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Adventure Travel Magazine

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Catch Cape Don's Dinner Variety

Check out Australia's Cobourg Peninsula Angling Opportunities

By Larry Larsen

Australia's Cape Don"Let's see. What do I want for dinner tonight? Coral trout, golden snapper, barramundi, Spanish mackerel, blue salmon,  or how about tuna? How about mud crab for an appetizer?" The choices are those and more at Cape Don Lodge, a fisherman's paradise at the Top End of Australia.

Cape Don lies just 45 minutes by air from Darwin on Australia's Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory. Here, there are many species to catch - and eat. Cape Don Lodge offers a variety of fishing opportunities in and on their mangrove-lined creeks where fish breed, their sandy flats for sight casting, their island cays and rocky outcrops and their fringing reef just 1500 feet off the shoreline which surrounds the point. Beyond the reef is the deep bluewater where pelagic species roam.

There are 169 miles of coastline with 8 creek systems available for Cape Don's 12 guests to fish exclusively. The only other fishermen you would ever see in this area are the aboriginals, according to John Kerr, Managing Director of Cape Don Fishing Lodge. He and his wife have renovated the Head Lighthouse Keeper's Homestead beside the historic Lighthouse, which was built in 1916 and still operates today. They offer modern facilities with five guess rooms, a spa and a homestead "family table" where all meals are served.

Seafood lovers enjoy! The evening meal at Cape Don is always seafood, and in an effort to protect their resource, the lodge's fully equipped boats only bring back two fish per day that serve as dinner. Everything else caught is released. To "personalize" the fishing experience here, the chef will actually ask the guests each morning what they would like to eat that night. Then, the guides will target that type of fish during the day. That's a thrill for the guest, Kerr notes.

Australia capeThe lodge's six boats range from 15.5 to about 24 feet in length and a guide goes with each. Fishing/Overnight packages for 3-, 4- or 7-nights are based on the boat being used and how many anglers would be aboard.

"The advantage of this area is that we have flats in 2 or 3 feet of water," says Kerr, "and the bluewater depths just 2 miles away with over 300 feet of water are where the pelagics swim. Inshore, we target barramundi up to 39 inches, mangrove jacks and threadfin salmon. If the creek fishing is turned off at midday, the pelagics seem to turn on then."

Just off the edge of the reef, their record is an 80-pound mackerel and a 60-pound Giant Trevally. The queenfish are also a great fighting fish in the shallow bluewater areas. An average daily catch per boat year around might be 40 fish per day, but the species will change throughout the year, according to the Lodge Director. They'll catch barramundi in the runoff in March, April, and May and later in October and November. Bluefin tuna will come in June through August. The biggest mackerels move in September through November.

"At Cape Don, two seas meet: the Arafura and the Timor, and that's important," explains Kerr. "We have a bubble line where the tides from each crash. The tides are 2 hours different, and they are different in strength, so we can actually plan our day based on them. If they aren't suitable on the eastern side, we can go around to the other side."

Australia Fishing"That's the beauty of fishing this place," he continues. "We aren't just concentrating on one creek estuary, reef area, bluewater, or even one tide. In the creeks, for example, the last hour and one-half of the low tide and the first two hours of the rising tide are the best. Once the tide has risen a ways, we will leave the creeks and fish the flats and go on to the fringing reef. That's when the fish move up from the deep and feed just off the reef."

"In blue water, we like to fish the first two day after four days of neap tides," Kerr adds. "That's when the water has cleared up the most. You can see 60 feet in the water then. When the water just starts to move, that's when those fish are most active."

Mangrove jacks of 18 inches or so are an interesting challenge in the tree-lined creeks. You should be accurate with your casting and quick to set the hook and fight the fish. The fish come out of their mangrove snag, move around in front of the lure and hit it going toward their snag, according to the Director. So, if you don't pull them up fast, they are in the snag!

Australia AnglerTo further highlight the lodge experience, each day the captains take a photo of each lucky angler with a digital camera. Then after the sumptuous dinner, they present a slide show revealing what each of the guests caught that day. Is that neat? You can catch what you want to eat that night, and then after dinner, view the daily action. With such a diverse range of sportfishing experiences offered at Cape Don, the "shows" are indeed entertaining!

Cape Don Lodge is closed in January and February during the wet season, when they get about 80 percent of their rain and most of their storms. The rest of the year, the captains and chef are waiting for your order. For more information, contact info@capedon.com.au, phone 61-08-8979-0030 or visit their website at www.capedon.com.au. Qantas Airways will get you to Darwin. For more information or reservations, contact 800-227-4500 or visit their website at www.QantasUSA.com. For general tourism/fishing information on the Australia's Outback Northern Territory, contact the Northern Territory Tourist Commission at their three websites, www.insidetheoutback.com, www.fishingtheterritory.com or www.ntholidays.com.

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