Throwing in a fishing line is a favourite pastime of many Kakadu locals. There are plenty of places to fish in Kakadu, primarily from boats on our rivers and billabongs. A number of companies offer fishing tours in the park, ranging from a few hours to multi-day experiences.
Most popular fishing areas are flooded during the monsoon season - check our advice below on when to see each walk. Some seasons are wetter than others, so the exact opening dates will change from year to year.
If you're bringing your own boat, it needs to be sturdy and have a motor (no canoes or inflatables). Because of the croc risk, it's not safe to sleep in your boat overnight, camp near the water's edge or wade in to fish. If you have any trouble with crocodiles, let our local rangers know.
ALWAYS REMEMBER - Saltwater crocodiles can attack people in boats - the smaller the boat the greater the risk.
Check out our fishing, boating and croc safety rules to keep you and the park healthy.
The key changes include new possession and vessel limits, and temporary reef fish protection areas.
Make sure you Know Your Limits:
Download a Possession Limit Flyer
Pick up a measuring sticker, poster, booklet and flyer at tackle stores and retailers near popular fishing destinations
New signs will be erected at Northern Territory boat ramps over the 2015 dry season and Fisheries has advertised the changes in print, radio and online across the Top End.
East Alligator River
The East Alligator River in Kakadu's north is a popular place to fish, particularly for barramundi. Launch your boat from the boat ramps either side of Cahill's Crossing. The upstream section of the river is accessible all year round. Keep a lookout for submerged stumps, sandbars and the ever-present crocs. The downstream section makes good barra fishing in the run-off season (February to April), when all the little creeks coming off the floodplain are dumping baitfish into the river. If you have the time and the right gear, you can venture downstream to the mouth of the East Alligator River. At 70-80 km, it's a long trip. You'll need the right safety equipment for open waters and boat that's big enough to handle the coastal conditions - plus a fuel tank big enough to get you back again!
See it: All year round
South Alligator River
This is a popular river for fishing tour operators. It makes good barra fishing in the run-off season (February to April), or take the long trip to the river mouth if you've got the right safety gear and a big enough boat. Watch for the mudbanks that stick out into the river - you don't want to get stranded at low tide.
See it: February to November
Two Mile Hole
This small, tree-lined billabong is good for trolling and casting for barramundi and saratoga. There's a shady camp area nearby. Two Mile Hole is about 12 km from the Arnhem Highway by dirt road. There are two creek crossings on the way - one dries out as the dry season progresses, but the other holds water all year round.
See it: April to November
Four Mile Hole
A large open billabong further along from Two Mile Hole. Because of the croc risk, you can't camp within 50 m of the water's edge - lots of people choose to camp well back, under the shade of the trees. This area opens later than Two Mile, depending on the water levels after the tropical summer floods. Good for trolling and casting for barramundi and saratoga. It's about 46 km from the Arnhem Highway by dirt road.
See it: May to October/November
West Alligator Head
A remote coastal fishing spot, about 80 km by dirt road from the Arnhem Highway. You can fishing off the rocks or off the beach for barramundi and salmon. There's a bush boat ramp off Pocock's Beach for those keen on reef fishing - try for golden snapper, black jewfish and other pelagic species. There are camping areas with basic facilities (bush toilets and a cold shower).
See it: June to October
Red Lily Billabong
This pretty billabong is on the south side of the Arnhem Highway, about 34 km down a dirt road. Good for trolling and casting for barramundi and saratoga. You'll see plenty of birdlife, amidst the red lilies that grow along the water's edge. There's a large open area for camping, or you can pitch a tent further back under the trees.
See it: June to November
Further down the road from Red Lily, this small billabong is pretty with shady camp areas. Good for barramundi and saratoga. You'll need to pass one creek crossing early in the year, but it dries out as the dry season progresses. You can reach it from either the Arnhem Highway (50 km on a dirt road) or from the Old Darwin Road.
See it: June to November
This fishing spot is around 65 km off the Arnhem Highway, beyond Red Lily and Bucket billabongs. It is also accessible from the Old Darwin Road. There are two billabong areas which are split by a creek crossing early in the year. Both the north and south areas have boat launching and camping areas. The south is fairly open without much shade, while the north has some trees near the boat ramp.
See it: July to November
South Alligator River
You can access the South Alligator River via the Yellow Water boat ramp. Like much of this area, it's good fishing for barramundi and saratoga. Keep an eye on the crocs though - they get up to 5 m long nearby.
See it: July to November
This pretty billabong is behind Cooinda, good for barramundi and saratoga. There's a dirt boat ramp which can be accessed most of the year. In the tropical summer (November to March), a channel provides access to Yellow Water and the South Alligator River. It's a beautiful spot, with overhanging paperbarks and water so clear that you can see the fish beneath you. To stop the spread of salvinia, rangers have closed the route from Home Billabong to Mardugal Billabong.
