Q&A with Merv Hughes

Legendary former test cricket fast bowler and crowd favourite Merv Hughes has been coming to the Northern Territory for almost 40 years. He’s entrenched himself in the Top End’s fishing world, returning every year to fish our pristine rivers and azure blue waters, and competing in the Barra Classic for the last 16 years. Merv has been a keen fisherman since he was a kid growing up in country Victoria, spending time on the local rivers and creeks. Although Merv lives down south, the Territory is his second home and he can’t wait to take part in Million Dollar Fish Season 9. Merv shares his fishing insights with us.

What is your favourite spot to catch a barra in the NT?

I’d have to say along the Daly River. In the last 16 years I’ve been coming up here for the Barra Classic. Competing teams descend on Darwin from all over Australia, as well as overseas, to fish this week-long annual competition. It is arguably Australia’s premier barramundi fishing tournament and I always have a good time.

Where is the most scenic spot to go fishing in the NT?

There are way too many to choose from, but some of my favourite spots would have to be remote places like the Moyle River, which is about 200km south-west of Darwin, and the Goomadeer River in West Arnhem Land.  Other hard-to-get-to spots include fishing around Croker Island, Braithwaite Point and Junction Bay. Oh, and the Tiwi Islands are pretty special, too.

Where is the best place to grab barra for dinner in Darwin?

Hands down the best way to have barra is to catch and cook it yourself. You know it’s fresh. There are plenty of places in Darwin that will cook your catch for you, and if I’ve had an unsuccessful barra fishing trip, and there have been a few of those, I’ll go to Mr Barra down on Fisherman’s Wharf. You can buy a barra pack and just tell everyone you caught it! Otherwise, I’ll head to The Cav in the CBD and if there’s grilled barra on the specials menu I’ll have that.

What is the biggest barra you’ve ever caught?

Well, you know all the biggest ones are in the Daly River. I was out fishing with mates. There was a couple of us in one boat and Shane Compain, from Tackle World in Darwin, was in another. We were up near one of the s-bends and I hooked a huge one. It was massive – at least 120cm. I know this because Shane saw the fish before it got away. He said it was a monster. Shane knows a lot more about fishing than me, so I’m going to stand by that yarn. The second largest barra I caught was 86cm, and this time I got him into the boat.

Do you prefer land-based or fishing from a boat?

When I’m fishing down south I get seasick, but in the Territory the waters are calmer. So I do prefer to fish from a boat when I’m here, whether it’s in one of the rivers, creeks, estuaries or blue water. I also prefer boating because of the crocs. Don’t fancy meeting one of them on the water’s edge.

What is so special about fishing in the NT?

It’s just amazing up here. There’s so many beautiful spots to fish and great people to spend the day fishing with. Whether you go with friends or the family, you’ll take home the best memories and, of course, fish. Also, where else can you win a million bucks for catching barra? I’ve still got my fingers crossed for a red-tagged Million Dollar Fish, and I’ve got four fingers crossed to reel in the mill.

What is your best fishing memory in the NT?

It has to be nude fishing in Bynoe Harbour. I was with a mate and we were at Crab Claw Island Resort. We were watching the footy when one of our fisho mates from Darwin came into the bar and said, “The tide’s at its best”. We’d had a couple of beers and I was a bit half-hearted at first as I wanted to watch the Bulldogs play the Lions. Anyway, we went out and as we left, Bill Briscoe, the owner, reckoned we wouldn’t catch anything. It was during the dry season and the local fishos were wrapped up in coats, but coming from down south we were hot. So we stripped off and made up a song called ‘Nude fishing in the dark’ as we headed out. It was a great laugh and we weren’t taking things too seriously, but we caught four fish in 15 minutes. One was over a metre long. You should have seen Bill’s face when we slapped the biggest one on the bar and asked, “Can you cook this up for us, mate?”

What’s your top tips and tricks to help a fisho reel in a barra?

My number one piece of advice would be talk to the locals. If you’re new to the Northern Territory ask them where the best places to fish are, and the best times. They’ll know all about the tides, spots to avoid and how to reel in a barra. I’d also book a charter, especially if you don’t have a boat. I’m lucky to now have a few fisho mates who have boats, but for visitors, I’d ask around and book before you come up. If you’re short on time I’d go to the tackle shops for info. All those guys in there are fishos and are really knowledgeable. You’ve also got to remember the essentials – a good pair of sunnies, hat and long-sleeved fishing shirts, and keep hydrated.

