Kakadu National Park
World heritage-listed Kakadu National Park houses one of the planet’s most diverse natural ecosystems. It has a rich aboriginal cultural heritage and much to offer all visitors, including some excellent fishing. Within the park, the tidal sections of the South and East Alligator Rivers are easily accessed by sealed roads and concrete boat ramps. There are dozens of pristine billabongs on Kakadu’s floodplains, and plenty of barra and saratoga to be caught at most of them.
The South Alligator is about 200 kilometres east of Darwin, and is one of the Top End’s most productive barramundi rivers. Access is available all year round and the wet season and run-off months produce the most barra. At other times of the year, there is excellent reef fishing for black jewfish and golden snapper out from the mouth of the river – around field and barron islands.
The East Alligator is another hour’s drive east, right on the border of Kakadu and Arnhem Land. This is another great barramundi river, with its tidal and freshwater sections split by the famous Cahill’s Crossing.
Commercial fishing is banned within the park and Northern Territory boating regulations apply for recreational anglers. In addition, the use of live bait is not permitted; pots, traps or nets, other than landing nets are prohibited, and fish may not be cleaned or filleted within 50 metres of any Kakadu waterway. Crabs must not be taken in kakadu.
Accommodation in the park includes hotels, lodges, caravan sites and camping areas, with services and facilities available in the township of Jabiru. There are several professional fishing guides licensed to operate in Kakadu, and boat hire is available. Additional information is available at the Bowali visitor centre near the junction of the Arnhem and Kakadu highways – telephone 08 8938 1121.
Arnhem Land is an aboriginal reserve that is larger than some European nations. Less than 20,000 people live in this remarkably unspoiled region, which is best known for its strong aboriginal culture and majestic landscapes. This huge area is also regarded as a barramundi and bluewater sportfishing haven.
From the Gulf of Carpentaria in the east to the Arafura sea in the north, the Arnhem Land coast is transected by dozens of remote, tropical tidal rivers that are only accessible to non-indigenous people who are carrying appropriate entry permits. As a visitor to Arnhem Land, the only way to legally visit and fish much of the area is through accredited fishing tour operations. Options include lodge and safari tent accommodation, both with guided fishing. Travel is either by four-wheel drive, regular scheduled flights to remote aboriginal communities or private charter flights.
The Cobourg Peninsula juts out into the Arafura Sea on the north-west corner of Arnhem Land and is surrounded by bays, inlets, rocky headlands and coral reefs. Barramundi are found in the tidal creeks and estuaries, but the area is better known for its bluewater fishing. Anglers have many reef outcrops and creeks to choose from, both inside port essington and offshore.
Cobourg Peninsula is within the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, managed jointly by traditional aboriginal landowners and the parks and wildlife commission of the NT. Visitors who wish to drive to the park and camp are limited to the months of may to October and must obtain permits from the Cobourg Peninsula sanctuary board, telephone 08 8999 4814.
Accommodation options are a resort, lodge and beach huts, and all offer guided fishing and/or boat hire. There are also air strips for private charter flights.
The pristine waters around the Gove Peninsula and the remote coast and islands of North-East Arnhem Land have some of the best tropical sportfishing available anywhere in Australia. The estuary systems in Arnhem and Buckingham Bays also provide excellent barra fishing.
The region is serviced by the small, tropical township of Nhulunbuy, located on the Peninsula. Visiting anglers will find a wide range of services available in Nhulunbuy, including hotel and motel accommodation, clubs, a range of sporting facilities, shops and plenty of tours to book, but there are no camping grounds or caravan parks.
Getting your own trailer-boat to Nhulunbuy can be difficult, but some anglers ship their vessels via the regular barge service from Darwin. Charter vessels and guided fishing are available to fish around Gove or to travel further out to the different island chains.
In recent years, local anglers and visiting charter boats have identified an area south of Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria that is frequented by large numbers of sailfish, mainly during the wet season.
Facilities for visitors wishing to stay on the island are limited, but the Groote Eylandt game and sport fishing club hosts major game fishing competitions each year and members take care of anglers visiting for these events. Live-aboard charters are also available.