The Lure Of Barramundi
Ask any serious angler why they love fishing for barramundi in the Northern Territory, and they'll tell you the satisfaction of bringing in a metrey barra after a long, hard slog is a feeling like no other. It's the feeling that makes you want to fish.
Not only does the strong fighting spirit and aerial acrobatics of barra mean they're a highly desired sport fish, they're also delicious to eat, which makes that day of barra fishing that extra bit rewarding.
World-class barra fishing is why fishos from all over Australia return to NT waters time and time again. Whether you're just starting out or a seasoned angler, trying your hand at catching NT barra could be the experience you've been searching for.
Barramundi are plentiful right throughout the NT, which means you're pretty much guaranteed excellent fishing no matter where you set up basecamp.
The time of year/season you choose will dictate where you're best to fish, as well as the type of equipment and technique you should use. Read on for some location suggestions...
Fishing In Darwin
Darwin is a great starting point for those visiting the NT for the first time.
It's easy to access from other capital cities, has a laidback vibe yet there are still numerous things to see and do, and it's perfect for those wanting to try their luck catching monster barra across a range of habitats, including bluewater and estuaries.
Fishing In Arnhem Land
Arnhem Land is where you can take the 'road less travelled' and explore untouched, pristine water environments is unforgettable landscapes.
The barra fishing in Arnhem Land is something special - it's up there with the world's most desired fishing destinations - including the best competitive bluewater barra fishing in Australia, perfect for the serious angler.
Fishing In Katherine
Katherine is renowned for its camping and 4WDing. Locals commonly refer to Katherine as the 'NT gateway to fishing', thanks to its accessibility to prime fishing spots famous for massive fresh and saltwater barra.
Commercial fishing is prohibited in many regions through Katherine, which means serious and recreational anglers can sit back, relax and enjoy the thrill of the catch.
Fishing In Kakadu National Park
Nothing quite says NT like the unforgettable Kakadu National Park.
Kakadu is the perfect place to pitch a boat and get into the best tidal barra fishing habitats in the NT. Cruise through stunning billabongs, across floodplains, and enjoy watching barra practically jump out of the water to chase bait fish.
With the run-off and wet seasons producing the most barra (see Fishing Seasons) and the most action, Kakadu is an absolute must for any angler living in, or visiting, the NT.
(October to December)
The barra are plentiful during the breeding (or build-up) season, which makes it one of the best times for fishing. In particular, big barra are searching for food, with the calmer coastal waters coaxing them up saltwater rivers and estuaries.
Best Places to Fish in the Build-Up
- The mouth of Leaders Creek (within one hour's drive from Darwin)
- River heads and estuaries
Note that Dundee Beach, Bynoe Harbour and Mary River are closed for spawning at this time of the year.
Barra Wet Season (January to mid-March)
With the monsoonal conditions of the wet season, huge volumes of cooled water flood into plains and escarpments causing barra to be less active. The better fishing during this period is generally in mangrove creeks and estuaries, although patience is necessary.
Best places to fish in the wet season
- Mangrove creeks
- Estuaries (also brimming with black jewfish, golden snapper, cod, pikey bream and mangrove jack)
Note that bluewater fishing is not popular during this period.
Commencing at the end of the wet season, the run-off is another prime fishing period because remaining barra are forced to migrate to the main river through exit points at creek mouths before water levels get too low.
Best Places to Fish in the Run-Off
- Sampan Creek mouths (for big barra)
- Tommycut Creek mouth (for big barra)
Barra Dry Season (May to September)
Many of the conditions of the wet season apply to the dry season, largely due to the cooler temperatures of the waters. However, during this period, water clarity is also improved, which means superb barra fishing conditions in tidal rivers using artificial lures.
Best places to fish in the dry season
- Tidal rivers (bluewater fishing)
- Coastal mangrove estuaries and creeks
- Freshwater billabongs (easily accessible due to the lower water levels)
Hold the entire body of your barra so it is fully supported horizontally. Return any fish you don't plan on keeping back into the water as calmly and as quickly as possible.
Warning: Avoid hanling your catches by the gills or mouth. Barra are highly susceptible to stretching, which can be fatal.
Catch & Release
At Anaconda, we're big believers in sustainable fishing practices and advocate humane catch & release practices.
Humane catch & release practices includes:
- Releasing fish you don't plan on keeping (or those that are not legal size)as soon as possible to minimise stress.
- Using the appropriate tackle and gear depending on the species and size of your intended catch.
- Cutting the line close to the mouth and leaving the hook in place when a fish is deeply hooked.
- Dispatching fish kept for eating in a humane manner.
- Avoiding suspension of fish vertically by their jaw or gills (instead, support the fish's weight horizontally using both hands).
- Avoid laying a fish intended for release on a hot surface.
- Avoiding tethering fish dead or alive (this practice is illegal).
Here are some tips for getting started in barra fishing:
- Use the right equipment for your fishing conditions. For example, go for a braid and line combination for heavier snag areas or use a more brightly coloured lure in murkier water conditions.
- When selecting a lure, think about the kind of food your target fish is eating and then pick a lure that best matches the prey. For barra, this could be anything from small fish, crustaceans or prawns, to even other barramundi.
- Observation is everything - what's happpening in the water above and below? Barra are known to make certain noises on the surface, so keep an ear out. Can you see sprays of baitfish moving where hungry barramundi might be hunting?
- Barramundi tend to hunt in water with good clarity as they're a visual predator. Again, this will affect the tools that you use.
Baitcaster or Spin?
The first thing you need to ask yourself when shopping for barra gear is whether you want to use baitcaster or spin rods & reels. So what's the difference between the two?
Baitcaster rods & reels are more accurate but they're also more complex to set up, which can be a little tricky. On the other hand, spin rods & reels are easy to use, especially for the recreational angler, meaning less fuss and more time for your fishing.
Here are some details on the gear available at Anaconda...
Size Restrictions & Permits
You DO NOT require a recreational fishing license in the Northern Territory. However, a large portion of the NT's intertidal waters lie over Aboriginal land, and recreational fishers should respect and recognise the cultural importance of these waters to traditional owners.
Permits are required to enter Aboriginal land and may be required for access to tidal waters overlying Aboriginal land for fishing purposes. Information on permit requirements is available from the Northern Land Council on 08 8920 5100 or by visiting www.nic.org.au.
Please take note of the following restrictions:
- Minimum of 55cm (nose to tip of tail) to maximum of 90cm (nose to tip of tail). This is NT-wide with a minimum fillet length of 27cm.
- Barramundi possession limit of three, with a vessel limit of one fish over 90cm.
- Special controls apply in Kakadu National Park, Mary & Daly River Fish Management Zones*
- Want to make sure you're doing your part? Be sure to grab one of our Shimano Brag Mats here.
The Northern Territory is a world-class recreational fishing destination but it's also home to some of the highest concentrations of saltwater crocodiles in the world. Anaconda encourages anyone visiting and fishing in the Northern Territory (as well as surrounding regions) to be vigilant and crocwise around waterways at all times.
For more information on how to be crocwise, please visit: https://nt.gov.au/emergency/community-safety/crocodile-safety-be-crocwise/how-to-stay-safe.
(Source: Northern Territory Recreational Fishing Controls: Northern Territory Government, July 2018 Revised)
For a full overview of barra restrictions and permit information, click here.