Do you have a lucky lure?

Reidy’s The Judge is my go to lure. It has to be in green and gold, Australia’s colours. I find if I’m not having much luck, I’ll go back to this lure and, most times, I’ll catch a fish.

We can’t wait to see Merv back up in Territory throwing in a line. Click here to check out Merv’s thoughts on Million Dollar Fish Season 9!

Q&A with Barra or Blue Fishing Charters

Lincoln Kirby set up Barra or Blue Fishing Charters three years ago, drawing on his extensive knowledge as a fishing guide to share his passion with anyone ready to throw a line. We chatted to Lincoln to find out more.

Why should people visit the NT during the Wet Season/Tropical Summer to catch barra?

Barra are more active at this time. During the dry season they are a bit docile, but once the water temperature warms up they fire up a lot more, and you have a better chance of reeling in a fish.

Is this your favourite fishing season?

The run off between March and April is my favourite time. The weather’s good and the fish are biting, with lots of action around the mouths of creeks inside the rivers.

What’s your top fishing spot in the NT?

It would have to be Dundee Beach, about 59km southwest of Darwin. There’s so much variety. You can be out on a boat in the morning chasing barra and in the afternoon go for sail fish and red emperor. You can pretty much catch everything there.

Why do you think so many people come to the Territory to chase barra?

They’re such an iconic fish. They fight hard, and are not easy to catch. Barra are a challenge and people like a challenge. Down south, catching a whiting or flathead is the staple fish, whereas up here we have barra. Barra would be the Number 1 sporting fish in the Northern Territory and Australia-wide.

What’s your go-to fishing hack?

Have a good time. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll catch something. Having the right attitude attracts the fish. Works every time.

What’s a top tip for someone fishing for barra in the NT for the first time?

Go with a guide. Instead of spending days and weeks on the water trying to find where all the barra are, go with someone who knows about all the good spots. That way you can relax and use your time to do what you’ve come to the Northern Territory for – catching a prized barra, especially a million dollar one.

Any tips for lures?

We have a term called matching the hatch. Basically, it means you need to match your style of lure to the size, colour, and shape of a barra’s current natural prey, to mimic what they are feeding on that day. If the barra are eating small bait fish we run smaller plastics. If they’re eating bigger mullet we run big, hard-body lures. If you match the hatch, your chances of bagging a barra increase greatly.

What’s your most memorable catch?

A 110cm caught on a lure at Shady Camp as the sun was going down on a 60-fish day. It was an epic day finished off with an epic fish. Outside of the Territory, it was an 80kg striped marlin caught in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. As the second fastest fish in the world, it was one of the most exciting and toughest challenges of my fishing life.

What’s your bucket-list fish?

It’d have to be the Papuan Black Bass. I nearly made it to Papua New Guinea this year on a trip, but couldn’t go due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Q&A with AFL legend Steven May

Raised in Darwin, Melbourne Football Club key defender Steven May has an affinity with the Territory and spent much of his childhood wetting a line across the Top End. We sat down with the AFL legend recently to chat about his go-to spots to wet a line and his fool-proof fishing hack.

When did you first start fishing?

I was about 10 years old I think. We lived in Palmerston growing up so I used to go out fishing at the Elizabeth River Bridge just about every weekend.

Where’s your go-to spot to fish in the Territory?

My favourite locations would have to be Shady Camp and Dundee. I’ve also got some good little secret spots around Channel Island.

What’s the biggest barra you’ve ever caught?

The biggest one I’ve snagged was 98cm but I tell everyone it was a metery!

Where is your favourite fishing destination in the world?

I just love barra fishing at the turn of the tides, and then heading out to chase jewies. As I grew up in Darwin, the Territory would have to be my favourite fishing destination!

What’s your best fishing hack?

My top tip is to play Kings of Leon over the speakers when you haven’t had a bite in a while – jewies, goldies and sharks seem to like their song ‘Closer’!

Q&A with Mousie’s Barra and Bluewater Fishing Charters

Shannon Latham (aka Mousie) has been a mad keen fisherman his whole life. Originally from NSW, he turned his obsession for fish and the Territory into a business when he set up Mousie’s Barra & Bluewater Fishing Charters with his partner Mie in 2009. We chatted to Mousie to find out more.

