Catch a million dollar fish in the Top End this summer

You could win one million dollars if you catch the right barramundi in the Million Dollar Fish competition in the Northern Territory.

If you’re looking for a big outdoor adventure with a difference, then look to the Top End this summer. You can enjoy some fantastic barramundi fishing and maybe catch yourself a cool one million dollars.

You have until February 28, 2018 to catch a prize-winning fish. 101 barramundi have been tagged and released across the best fishing spots in the Northern Territory’s Top End. 100 tagged fish are worth $10,000 each, plus one fish is worth a whopping $1,000,000.

There are also loads of other prizes for fishing gear and charter trips. Cricketing legend and keen fisherman, Matt Hayden, explains the competition in this video.

Here are some tips to help you catch the fish that count.

Sweet spots to fish

Billabong fishing is one of the most visually stunning fishing experiences in the Top End, offering waterlily-lined pools of water teeming with birds and, of course, fish. These landlocked parcels of fishing nirvana are not as dependent on weather or tide as some of the other fishing options available in the Territory and can be accessed nearly year round (other than closures due to flooding). While barramundi is the main species on offer, other sportfish including Saratoga and Tarpon are plentiful.

Darwin Harbour’s mangrove lined estuary – it’s five times the area of Sydney Harbour – contains a word class fishery right on the doorstep of the capital. The habitat is diverse and fishing requires some planning, otherwise, you might end up high and dry thanks to Darwin’s huge tidal range.

The Top End also boasts a number of remote river systems within an easy two or three hour drive from Darwin – these include the mighty Daly River to the west and the Adelaide, Mary and Alligator systems to the east. These big tidal, remote and largely untouched rivers are a Barra fisherman’s dream – or nightmare.

Some contain shallow sand and mud bars and submerged trees for the ultimate natural obstacle course.

Year-on-year these river systems account for the vast majority of barramundi fishing in the top end and any of the larger fish are caught around the mouths of these river systems during the ‘run-off’ period immediately following the wet season.

Humpty Doo’s Dennis Smart knows a thing or two about Barra fishing in the Top End. Not only has he been fishing all his life, but together with his seven-year-old son, Alex, Dennis bagged a $10,000 fish in last year’s Million Dollar Fish competition.

Dennis’ top fishing spots include:

Land Based around Darwin:

  • Buffalo Creek
  • Channel Island
  • Elizabeth River
  • Rocks around East Point at low tide.

On the water:

  • Corroboree Billabong
  • Mary River Bridge Lagoon
  • Shady Camp
  • Finniss River
  • Adelaide River
  • Darwin Harbour.

Others to consider:

  • Manton Dam
  • Bynoe Harbour, with the creeks near Crab Claw Island Resort a likely holding spot
  • Leaders Creek
  • Middle and West Arm in the Darwin Harbour
  • Shoal Bay.

Fishing with the tides

When you have a tidal range of -7m on the spring tides down to virtually no movement on the neap tide cycle, it really can be a huge factor in deciding when, where and how to fish. In general terms, Barra will not move out of their mangrove homes unless forced to, either forced to look for food or forced as the water recedes. On a spring tide cycle, mangroves roots will become exposed around the -4m mark and, with a spring high tide of 7+metres. Most locals will focus their energy around the low in these tidal cycles.

Estuaries and tidal flats tend to be the places where large females live, so local anglers look for places where food might aggregate, like eddies or draining creek mouths, and cast to these.

Neap tides can be a tricky time for Barra as the run slows, the baitfish aren’t as active and there are not as many ambush points for the Barra to enjoy an easy meal. A good option on neap tides – with their added water clarity – is to cruise the edges of the mangroves and look for Barra sitting on the semi-exposed roots. This can be a challenging, but very rewarding experience.

How to fish

Take notice of what sort of bait is around and try and choose lures that are similar. Fish the last of the outgoing tide and the first of the incoming tide in the harbour and tidal rivers. Read the local fishing reports in the NT News (you can pick them up online) to get an idea of what and where the fish are biting from those fishes in the know.

Barramundi fishing is usually best at early morning, late afternoon or night. Fish with hard-bodied lures using a slow, twitching and retrieve with occasional hard twitches.

When it comes to bait, live bait rigs, trolling with diving minnows, or baiting with shads or rattling lures can be successful.

For more information or to enter the competition click here.