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2 days saltwater fishing in Australia's Top End

Everything is bigger in Australia’s Top End: the landscape, the wide-open skies and the fish you catch when you go saltwater sport fishing.

By Steve Starling

What to expect

  • Learn to catch (and tie) a feisty mud crab
  • Go fishing in the harbour at Darwin
  • Get up close to a saltwater crocodile

Fast facts

  • Time: 2 days
  • Distance: 550 kilometres (340 miles)
  • Transport: car
  • Nearest major city: Darwin
  • Price: $$

The Northern Territory of Australia is home to two of the country’s most sought-after seafood delicacies: barramundi, a huge tasty fish, and mud crab, a crustacean whose flavour is only matched by its size. Try to catch them both on a Top End fishing tour.

Day 1: Crocodiles, crabs and characters

Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Northern Territory

Fly in to Darwin – the Northern Territory’s lively, cosmopolitan capital – from any major Australian city. Check into your Darwin-based accommodation: perhaps the Mercure Airport Resort or somewhere closer to the centre of town, such as the Vibe Hotel at the Darwin Waterfront will provide a good base from which to head out to explore this vibrant, tropical city.

Don’t miss visiting Crocosaurus Cove. Located in Mitchell street, right in the centre of the city, you can not only view some of the largest saltwater crocodiles in captivity, but swim and dive with them (safely) in the infamous Cage of Death, all in an hour or two before lunch (make sure you book in advance for the Cage Of Death experience).

Meet up with your guide, Carl Skyring, from Darwin Barra & Crab Fishing Tours for a uniquely Top End-style experience in the company of a genuine Australian character. This afternoon you’re heading out onto Darwin’s extensive harbour in one of Barra & Crab’s fast, roomy six metre (20 foot) runabouts to fish for barramundi and help set and check mud crab traps.

You’ll be shown how to safely handle and “tie” these feisty crustaceans: arguably the most delicious of all Top End seafood. With any luck, you’ll be heading back to your accommodation this evening with fresh barra fillets and mouth-watering mud crab to feast on.

Day 2: Deep sea delights

Equinox Fishing Charters, Darwin, Northern Territory

You’ll be up early for breakfast before heading to Cullen Bay Marina on Darwin’s western shore to step aboard one of Equinox Fishing Charters’ large offshore vessels. The boat heads out through the harbour entrance where you might spot dolphins or dugongs on the way to the first fishing spot. Passengers can then drop a line over the side of the boat.

Most days the bites come quickly and the action may begin with a stream of tasty smaller fish like stripeys, cod and golden snapper – but soon you’ll hook the sought-after black jewfish. Part of the croaker or drum family of fish, the black jewfish is renowned for its strength on a line and their tastiness on a plate. Most of these fish will be around a metre (40 inches) in length and weigh 9 kilograms (20 pounds) or so, but exceptional specimens could measure 1.4 metres (55 inches) and weigh 20 kilograms (45 pounds) or more.

Your Equinox Fishing Charters’ vessel returns to Cullen Bay late afternoon after a very full day at sea. After stowing those tasty fillets in the fridge at your accommodation head out to explore Darwin’s eclectic night life. Take in a show, or visit one of the colourful, open-air markets, such as Mindil Beach Markets which are open on Thursday nights between May and October.

The Northern Territory is as large as France, Spain and Italy combined. If you’ve got the time to keep exploring the Northern Territory, consider flying deep into Arnhem Land for a fishing tour at Banubanu Wilderness Retreat. The Northern Territoy is home to Australia’s sacred heart, the rust-red monolith of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the unusual domes of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Both are a short drive from Alice Springs, which is a two hour flight from Darwin. 

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