Which fishing season is your favourite?
The Run Off. No surprises there. It’s the time after the Wet Season where all the water flows off the floodplains back into the river system, and the barra are waiting to ambush the baitfish that come down, too.

Where’s your favourite fishing spot in the Territory?
My top spot is the Daly River. I was a guide there for many years and have had great success fishing with clients and on social trips. This is where my partner, Mie, and I started the business. It was her idea, and I’m so glad I listened. Best thing I’ve ever done. The scenery around the Daly River is also unique and beautiful with exceptional wildlife. I have great memories of fishing the Daly. We’re mainly based in the Daly for the Build Up and Run Off and later in the year we fish off Dundee and other spots in Darwin.

What’s been your most memorable fishing trip with customers?
It’s impossible to reel off just one. We have such a diversity of people on board. Everyone wants to catch a fish and each person’s reaction to landing one is different. But seeing how blown away people are when they catch their first barra, especially their first metery, now that really is something.

Why do you think so many people come to the Territory to chase barra?
I’d say the size and number of barra we have here, and for the river systems and coastal areas open to fishing. You can easily combine barra fishing with other experiences as well, such as visiting our national parks and getting to know the history of the Territory. There is a lot of history out here, especially in the Daly, which is one of those quirky outback places.

What’s your go-to fishing hack?
Finding fish on the sounder. That way I can tell my clients where to cast, which improves their chances of catching a barra, and hopefully the one that’s worth a million bucks.

What’s your most memorable catch?
A 133cm barra caught on the Daly. It was back in 2014 and I was on a boat fishing with a mate visiting from Sydney. The barra jumped out of the water six times. It was pretty impressive to see a fish that size leaping out of the water. It was the first barra my mate has ever netted, and he was really excited. It was also good to see her swim away after taking some great photos.

What’s your bucket-list fish?
I’d love to catch a Papuan black bass, just because of the sheer size of them. These fish have a reputation for big, bone-jarring hits and powerful fighting tactics once you have them hooked. Pound for pound, these fish are often revered as the toughest freshwater fish on the planet.

What Million Dollar Fish product are you offering for Season 6?
A tour called ‘One in a Million Barramundi Charter’. If a client catches a Million Dollar Fish tagged barra, the angler will get another free charter for him or herself, plus a mate.

Why should people visit the NT during the build-up and Wet Season to catch barra?
The Build Up is a good time to go fishing as the water warms up with the weather. The fish get more active with the warmer weather, which increases your chances of catching a barra. It’s also a great time to see the storms and light shows.

What’s the best way to catch barra?
Casting lures into creek mouths or Run Off using a good-quality rod and reel is my go-to. This usually happens on my boat, but there are places you can go and do land-based fishing.

Is there any time of day that’s best to lure in a barra?
My preference is to chase the change of tide, as it makes the baitfish come out of their hiding spots, straight into the path of waiting barra.

Q&A with NT celebrity chef Jimmy Shu

We sat down with NT celebrity chef Jimmy Shu recently to talk all things fishing in the Top End.

When did you start fishing?

When I was 15. I’m now 71.

Where’s your go-to Territory fishing spot?

The Peron Islands off Dundee Beach.

What’s the biggest fish you’ve ever caught?

An 18kg groper.

Where is your favourite fishing destination in the world?

The English Channel Islands off Gove.

What’s your best fishing hack?

Pick a great skipper / No bananas.

Favourite fish recipe?

Meen Moolie, which is Hanuman’s most popular fish curry. Wild-caught barramundi poached in coconut cream infused with Humpty Doo lemongrass and curry leaves. Check out the recipe below!



Servings: 6 | Prep Time: 25 mins | Skill Level: 1 (Easy)

600g reef fish fillets, skin removed, cut into chunky cubes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
180g sliced red onion
2 sticks lemongrass, bruised
3 red bird’s eye chillies, bruised
2 sprigs curry leaves
15g sliced ginger
200g fresh tomato wedges
600ml coconut cream
1 tsp turmeric
Approx 100 ml water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Fresh curry leaves, to garnish

1. Season the fish with a touch of salt.
2. Heat oil and stir fry the onion, lemongrass, chillies, curry leaves and ginger over a medium flame, until the onions are soft. Add the tomato and cook for approximately 5 minutes.
3. Next, add the coconut cream and turmeric, bring to the boil and lower the flame. Add up to ½ cup water if too thick. Add salt and sugar, and check the seasoning.
4. Gently add the fish pieces and poach in the coconut broth for 6 minutes. Garnish with fresh curry leaves and serve immediately.


