With thousands of kilometres of coastline, the world’s largest reef and countless estuaries, creeks and rivers, Australia is one of the world’s top fishing destinations. Recreational fishing contributes economic and social benefits to the Australian economy, particularly in regional areas. A recent survey estimates 3.4 million Australians engage in recreational fishing each year, contributing an estimated $1.8 billion to the economy. Here’s where to make sure you get the best catch.
Snowy Mountains, NSW
New Zealand steals the limelight for the Antipodes’ fly-fishing kudos, but then, didn’t we steal Russell Crowe (as well as Derryn Hinch, Rebecca Gibney and Sam Neill)? As a result, our trout-filled rivers and streams go completely under the radar, frequented by locals and only the hardiest visiting fishing folk.
The NSW Snowy Mountains region is home to some of the largest brown trout in Australasia, in riverside settings that look like Brad Pitt and Robert Redford might make a sequel to A River Runs Through It here any day. Between October and the June long weekend every year, melting snow feeds these pristine waterways, and Murray cod, golden perch, Atlantic salmon and brown, brook and rainbow trout are everywhere.
Book a fishing tour – or find your own creek – and fish beneath Australia’s tallest mountains. This is ski country, but you’ll be surprised how few people you’ll share it with outside winter. Fish the Thredbo River and you’ll be close to the amenities of the alpine resort of Thredbo as well as the town of Jindabyne. Though you’ll also discover isolated waterways like the Monaro, Eucumbene and Murrumbidgee rivers close by.
Stay at Moonbah Hut and you will sleep 100 metres from the Moonbah River, one the region’s most pristine trout streams. When you’re done, warm up beside an open fire with a glass of red (don’t bring your trout for dinner, it is strictly catch-and-release).
Explore more: snowymountains.com.au
Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, Qld
Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, Qld
Hervey Bay is another area overshadowed by the big creatures in the sea you can’t catch – it is one of the world’s premier humpback whale-watching sites. But the region is full of every other kind of fish species imaginable. What’s more, commercial fishing is largely banned – so there are always lots of fish around.
It can be a social kind of place to fish and the fishing off the jetties around here is legendary, and popular, especially at favourite local’s spot, Urangan Pier. It juts out 868 metres into the bay from town – so who needs a boat? But there are all sorts of fishing charters going from town – from deep-sea fishing charters (the waters off Fraser Island are one of the best places in the world for blue, black and striped marlin) to multi-day live-aboard fishing trips or guided saltwater fly-fishing excursions.
You’re most likely to catch golden trevally, cobia, sailfish, snapper, coral trout, barramundi and mangrove jack in the estuaries around here.
The good news is Hervey Bay has some of the state’s best seafood restaurants. One way or another, you’ll eat fish.
Head out to the world’s biggest sand island, Fraser Island, for its legendary beach fishing. There is 120 kilometres of coastline here (which doubles as a highway for 4WDs) and the waters teem with sharks, whiting, tailor, trevally and tuna.
Book a room beside the beach with no neighbours for kilometres at Fraser Island Fishing Units. Then go watch the tiger sharks off Indian Head (a few hundred metres away).
Bathurst Island, NT
The Tiwi Islands – just above Darwin and inhabited entirely by Indigenous Australians – is where fishermen ascend to the heavens (fishing guru Rex Hunt caught his biggest ever fish here: a 180-kilogram groper). Fly in by small propeller plane to a red, dusty airstrip where you’ll be picked up by tender and taken to your fishing lodge on the beach.
The waters are so full of dangerous creatures (saltwater crocs, bull sharks, box jellyfish, irukandji) that some lodges won’t let you set foot in the water – they’ll transfer you to your room by tractor.
The fishing here is world’s best – for any category of warm-water fish (there are over 40 species here). From fly-fishing for the region’s famous barra to trolling for game fish… and everything in between.
The best lodge of all is Tiwi Island Retreat. Rooms are just a few metres from the sea, and each day’s catch is served as you sit on a deck above the sand, under palm trees with plenty of beer and wine.
Commercial fishing is not allowed in these parts, and with a maximum of 12 guests you can’t run your usual excuses for missing out. The boats owned by the lodge are the only boats allowed in these waters. If you can’t catch a fish here, it’s time to take up bowls.
Explore more: northernterritory.com
Cairns and Port Douglas, Qld
If you ever dreamed of catching a big marlin (read too much Hemingway as a kid?) then this is the place for you. Cairns and Port Douglas are the black marlin capitals of the world – as much as 70 per cent of black marlin up to 500 kilograms are caught here. That’s four rugby league front-rowers combined!
It has long attracted the world’s most-famous fishing freaks – think Greg Norman, Kenny Rogers, Rupert Murdoch and Jack Nicklaus. The warm waters beside the world’s largest reef (the Great Barrier Reef) teem with huge game fish (there’s also plenty of yellow-fin tuna, wahoo, Spanish mackerel and mahi mahi) because the sea’s incredibly rich with bait fish.
September to late December is the best time to catch the biggest of them all. There are fishing charters that’ll get you out to the biggest fish – you can choose between day trips or, if you’re really serious, live-aboard boats (they’ll take you all the way past Cooktown to Lizard Island). If you want to fish for marlin in total luxury, book a live-aboard charter and stay on Lizard Island at one of Australia’s most luxurious lodges.
Or book a day tour and stay in Port Douglas – where the likes of Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods have slept before you.
This part of the Western Australian coast, 1200 kilometres north of Perth, is famous for whale sharks, but don’t even think about trying to hook one of those monsters. Relax, there’s pretty much everything else you’d ever want to catch on offer as it is one of the most diverse fishing spots on the planet.
Ningaloo Reef – which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list – lies just off the coast. The reef forms a gigantic, stunning lagoon with the sort of water you’d pay $3000 per night to sleep over in a Bora Bora bungalow.
You can catch trophy bonefish here (the world’s trendiest fishing these days), along with over 50 types of fish from blue trevally to blue bastards (who doesn’t want to catch a blue bastard?) while you’re in sight of boats fishing for marlin.
This is one of the world’s best deep-sea fishing destinations, too – that’s because the Continental Shelf drops kilometres down, a few kilometres from the reef – so expect lots of black, blue and striped marlin and other game fish.
If that’s not enough diversity, how about fly-fishing around the corner in Cape Exmouth Gulf in mangroves beside tidal creeks and flats? There are all kinds of fishing charters – from day charters to overnight live-aboards. To really indulge, sleep in a luxury tented camp on the sand dunes at Sal Salis.
Explore more: ningaloocentre.com.au