Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Breathtaking Bullo

Story and Photography: David Hancock

Breathtaking BulloSwooping low along the Bullo River in a helicopter reveals saltwater crocodiles churning up mud and sand as they launch themselves from the banks and shallows to the safety of deep water.

Jabirus, egrets, ducks and cattle that line the meandering Top End waterway don't pay much attention to the chopper and continue to drink and feed.

Pilot Franz Ranacher is unfazed by the fleeing crocs - some more than five metres long - and keeps flying the short distance to the mouth of the Bullo, which flows into the mighty Victoria River, 300 kilometres south-west of Darwin.

"That's the spot down there," he says over the intercom with an enthusiastic nod of his head and a bank of the Kawasaki helicopter. "We'll get a few good barra there. Guaranteed."

It's just after breakfast and the sun is burning through a layer of mist mixed with smoke from a late dry season burn-off.

The Pinkerton Ranges to the south and Spirit Hills to the west are pastel escarpments that rise from a beige savannah. In three months, this country will again be vivid green and Bullo will be brimming with wet season run-off.

Breathtaking BulloBut right now, conditions at the mouth of the river are perfect for catching barramundi - the water is low, the tide has turned, schools of mullet are feeding in the shallows and the mudflats aren't too boggy for intrepid anglers.

It isn't long before the barra are biting but, under instructions from Franz's partner Marlee, anything under 4kg or 70cm long is thrown back.

After 20 minutes Franz hooks a 12kg fighter that leaps several times before being hauled ashore on a handline.

"That's dinner tonight," Franz says. " Let's go. We've got some exploring to do." Story end

Full story: Issue 20, December 01 / January 02

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