Q&A with Brian Hutchinson from Estuary Escapes

Brian Hutchinson and his wife Di set up Estuary Escapes Fishing Charters in August 2019. Originally from New South Wales, Brian first visited the Top End in the late 1990s, and immediately wanted to set up a fishing tour business there. With more than 20 years of guiding experience, he finally convinced Di to escape to Darwin, to offer both half- or full-day trips on the water for anglers of all levels. Here, Brian divulges a bait box full of tips and tricks for how to catch an iconic barra.

Which fishing season is your favourite?

I’m a fishing tragic and fish all the time. I’d fish in a car park if someone could fill a big enough bucket. I grew up in Nowra, on the coast of New South Wales, and caught my first fish with a little handline when I was about two. I was so excited and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Where’s your favourite fishing spot in the Territory?

My top spot is anywhere. Did I mention I love fishing? If I had to pick, I’d say one of the best places I’ve cast my line is the Cobourg Peninsula, about 350km east of Darwin. It’s really remote and heading out there is like frontier stuff. Going off would be an understatement, what with a large abundance of giant trevally, Spanish mackerel, queen fish, long tail tuna and barra, of course. It’s magic there. You barely get the plastic to the bottom before getting a hit or a hook-up.

Why do you think so many people come to the Territory to chase barra?

There’s less pressure up here. It’s so laidback – where else do you get to wear t-shirts, shorts and thongs and not get judged for it? You also get the chance to bag a barra in the wild. Over in Queensland the dams are well stocked with barra, but nothing beats battling boggy dirt tracks and flooded roads to iconic Territory destinations to chase a barra or two. Barra are cloaked in the mystery of the remote Top End of Australia, the great unknown, and represent escaping big city life and replacing it with a fun fishing life.

What’s your go-to fishing hack?

Keep an eye on your sounder. It tells you what’s happening under water and, more importantly, where the fish are. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good an angler you are, your sounder is your best mate!

What’s your most memorable catch?

A 120cm barra. It’s the biggest beast I’ve ever caught. I won’t reveal where. I was out on my own but I think I have a picture somewhere to prove it. There is no better feeling than working a lure and having it inhaled by a big fish. The strike is sudden and aggressive, and so much fun. I like the challenge of a fish that puts up a fight.

What’s your bucket-list fish?

Now I’ve ticked the metery barra off my list, I’m all about the bass (50cm plus) and a one-metre plus Murray cod.

What Million Dollar Fish product are you offering for Season 6?

Catch a tagged Million Dollar Fish on one of our tours during the competition and you’re in line to win a half-day escape for you and a mate. Our boat was built specifically to target barra and other estuary sports fish, so your chances are good.

When’s a good time to come to the Territory to catch barra?

As the weather warms and humidity rises during the build-up, the barra become more active and for longer periods. The tides get bigger, providing the perfect opportunity to target the fish as they come back into the river mouth. The runoff, around March-April, is the barra fisho’s dream time, when the floodplains run off into the main river systems. The bait is forced out into the hungry mouths of barra, making hunting for them much easier. Having said that, people have caught barra anytime really, including the height of the wet season during December and January.

What’s your top tip for visiting fishos?

Go with a guide first up. There are five regions in the Territory where the tagged fish have been released. If you don’t know where you’re going, you could end up disappointed and frustrated searching for the best waterway. A good guide will take you to all the top spots, so you can get on with the important business of fishing, and catching that elusive metery.

Q&A with Reel Screamin’ Barra Fishing

Run by long time locals Ursula and Jarrod Godson, Reel Screamin’ Barra Fishing has been operating in the Top End since 2004. The Darwin-based business owners run fishing charters right across the Top End, with many a meterey caught by locals and visitors alike over the years.

Where’s your favourite fishing spot in the Territory?

Ursula: We love going out to Shady Camp – it just seems like a world away from everywhere. There’s no mobile phone range, there’s plenty of crocodiles and it’s always fun!

Jarrod: That’s where I (Jarrod) caught my first barramundi – I like to sneak out there just after the run off when everybody else goes home. I’ve got a couple of favourite spots out there that we got the family out to.

Which fishing season is your favourite?

