Rugby League legend and fishing enthusiast Andrew Ettingshausen, aka ET, takes us through his top fishing hotspots around Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Words: Andrew Ettingshausen
Cannon Charters – WA & NT
It was to be the once-in-a-lifetime experience. But after a week on MV Cannon, it became my ‘whenever I can’ experience. Imagine a new, pristine, tropical location every day, promising the thrill and excitement of your next personal best of any number of hard fighting fish. The anticipation of every cast is palpable. You never know what is going to slam your lure next. The guides are excellent and know everything to teach beginners or educate old hands with new tricks.
MV Cannon takes you to new spots overnight, so there’s no fishing time wasted. While you’re on board, you relax in 5-star comfort with an onboard chef skilfully serving meals any restaurant would be proud of. The ice-cold beer tastes so good after a day chasing trophy fish, and the stories and banter keep getting better as the evening draws on. You sleep in private air-conditioned quarters, two with ensuites. There’s plenty of hot water and the crew even do laundry for you. Wake up in the morning with a difficult decision (after breakfast and coffee) of blue water or river? Queenfish, Spanish mackerel, tuna or barramundi, jacks and trevally?
The scenery is mindblowing. Red cliffs with even redder sunsets. Thick rainforest or the grassy flood plains with crystal clear water flowing down into the salt. There are birds, crocs, dolphins, buffalo and dingoes – a menagerie of animals in their natural environment. Eventually all dreams end, but there was one thrill left for me: being picked up on a remote river by a Paspaley Pearl flying boat to be whisked back to civilisation. MV Cannon is truly your ‘whenever you can’ experience!
Testimonial by Greg Parkes.
Rowley Shoals – WA
Departing from Broome, it’s a 24-hour charter boat trip to the three coral atolls that make up the Rowley Shoals. The long trip out is entirely worth the effort – this remote location provides amazing fishing, beautiful reef structure and a lagoon with a sand cay which creates a sheltered anchorage. Sailfish abound outside the reef, but inside is where the magic happens, and diverse coral reef species thrive.
Coral Bay – WA
Coral Bay is a beautiful location within Ningaloo Reef Lagoon. Mahi Mahi Fishing Charters are the guys to fish with here. They can put you onto sailfish and marlin and drop the baits down deep to catch the prized red emperor. It’s a breathtaking holiday destination right on the beach with terrific snorkelling and swimming.
Kimberley Coastal Camp, near Kununurra – WA
Flying into Kununurra, you’re halfway to the remote Kimberley Coastal Camp. A unique destination, this top-rated lodge sits right on the water’s edge. The fishing is on par with the incredible scenery – big barra, black jewfish, golden snapper, coral trout, queenfish and trevally are in abundance.
Evolution Fishing Charters in Exmouth – WA
A small family business built from true fishing passion, Evolution is owned and operated by Captain Craig ‘Whitey’ White and his wife Kim. Whitey is Australia’s first ‘World Champion Offshore Angler’, with his more than 30 years’ professional fishing experience. He takes out a maximum of eight passengers on tours around the pristine Ningaloo Coast and Exmouth Gulf, surrounded by fringing coral reefs with the continental shelf less than 10 kilometres offshore.
Evolution offers three different tours. When Deep Sea/Reef Fishing, you’ll head out from Exmouth Marina into the vast Indian Ocean, targeting species such as red emperor, coral trout, gold band snapper and spangled emperor (to name a few). Aboard a Blue Water Sport Fishing Tour, you’ll head to the rich marlin grounds on the Exmouth Peninsula, or the reefs surrounding the North West Cape.
For the ultimate fishing adventure, you’ll want to opt for a Live Aboard Tour, where you’ll stay aboard vessel Evolution, equipped with comfortable sleeping quarters, bathroom, kitchen, dining and lounge areas. By day, you’ll experience an entirely tailored trip fishing in world-renowned waters. At night, you’ll anchor in the protected Ningaloo Reef or the magnificent Murion and South Mackerel Islands.
