December 5, 2023

Hardcore Game Fishing

Game Fishing News

Northern Territory Fishing Guide: A Complete Guide

Reading Time: 9 minutes

In the remote reaches of Australia’s far north, lies a true angling paradise. Fishing Northern Territory waters should be on your must-do list. It’s as wild as it is abundant, surrounded by three main bodies of water: the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The fishing experiences here are simply unmatched anywhere else on Earth. NT is about winding rivers, wetlands, untamed coastline, iconic natural treasures, ancient culture, friendly people… The list goes on and on!

In this guide, we’ll navigate the ins and outs of fishing in the Northern Territory. We’ll talk you through the what, when, where, and how of landing your next big catch. Tight lines and good reading!

What can I catch while fishing in the Northern Territory?

From the powerful Jewfish and Golden Snappers in the rivers to acrobatic Queenfish along the coast, all the way up to world-renowned GT, Billfish, and Barramundi, fishing in NT certainly delivers unforgettable experiences. Let’s talk about the top catches in Northern Territory – in no particular order.


Two smiling anglers pose on a fishing charter, holding a large Barramundi on a sunny day with the water behind them
Photo courtesy of Barra / Blue Fishing Charters

It’s impossible to name a more iconic species in the area than Barramundi. They’re the poster child of the local fishing scene. ‘Barra‘ – translating to ‘large-scaled river fish’ – are the epitome of fishing in Australia, known for their size, strength, and delicious meat. These massive fish often tip the scales at over 20 kilos (44 pounds) and measure around a metre long (just over 3 feet)!

Naturally, there are heaps of spots throughout NT to go Barramundi fishing. These fish hang out around cover, hiding and waiting for prey. Barra shift locations throughout the year, spawning exclusively in estuaries and populating coastal areas, tidal rivers, flats, and lagoons.

Barramundi aren’t bait chasers, so you’ll need to place yours near their hiding spots. Look for drop-offs, ledges, snags, sunken trees, deep holes, creek mouths, and mangroves, along with brackish rivers 20–80 kilometres (12–50 miles) from the ocean.

Black Jewfish

An elderly and younger angler hold a large Black Jewfish aboard a fishing charter in the Northern Territory on a sunny day with the blue waters of the ocean behind them
Photo courtesy of Barra / Blue Fishing Charters

It’s not all about Barramundi, though. The Northern Territory is also known for its Black Jewfish – or Mulloway – population. The translation of the name – the ‘Greatest One’ – speaks volumes about their reputation in the local fishing community. Mulloway are also known by their moniker, the ‘Silver Ghost’. They fight smart and can grow up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds), although you’ll normally be targeting fish up to 15 kilos (30 pounds). And they reward anglers that have a lot of patience.

Locals usually hunt for Jewfish when visibility is low and water levels are high in brackish waters, river mouths, deep holes, bays, and around rugged underwater cover. Once hooked, Mulloway charge straight ahead at remarkable speed, so you’ll need to equip yourself with sturdy reef fishing gear and hooks.

Golden Snapper

A happy angler holds a large Golden Snapper aboard a fishing charter in the Northern Territory ona sunny day, with the water and one fishing rod visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Offshore Boats

Recognised as Fingermark Bream in some regions, Golden Snapper are an excellent target thanks to their fighting capabilities and premium quality as table fare. Younger Snappers spend their time in mangrove estuaries, while adults can be found in inshore coral and rocky reef areas.

Golden Snapper live in large schools and weigh as much as 11 kilograms (25.5 pounds). They feed voraciously, although once a hooked fish is lost, the school may move off pretty quickly.

Note that these species are highly susceptible to barotrauma when caught from depths greater than 10 metres (33 feet). If you’re planning to release Golden Snapper, make sure to keep that in mind.

Giant Trevally

An angler on a fishing charter, wearing a backwards baseball cap, holding a large Giant Trevally, with crystal clear ocean waters behind him

Giant Trevally – or GT, for short – are celebrated throughout the world for their tenacity and aggressive demeanour. The ‘gangsters of the deep’ offer an intense angling experience, testing the skill of even the most seasoned angler.

It’s not so much the size and strength of Giant Trevally that make them famous. It’s their remarkable speed that sets them apart. Once hooked, they can speed up to 60 kilometres per hour (37 mph) in an attempt to free themselves. Plus, they’re pretty intelligent and are perfectly capable of snapping your line on an underwater cover.