Jarrod: My favourite fishing season is the Run Off, closely followed by the Build Up. It’s so special – you’ve got all the flood waters, it’s a very busy time of the year but it’s very rewarding.

Ursula: I do love going out in the Build Up. Over the years we’ve tended to go out on Melbourne Cup day together to go out for a fish and that’s always been good because there’s been no one else out on the water.

Why do you think so many people come up to the Territory to chase barra?

Jarrod: We have got a great Run Off and we’ve got a fantastic Build Up. You can stay in Darwin and within two hours’ drive, you’ve got these iconic fishing locations. People just love barra fishing.

Ursula: Lots of people tell me catching a barra is on their bucket list and it’s one of the great sports fish behind Marlin and Salmon. Families love getting together and going fishing too as it brings them together.

What’s your go-to fishing hack?

Jarrod: My big fishing hack is to book a fishing guide, listen to what they say and let them put you onto a good fish.

What Million Dollar Fish product are you offering for Season 6?

Ursula: If someone catches a Million Dollar Fish or a $10,000 fish on our boat, they will get to keep the rod, reel and lure they caught it on and they will also get a Shimano outfit. We will also have a weekly draw for all the people that come up to the Territory fishing with us and they’ll get their money back.

Why should people visit the NT during the Wet Season/Tropical Summer to catch barra?

Jarrod: The Wet Season is a fantastic time to come fishing in the Territory. After those morning storms and between those late afternoon storms, there’s some fantastic barra fishing to chase that $1 million fish.

Ursula: The Wet Season is the prettiest time in the Top End. It’s a great time to come up and chill out as there’s not as many people around and everything slows down.

Check out Reel Screamin’ Barra’s Million Dollar Fish tour here on our Fishing Experiences page.

Q&A with Mark Berg from Fishing Addiction

Clearwater Island Lodge has been operating in the Territory for 16 years. Managers Michael and Kerri-Ann Benton have teamed up with Mark Berg, host of 7MATE TV show Fishing Addiction, to reel in another competition deal for fishos wanting to experience a once-in-a-lifetime fishing adventure for Season 6. We chatted to Mark Berg to find out more.

When did you catch your first fish?

I’ve been fishing all my life, since I was about two. My first fish was a mullet and I was about five or six. I knew from a very young age that fishing was my passion and I would continue to chase that ever-elusive ‘fish-of-a-lifetime’ for the rest of my days. I really am no-one special, I’m just a guy that has managed to find a way to share my addiction with other fishing addicts.

Where has your fishing addiction taken you?

All over the world and through many amazing locations throughout this wonderful country of ours to do battle with some incredible species of fish. I have caught just about everything that swims and now I get to share my experiences with a new fisho on my TV show each time we travel. I literally have the best job in the world! 

What can fishos expect who grab a Million Dollar Fish package through Clearwater?

Fishing with some of the best guides and in some of the best locations I have learnt so much and hope that people who take part may pick up a trick or two.

What’s your best fishing hack?

Don’t give up! Keep on casting even when things look like they’re not going to happen. Keep casting, casting, casting, then all of a sudden you’re on. The harder you work the more reward you will get.

What’s your most memorable catch?

At Clearwater it would have to be a 113cm threadfin salmon. I’ve also caught copious amounts of barra there, too. Some sessions have just been incredible. One time this other guy and I caught 200 barra in about three hours. That was about 10 years ago and was the most insane barra session I’ve ever had in my life. I’ll never forget this guy from the first season of my TV show, either.  We were in the Territory and he caught a metre barra, a metre threadie and a metre jewfish all in one morning. Oh, and he got a mud crab on a lure – the guy was on fire. 

What’s your bucket list fish?

I’ve pretty much caught all the ones I’m after in the Territory. I never get tired of the iconic one metre barra, though. Every season I try to catch at least one every time I’m here. Outside of the Territory, my bucket list fish would be catching a 200lb tarpon in New Mexico. I’m always hoping to capture a new species or develop a new technique.

What’s the best months of the year to come fishing in the Territory?

The run off period – from mid-February to end of April/May – is definitely spectacular fishing for barra. But really, you can fish in the Territory all year round. You can certainly catch quality fish any time of the year

Where’s your go-to fishing spot in the Territory?

There’s such a myriad of locations that are so different and unique that’s it’s hard to pick one. I have been going back to Clearwater for about 14 years now because of the diversity of fishing. There’s barra, estuary species and fantastic blue water fishing as well.