Thursday, 24 June 2021
I have the best job in the world filming our country’s top fishing destinations…
Like most of you who love fishing, soon after starting to relax and absorb the scenery you want that electrifying big fish to join you. There is one place where I never wait long for this to happen…the Northern Territory!
WHY SO MANY BIG FISH?
The country’s biggest flood plains, the warm climate and the vast open spaces means that fish in the NT thrive like nowhere else.
After the best tropical summer rains in 25 decades, the fish have gone absolutely berserk.
I just spent a week of fishing in the NT…I struggle to put to words just how good it is…but I’ll have a crack.
Our finest fishing guides have gravitated to the Northern Territory – they love the place, they love their work, and they make it easy for locals and visitors to step on and get into what’s out there…because even when the fish are bountiful, you still need to know where, when, and how to catch them. I can’t overstate how much time, effort and money experienced guides will save you in finding a swag of big fish.
Here’s a few recommendations from my recent fishing trip to the Top End..
Airborne Solutions – Heli Fishing for Barramundi
Barra are the most popular Aussie Fish for good reason - they grow huge, inhabit beautiful sheltered waters, take bait, lure and fly, and never fail to perform breathtaking jumps. They are remarkable creatures, and the NT has THE best barra fishing on earth.
There’s lots of brilliant day charter boats bookable on this page, but Heli-fishing is also a particularly good option if you’re short on time and want to see as much as possible. It also allows you to land in places no one else can get too!
The run-off season, which is normally early Autumn, was still going during our winter (dry season) visit thanks to vast amounts of water that is still draining off the flood plains…so that’s where we are headed.
Our trip started 10 minutes’ drive from Darwin CBD at the Airborne Solutions base. You can grab an Uber or taxi here from the city for under $30.
Once in the air we got a superb view of Darwin and surrounds and then it was off to the famed Mary River Flood Plain to the east. It’s always beautiful out that way but it’s so green now it would even make Shrek blush! The bird’s eye view revealed flora, fauna and water EVERYWHERE!
First spot, pilot Finn and I cast in at the same time and BANG a double hook-up on 75cm Barra! The onslaught of bites from larger and smaller fish continued from there – it was extraordinary even by Northern Territory standards - I could’ve stayed all day but Finn wanted me to see more spots just five minutes flight away…and they delivered even better action!
How the fish breed and feed in these conditions has set things up for an incredible build up (spring) Barra season, even the locals are excited! I’ll be sneaking back with a couple of close friends and one of my daughters.
Airborne Solutions supply all tackle and refreshments, you can book your heli-fishing experience here.
• Barra love hiding in the shade or where clear water meets murky water. They also love bubbling water and foam lines. Cast at such places.
• Take a couple of friends and do the full day if possible. But even in the half day it’s still one of the best fishing charters you can have.
• Airborne supply tackle but If you want to bring your own here’s what’s best:
• Rods need to be short enough to fit in the Choppers storage compartment. A multipiece rod with an overall length of 105cm when broken down will fit. Baitcast or spin sticks both work, they will need to be somewhere in the 4kg to 8kg rating.
• Single Hook soft plastics are the only lure allowed at some spots so these are the first ones to pack. 75mm to 150mm are ideal, with jig heads between 5 and 15 grams. Use around 3/0 size hooks, and make them sturdy one - you can encounter massive barra at any moment. Bring a few hardbodies and soft vibes too – roughly between 75 and 175mm is ideal. Pack a few weedless frogs in your kit – there is lily pad surface fishing on offer.
• Keep your kit small – 1 rod and around 20 lures is more than enough. Put it all in a small back pack so you can be mobile on the ground.
• If you do have a new bait caster – practice at home before going, you want to be ready to make the most of an incredible day.
• Don’t worry if you forget any tackle – the pilots have heaps and are brilliant at putting you onto fish.
This is the ultimate family, budget and time friendly option, as well as being easily accessible. Just 45 minutes’ drive from Darwin and you’re there – and the Barra are waiting!