Schools of GTs patrol the nearshore reefs, falling within the 1–3 kilogram (2–7 pound) range. Larger fish can easily tip the scales up to 35 kilograms (77 pounds), although you’ll need to plan a visit to remote reefs to land that kind of monster.


Three anglers on a fishing charter in the Northern Territory – two female, one male – holding a large Sailfish on a sunny day with no clouds in the sky
Photo courtesy of Game Changer Fishing Charters

Offshore game fishing in Australia’s Northern Territory would be pretty boring without Black Marlin and Sailfish. Their astonishing speed and size need no introduction, known to anglers throughout the world.

Black Marlin fishing follows a cyclical pattern in the region. There are open and closed seasons in prime spots, such as Dundee Beach, and the Timor and Arafura Seas.

Sailfish anglers look for tidal runs leading up to lunar cycles when hunting for Sailfish. However, at some point during the year, juvenile Marlin interrupt Sailfish feeding patterns at Cape Bowling Green, just off Townsville. If you’re ever in the area, consider booking a trip with a local Billfish skipper to observe the intriguing behaviour of these impressive specimens!


An angler in a large hat and wearing gloves holds up a large Queenfish to the camera while standing on a fishing charter in the Northern Territory on a sunny day, with the open ocean water behind him
Photo courtesy of Game Changer Fishing Charters

Queens‘ are also among the premier sport fish in the Northern Territory. They range from 2–6 kilograms (4–13 pounds) and aren’t particularly picky about bait. They do, however, fight like there’s no tomorrow and make a great catch for fly fishermen.

Queenfish populate estuaries, tidal creeks, offshore reefs, and rocky ledges. NT anglers look for schools of Queens around the coastal and offshore waters of the Top End, particularly around Dundee Beach. Note that the Northern Territory encourages catch-and-release fishing to preserve Queenfish populations.

Types of Fishing in the Northern Territory

The vast expanse of the Northern Territory’s waters is an exciting playground for any keen angler. You have a little bit of everything here, from trolling Barramundi to fly fishing for Queenfish – and everything in between. What you pick is all about your own preferences.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of Northern Territory fishing that you can enjoy:

Fishing from Shore

A closeup of the side of an angler in a red t-shirt, face bluff and a straw hat, holding a fishing rod and casting into the surf, as he crouches on a beach on a sunny day

Of the circa 250,000 residents of NT, at least half of them prefer to cast their lines from land. The bounty is rich… You can fish from a beach, pier, lake, river, or the rocky coastline. There’s no bad time for shore fishing here, although you’ll need to pay attention to unpredictable waves and slippery surfaces.

From shore, you can expect a mixed bag of whatever’s in season and biting. To name a few, anglers often catch Barramundi, Tailor, Perch, and Mackerel.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing in the Northern Territory offers another wealth of opportunity. It’s a favourite pastime in the western and northern streams, along with the offshore hunting grounds. Inshore waters teem with Queenfish, Threadfin Salmon, Permit, Giant Herring, and Golden Trevally, particularly around harbours and bays.

If you’re eager for a bigger challenge, head to the reefs and further offshore to lock horns with larger GT, Tuna, and Billfish. In short, fly fishing here allows you to cast for anything, from Bass and Saratoga to Barramundi, Tarpon, Catfish, and Sailfish!

Deep Sea Fishing with a Charter

A charter fishing boat, complete with trolling rods, sailing to the deep seas off the northern coast of Australia on a sunny day, leaving behind a big wake
Photo courtesy of Game Changer Fishing Charters

If trophy fishing is your game, NT’s deep seas are the path to follow. Engaging a charter skipper allows you to have a safe and rewarding experience for whatever you want to catch. Plus, you can book more exotic deep sea fishing options and even fish from a helicopter!

Different crews specialise in different kinds of fishing, so you’ve got plenty to choose from. There are Tuna, world-class Marlin, Sailfish, and who knows what else lurking in the deep offshore waters!


In the nearshore and offshore waters of the Northern Territory, spearfishing adds a whole new dimension to angling. Australian spearos target Coral Trout, Bream, Parrotfish, and Snappers on the reefs. Further offshore, you can hunt for Tuna and Mahi Mahi.

Note that spearfishing can be pretty challenging, especially if you’re not a certified diver. Always follow the rules and regulations, and consult with your guide regarding the species and safety precautions before diving into the waters.

