The Top End’s Arnhem Highway is Australia’s barramundi highway, taking fishermen to some of the nation’s best barramundi fishing spots, and the Shady Camp region heads the list.
Shady Camp itself is a good fishing spot, but the location is more of an access point for other places.
The good fishing is associated with the vast Mary River wetlands, which extend through to Kakadu National Park.
Shady Camp is a camping area next to a barrage that separates fresh and tidal water in Sampan Creek, which is actually the lower Mary River.
The waterway leads upstream to famous Corroboree Billabong and Hardies Lagoon freshwater fishing and wildlife spotting locations.
There are boat ramps immediately above and below Shady Camp barrage.
The saltwater ramp is tide-affected, drying at low tide, with a short window of launching unless wet season floodwater is present.
Landbased fishing is popular at the barrage but big crocodiles are ever-present and it is something of a miracle that fishermen are not taken.
The wet season and shortly after is the best time to fish Shady Camp, with the unsealed road usually holding up well to vehicular traffic, except in the wettest years.
Spots accessed by boat from Shady Camp include Sampan Creek, Tommycut Creek, Marsh Creek, Love Creek, Carmor Creek, Thrings Creek, Point Stuart, Wildman River and Shady Jew Reef.
All the creeks are fished for barramundi during the wet season when the flow is running from feeder creeks into the bigger creeks, or directly into the sea from coastal creeks.
There is some scope to chase Build-up barramundi in warm, calm weather during neap tides, when the water clears enough for lure fishing.
This area falls under the Mary River Management Zone and special rules apply. The barrage itself has a single-hook rule.
Detailed fishing maps of this area are in the North Australian FISH FINDER book.
How to fish Shady Camp
The barrage itself fishes best at the top of big tides and 120cm fish are a chance.
Night fishing works well but crocodile attack is a real possibility, as big crocodiles are always in the vicinity, even though you may not see them.
During the dry season there is good fishing in the freshwater section for barramundi and saratoga, with at least two trollable rockbars.
Large tides breech the barrage and can produce bursts of good fishing at this time.
Wet season floodwater turns the area into an inland sea when barramundi spread out far and wide.
The fishing starts as the river falls after flooding.
Barramundi congregate at floodplain creeks along the river channel, and at coastal floodplain creek mouths.
Colour changes between turbid tidal water and clear run-off are always worth a cast but the real secret is to find where bait is located.
During flooding it is best to fish far downstream where Sampan and Tommycut Creeks drop below the banks, or at creeks along along the coast.
Once floods subside there is a period of greenwater flow which provides good fishing, and tides will then usually decide when the fish come on.
The small coastal creeks tend to fish best from the top of the tide down, on the biggest tides, and when floodwater is still present. Fish over 1m are regularly caught.
The small coastal creek mouths dry as the tide falls, so be sure to leave in time, but Tommycut and Sampan channels usually remain navigable.
Small earth barrages on the various wetland creeks can fish when they breech from ongoing monsoonal rain.
Trolling works at the Sampan and Tommycut Creek mouths, with casting the usual method at small creek mouths.
Use at least 15kg braided line and well-made Australian lures such as Reidys and Classics. Soft plastics and vibes such as Vibelicious work well.
Some imported lures are not strong enough for barramundi.
Leaders of around 40kg are needed.
Thanks to netting closures big threadfin salmon are super-abundant along this coastline and become almost a nuisance when targeting trophy barramundi.
The waterways here are mostly free of rockbars. There is a substantial area of rocks extending seaward from around Point Stuart, and there are drying rock patches in front of Carmor Creek.
Shady Camp is busy at the best fishing times, with week days are a quieter time to fish.
Because this area has many saltwater crocodiles and bull sharks, take particular care when landing or releasing fish.
A productive jewfish and snapper reef lies just offshore, which is mapped out in the North Australian FISH FINDER book.
Email us any corrections, additions, pictures or video here.
Some external videos filmed in the Shady Camp region are featured below.
Shady Camp fishing
Shady Camp barrage barramundi
Shady Camp run-off barramundi
Never get caught without a replacement rod tip again