Owners Tommy and Dorian have stocked several of their private lakes with loads of Barra of all sizes, and have put in a comfy wheelchair friendly deck with a shaded area, BBQ’s and a bar!
This is my second visit and I can’t recommend it highly enough – you can see the Barra swimming around and fish for them on bait, lure or fly.
Anglers and kids will be entertained for as long as you want, while non-fishos can relax in the shade right nearby. It’s a BRILLIANT set up!
You can also try your hand at feeding the giant barra. There’s also the options of bird watching or taking pics from the eight metre high viewing deck.
Popular with all sized groups and increasingly becoming an event venue, Barramundi Adventures are continually expanding the list of cool things to do. It really is a great outback and fishing adventure on a budget.
All tackle is supplied but this is also a great place to bring your own gear and test it on some big ones! Book in advance here.
-Whilst you can and will catch Barra anytime of day, morning and evening is best. Larger groups can fish at night fish on request.
-Same tackle as for the heli-fishing. Single barbless hooks are compulsory.
-The fishing is BRILLIANT, but if you need a little extra help talk to Tommy, Dorian, Mitch or any of the team-they have lots of tricks up their sleeve to get you onto some Barra.
-If you are into fly fishing BRING YOUR FLY GEAR…you’ll have a ball.
Arafura Bluewater Charters tick all the boxes: big boat, roomy deck, uncluttered, clean, comfy, organised and with all the right tackle ready to go. Add in the crews beaming smiles and love of their work and you know it’s going to be a good day.
There are three boats in their fleet – two of them do day trips and the third does extended overnight and multi night charters.
We did a half day option and got some quality fish – golden snapper, tusk fish, the popular stripey and some coral trout to name a few. All good fighters and FIRST CLASS table fish.
It was a little breezy on our trip so we couldn’t go wide where it was rougher – but fear not the area is blessed with lots of sheltered water options.
Besides the fish we saw dolphins, lots of turtles, manta rays and sharks. It is a wild “Attenborough Doco” like world out there.
All fish are expertly filleted and bagged – all you have to do on return is fire up the BBQ or get one of the local restaurants to do their thing, (book in advance if you’re doing the later).
Breakfast, lunch and refreshments are supplied. You can book your Bluewater fishing charter here.
• If you are getting little nibbles don’t hook them – wait for a bigger fish to come along and bite properly, you’ll know when this happens. If you stop getting nibbles after a minute or so you’ve probably been baited, wind in quickly and rebait.
• When you hook a large fish you will sometimes need to reel it in quick to stop sharks getting them– shorter lift ups and wind downs is more effective. However you MUST keep the rod bent at all times, this helps stop the fish shaking the hook.
• Fish coming up from 10 meters deep or more are likely to suffer Barotrauma, which is like the Benz, and they are likely to die or get eaten by sharks if released. Thankfully the fisheries minister and team have implemented some very progressive rules . These rules see anglers keeping and making use of Barotrauma fish within their needs and possession limits, and then changing spots to target other species. Our skippers have taken his on board and it is helping keep this remarkable fishery flourishing.
• If you have time try the extended/overnight charters – you will get to even more remote spots and the fishing is next level, seriously next level.
• The crew has ice but bring an esky so you can transport your catch home from the boat – these are first class table fish and you want to keep them that way.
For the non-fishing family members there’s plenty to do.
For those who decide to stay back in town, have a variety of uniquely Territorian experiences to try. Crocosaurus Cove, Doctors Gully Fish Feeding, Stokes Hill Wharf Precinct, World War II Navy Oil Storage Tunnel Tours and loads more spring to mind. Lots of markets, arts and craft and sensational local produce cooking boutique restaurants! It’s a compact city you can get around on foot or on the electric scooters dotted around the place. Leave at least couple of days to explore – you won’t regret it.
See you on the water.
Host Fishing Australia Television Series