Bonus: Barramundi Fishing

A view across the water towards a man fishing off the back of a fishing boat, having caught a Barramundi that's leapt out of the water on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Spring Tide Safaris

Barras demand strategic planning to reel in. They’re tenacious, snapping lines and swallowing lures in mere moments. In fact, losing some tackle is a common part of Barramundi fishing. Locals know to never attempt to retrieve their gear, too, since Barra share their habitats with ‘salties‘ – saltwater (and freshwater) crocodiles!

Look for low tides, when the fish leave their mangrove shelters. Prepare some live bait or cast hard body lures and soft plastics. Barramundi can be hooked by trolling, casting, and even fly fishing in creeks and billabongs.

Northern Territory Fishing Seasons

So, when’s best to cast your line for the best rewards? The NT angling calendar is marked by two distinctive periods known as the Wet and the Dry.

The Wet spans from November to April, characterised by torrential rains, flooding rivers, and sultry weather. This is, however, an exciting period on the Northern Territory’s fishing timeline. It’s the prime time for catching a trophy Barra during the run-off, when they go into a feeding frenzy. Plus, you can also reel in GT and Queenfish during this time.

The Dry runs from May to October. As expected, it’s marked by clear blue skies and a drop in water levels. Freshwater fishing is awesome in this period, especially for Sooty Grunter and Saratoga in the billabongs and estuaries. In the middle of the dry season, you can enjoy some pelagic action or head to the reefs for Golden Snapper and Jewfish.

Around September and October, you can experience the build-up, where the humidity starts to climb again. What does that mean? Well, imagine it as the second run-off and fish for Barramundi in the river mouths.

Top Northern Territory Fishing Spots

A view from the shore towards a fishing pier in Darwin, Northern Territory, at sunset, with a rock visible in the water in the foreground and the pier under lights in the distance

When fishing in the Northern Territory, chances are you’ll be heading out of Darwin. Located in the ‘Top End’, on a peninsula surrounded by the sea, this spot is an absolute heaven for Barramundi fishing.

Naturally, there are other awesome fisheries, including the deep sea, bays, rivers, estuaries, lagoons, and billabongs. Here’s a quick list of NT fishing spots for you to consider:

  • Kakadu. The Top End has some incredible and diverse ecosystems despite the NT’s tropical weather. You can visit the Kakadu National Park and fish for Barra, Golden Snapper, and Jewfish while enjoying the area’s rich aboriginal history. And that doesn’t cover even the start of it!
  • Katherine. Located 300 kilometres south of Darwin, this area boasts some of the best fishing available. Barra and Sooty Grunter bite well in the Katherine, Victoria, Daly, Kakadu, and Rooper Rivers.
  • Tiwi Islands. These are the Bathurst and Melville Islands, collectively known as the Tiwi. You might need to drive for a bit to reach them, but it’s worth the journey. Black Marlin and Sailfish are all on the cards, as long as you have a permit to fish the islands.
  • Truant Island. This wonderful fishing spot is located off the northeastern shores. Here, Grander Black Marlin is the name of the game in October and November. We can imagine you and plenty of others dodging school to get in on the action!
  • Groote Eylandt. Marlin and Sailfish bite in the warm waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, just south of Truant Island. Billfish aside, locals come here for GT, Cobia, and more.

Need to Know

Before you head out, make sure you’re familiar with local rules and regulations regarding the species you can catch – including bag and size limits. Some species, such as Sawfish, Northern River Shark, and Speartooth Shark are heavily regulated and restricted to catch. There are also restrictions on which equipment and bait you can use. While you won’t need a licence when fishing with a skipper, you will need a special permit to cast a line in certain areas.

Northern Territory Fishing FAQs

Northern Territory Fishing: Bait, Tackle, and Barramundi

An aerial view of a charter fishing boat cruising along a brackish river in the Northern Territory, flanked by two tree-lined shores, leaving a noticeable wake behind it
Photo courtesy of Wildman Fishing Tours

Northern Territory fishing is an experience that, once tried, stays with you forever. Few places on the planet can rival an adrenaline-fueled battle with the formidable Barramundi or an exhilarating pursuit of the majestic Marlin in NT. Embrace the wet season’s wild energy or explore the serenity of the dry season – the choice is yours!

Have you ever been fishing in the Northern Territory? Did you come to target Barramundi or some other species? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Northern Territory Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Northern Territory Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2023 17:30:55 +0000

Share This