Exmouth – WA
Exmouth is, simply put, a fishing paradise. Located at the top end of Ningaloo Reef, the crystal-clear lagoon is home to a wide variety of reef fish. A short trip out through the lagoon entrance sees you fishing in the deep blue Indian Ocean, chasing sailfish, marlin and tuna. Charter boats work out of this WA hotspot, and if you’re wanting to battle a game fish, your chances are excellent.
Broome – WA
Another breathtaking location set upon beach sand dunes, the Ramada Eco Beach Resort is where I stayed on my last trip to Broome – and the accommodation and fishing was simply unbelievable. We caught sizeable barramundi in the local creek and sailfish along the coast while fishing from a game boat with a talented skipper and deckhand.
Dhipirri Lodge, near Milingimbi Island – NT
A short trip from Milingimbi Island will see you fishing at one of the Top End’s best barramundi camps: Dhipirri Lodge. While barra are the major target species here, you’ll also do battle with a wide variety of sportfish when angling in these untouched waters. East Arnhem Land has been inhabited and fished by Indigenous owners for more than 40,000 years, and you can truly feel this ancient history all around you.
Mary River, near Darwin – NT
A couple of hours’ drive from Darwin is the magnificent Shady Camp boat ramp on the Mary River. I like to fish with the team at Territory Guided Fishing, who recently took me out from their live-aboard vessel, parked at the mouth of the river, to fish the coastal creeks. My biggest barra caught was 117 centimetres, and my favourite time of the year is April and May, when the wet season finishes, and the run-off is in full swing.
Maningrida – NT
From the air, you’re compelled to look out the window as you fly over some of Australia’s most majestic rivers and wilderness on your way to Maningrida. Staying at the Arnhem Land Barramundi Lodge will see you hooked to jumping barra from day one. The rivers each side of Maningrida hold huge numbers of these iconic Aussie sportfish. You won’t be disappointed.
Cobourg Coastal Camp – NT
Perched right on the northern Cobourg Peninsula, the camp overlooks the flat clean waters of Port Essington. With special permission from the traditional owners to operate in this spiritual Indigenous homeland, one of the best sportfishing destinations in the Top End has emerged. A true abundance of sportfish – golden snapper, black jewfish, queenfish, trevally and mangrove jack – await your lures and baits.
Wessel Islands – NT
The Wessel Islands are one of my favourite Top End destinations. The crew onboard Wildcard Luxury Cruises offer wet season fishing and exploratory charters around these ancient islands.
This is a definite bucket-list trip to a magical part of Australia that not many get to experience. If you love catching big Spanish mackerel and sportfishing for sailfish and big trevally, this place is for you.
Dhipirri Barra & Sportfishing Lodge – NT
Perfectly positioned on the Arnhem Land coastline, Dhipirri Barra & Sportfishing Lodge is the ideal destination for a truly remote fishing experience.
Owners Darren and Sharon Nickolls have approval from the local traditional owners to access the many fishing locations which are within minutes of Dhipirri Lodge.
Dhipirri caters for anglers of all abilities and offers a variety of fishing options. The Glyde River fires in the run-off being home to many big barramundi, whilst the Woolen River and Milingimbi Island are ideal for sight casting to threadfin salmon and barramundi.
The nearby reefs have an abundance of pelagics, including GTs, queenies, Spanish mackerel and golden snapper. Another option is to go crabbing up one of the many mangrove-lined creeks.
Access to the water is easy with the boat ramp located right in front of Dhipirri Lodge – you’re on the water in a matter of minutes, and off the water and into the bar in even less time!
The lodge accommodation and dining are first class, with all rooms air-conditioned and daily complimentary laundry service offered. Dhipirri also has a private air strip which enables clients to fly in directly from Darwin or Gove. Dhipirri Barra Lodge is truly ‘Adventure Fishing Guaranteed’.
For more information, visit dhipirribarra.com.au.
Can’t get enough of top fishing hotspots? Check out our top 10 fishing destinations in Mackay, QLD.