Russell to toss some lures around snags with Mark. Getting colder and less action but still got a few.

Early morning Mangrove Jack


Sooty grunter.


Unusual catch, good fighter called for a much larger fish. Spikey bugger.

Football shaped Sooty, this guy was so fat Mark couldn’t believe the weight of him. Good fight too on 1kg outfit.

Sooty Grunter with a weight problem

Baby Mangrove Jack

Good tarpon on very light gear

Horse Tarpon

Decent sized Crocodile, not scared by us.


Mark (mdlures) and myself hit the Russell for the first time in search of a few fish to catch and release on Friday. We were both shocked by the excellent water quality and natural beauty of the area.

Not actually knowing where we were going, we followed the nearest tinny off the main highway and ended up at a boat ramp. Only problem being, we were not even on the Russell, but up the Mulgrave. So we journeyed down to the mouth over some very shallow ground and up the Russell, checking out all we could along the way. The Russell and Mulgrave are a twin river sharing the same mouth.

Most of the morning was spent looking around and being genuinely shocked at the brilliant waterway before us, as well as wondering why we were so stupid to have never fished it before.

Lots of photos were taken, and we felt more like sightseers than fishermen (apart from one little GT caught by Mark). The fish were not playing the game and it didn’t matter. Even the guides were having a rough time. We saw a ton of fish: jacks, barra, grunter, bream, bony bream, scat, jungle perch, something HUGE that looked like a jack on some serious steroids, fat tilapia, tarpon, schools of different types of mullet, and some we just didn’t know…

After exploring a stunning creek with crystal clear water, we ventured upstream. Taking in a new vista at every turn, we could have been in any tropical country, Mark was thinking PNG, I was thinking East Malaysia. True paradise.

The tide was racing out and the current strong. After getting far enough upstream (a fair way!) we drifted back down using the electric to hold on some areas for no more than a few casts, or to retrieve snagged lures, or fish.

Wasn’t long and I was onto a little Jungle Perch sitting in a front eddy off a snag.

Not far around the corner and Mark let out a good “Yep” and his rod was buckling HARD. Keeping its head up out of the sticks and finally under control, Mark excitedly started yelling, “Look at the colours on this Sooty” and sure enough it was a healthy Gold Spot Sooty Grunter. The colours of this fish in the water were totally different and what a pretty fish.

Taking a photo and releasing it we found ourselves sitting up against a bank in a very strong back eddy. We took turns at holding the boat under some branches while the other cast upstream into the eddy. It was a hot bite indeed with three and four hits per retrieve. As soon as the lure hit the water you got a hit, usually followed by one or two mid retrieve, then always a last on just before the boat, all in the space of 3-7 metres. “Yep, OH, Yep, OH, Yep ON” was heard a fair bit. While we caught a few, we certainly lost a fair few as well and tarpon were usually the culprits with their bony mouths and blistering turns of speed. After 10 of the hottest minutes of fishing the bite was over and we headed downstream.

Casting anything and everything, we tried both sides of the bank. Mostly searching for eddys that would hold fish. Coming across a section of river bank with slightly less current Mark suggested we make a move to the other bank where all the fish had been coming from, two casts later and I was hit HARD. Struggling to keep the fish up without breaking the leader, the fight was fast and dogged. I called it for a big trevally (GT) but I was wrong and eventually up popped a flash of red. “Yes” a nice sized freshwater Mangrove Jack!

Not more than 10 minutes later “Yep”, Mark was on. Another magnificent freshwater jack. We motored over to the other side for a picture and a fish near a nice looking stream running the clearest water you’ve ever seen into the river. As we got near I cast my lure over landing it within an inch of the bank near the undercut bank and slowly but firmly twitched the lure back hoping for a double. As I pulled the lure from the water another good sized Jack took one last swipe just missing the hooks. Bummer, nearly had a photo to remember. Mark’s jack was a nice fish as you can see in the pictures.

The next reach I caught another Jungle Perch.

As the sun started falling on the tree-line we decided we’d better get the f out of dodge as we had a lot of ground to cover and not much time until dark. The ride back was one to remember and ensured our regular fishing trip soon became yet another MD “fishing odyssey”. You see, Mark and I have a knack for making a normal fishing trip into something a little more grueling and adventurous. Beaching the boat nearly on dark in a river system that had shown up at least 4 crocs, including one total beast, getting into the water and pushing the tinny out was all we needed, but we survived (again). One of these days we’ll get a regular trip in, but in the meantime, it’s good to be able to tell the story and adds to the adventure.

You can see the look on Mark’s face as we venture up the last section of river in 1-2ft of water. Not the best way to end a trip, won’t happen next time though!