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Can you catch a million dollar fish?

Go fishing in the Northern Territory and you just might reel in a cool $1 million. 

By Katrina Lobley
Published: 10 October, 2017

Could you catch a million-dollar fish? That’s the question on everyone’s lips right now in the Northern Territory, where the annual game fishing season has just begun. The Territory has some of Australia’s most thrilling fishing – you can try your luck on the ocean, in rivers and creeks, and on seasonal floodplains – but things have become a little more interesting since 101 barramundi (Australia’s most sought-after sports fish) were tagged with cash prizes. Catch one – all 101 have been released into the area’s waterways – and your bank account might be flooded with money.


Fishing, Darwin, Northern Territory

The Million Dollar Fish competition runs every year in the Territory. Previous winners have hooked prize-winning “barra” across the region, from easily accessible fishing hotspots such as Darwin Harbour to more remote areas such as Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands.

Only one fish has the $1 million price tag, but 100 more have $10,000 attached to their fins. Everyone has their own theory about what works best to catch a barra – it’s a fish known for being very tasty, but challenging to hook – but everyone’s in with a chance. One couple even managed to catch $30,000! 


Putjamirra, Melville Island, Tiwi Islands, Tourism Northern Territory

Want to fish the Top End’s world-class waters, but don’t know where to start? Great Fishing Adventures of Australia is a national collective of fishing tourism operators that offers visitors the chance to indulge their passion for the sport or to cast a line as a first-timer – and hopefully get hooked. One of the Top End’s best fishing operators is Equinox Fishing Charters, which departs from Cullen Bay on Darwin Harbour on half-day, full-day and extended 15-hour fishing trips. Expeditions can travel as far as the stunning Tiwi Islands, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Darwin, in search of black jewfish, golden snapper, coral trout, emperor, mackerel, trevally and cobia, as well as the biggest prize catch of all – barramundi. 


Bamurru Plains, Kakadu, Northern Territory

Each summer, the Northern Territory floodplains are replenished with monsoonal rains. Safari bush lodge Bamurru Plains, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) or a three-hour drive east of Darwin near the Kakadu National Park boundary, operates as a dedicated fishing lodge during the “run-off” period, when almost 100 square kilometres of the station is covered in warm, shallow water (from 1 February until 30 April). During this time, baitfish, frogs and insects are swept into the Mary River system’s main channels, providing an easy meal for hungry barramundi. Hop onto one of the lodge’s flat-bottomed airboats (which accommodate three to four anglers, plus a skipper/guide) to fish the Swim Creek floodplain, or take a (padded) seat on one of the custom-made river boats to go in search of barra measuring up to 140 centimetres (55 inches) long.


Dhipirri Barra and Sportfishing Lodge, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Arnhem Land is a place few visitors ever experience, as a special permit is required to visit the traditional home of the Aboriginal Yolngu people. However, one way to enjoy this remote and unspoiled country is to stay at Dhipirri Barra & Sportfishing Lodge, which offers packages (starting from three days) that include permits. Barramundi might be the most sought-after prize, but guests can also catch coral trout, mackerel, queenfish, golden snapper and mangrove jack before relaxing in the air-conditioned comfort of Dhipirri’s bush camp. Those keen on mud crabs can also go crabbing. Traditional owners have granted the lodge access to the Glyde and Woolen rivers as well as to coastal reefs. 


Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

Try fishing for a prized barra in World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, east of Darwin. Australia’s largest national park offers one of the world’s most picturesque fishing spots. Yellow Water is the park’s most famous billabong – and you can cast a line here for three hours in search of the elusive barramundi with Kakadu Tourism, an Indigenous-owned operation. Fishing here is with lures only, not bait, and is suitable for those aged eight and above. If three hours simply isn’t long enough, you can book a private fishing charter.

It’s not just our oceans that are full of fish, either – check out this brand-new aquarium