See it: All year round
This large, deep billabong is lined with paperbark trees - a nice spot to drift around and take time out. Fishing is good for barramundi and saratoga. There's a concrete boat ramp and campgrounds nearby. The top campground is open all year round, but the lower campground gets flooded in the tropical summer (November to March).
See it: All year round
Jim Jim Billabong
A nice fishing spot with a good chance of catching a barra. Turn off the Kakadu Highway onto the Jim Jim Billabong Road. There's about 3 km of dirt road on the way there (4WD recommended). The boat ramp is at the campground.
See it: April/May to November
A pretty paperbark-lined billabong with sandy beaches. Good fishing for barramundi, tarpon and saratoga. There are several spots to fish from the shore, but keep a careful watch for crocodiles and don't wade into the water. The boat ramp is very steep and best suited for smaller boats. There is a campsite with a drop toilet. This spot is about 12 km from Muirella Park on a dirt road - you will need a 4WD.
See it: June/July to December
A beautiful billabong with a good boat ramp. You reach it via a bitumen road. It can be a tougher spot to catch fish than some of the other billabongs. There is no safe fishing from the shore so you will need a boat. There is a campsite nearby with showers and toilets.
See it: May to December
Where is fishing is allowed?
There are many great fishing spots in Kakadu. However, for environmental and cultural reasons, fishing and boating are prohibited in certain areas.
Fishing is allowed in most waterways west of the Kakadu Highway, however the West Alligator River is closed to fishing and boating so that Kakadu can maintain an entire river system free from fishing impacts. The waterways east of the Kakadu Highway are closed to fishing and boating to protect headwater fish populations, however fishing is permitted on Djarradjin Billabong (on the Nourlangie Creek system) and Jim Jim Billabong (on the Jim Jim Creek system). For more detail about where fishing and boating are permitted, please see the maps provided in the Fishing and Boating Park Note.
Fish possession limits
Kakadu National Park has the same possession limits as in the Northern Territory's Mary and Daly River Fish Management Zones. A general possession limit of 15 fish applies to each person. Included within this limit, you may only have a maximum number of the following species:
- three Barramundi (55 cm minimum overall length, maximum size limit 90 cm, vessel limit of 1 fish over 90 cm)
- two black jewfish (At risk species, vessel limit applies)
- three golden snapper (At risk species, vessel limit applies)
- three threadfin salmon (Maximum size limit 90 cm (fork length) and vessel limit of 1 fish over 90 cm (fork length))
- three mangrove jack (35 cm minimum length. At risk species and vessel limit applies)
- three sharks (Any combination to a limit of 3. Sawfish, northern river and speartooth sharks are protected and must not be taken)
You must not be in possession of protected species which include:
- all species of cod or groper longer than 1.2 m
- sawfish, northern river and speartooth sharks
- mud crabs
To ensure fish species can be identified, the following rules apply:
- The entire skin must be left on fillets and trunks of all fish
- Fillets from species with a personal possession limit must be stored in separate packaging to all other fish
- Frozen fillets from different species must be kept in separate packaging
- Two fillets together are deemed to comprise 1 fish
- A piece of fish, other than a fillet, is to be counted as 1 fish, unless you can prove that 2 or more pieces of fish were obtained from the one fish
Vessel limits apply to "at risk" species:
- Vessels with 4 or less people on board, each person can take their personal possession limit
- Vessels with 5 to 7 people on board can take a maximum of 4 times the personal possession limit of designated "at risk" species. The balance of the GPL can be made up of other fish
- Vessels with 8 or more people on board can take a maximum of 8 times the personal possession limit of designated "at risk" species. The balance of the GPL can be made up of other fish
For full details of NT possession limits for all other species that don't appear in this list, please see: www.nt.gov.au/d/Fisheries
You may not use or possess nets, firearms, spears, traps or any device designed for taking an animal or fish other than:
- Rods or handlines with a single hook or lure attached
- Landing nets are permitted only for landing fish. They may not be used for any other purposes
- A live animal (including fish) cannot be used as bait
- Dead bait fish may be used only if caught within Kakadu
- The use of processed bait is restricted to coastal areas of the park, except the West Alligator River where all fishing is prohibited
- Do not leave a fishing line unattended
- Do not tether fish
- Do not clean fish within 50 metres of a water body unless using a designated fish cleaning facility
- Do not clean fish on the water if within one kilometre of land
- Crabs must not be taken
- Nets, traps and pots used for recreational fishing outside the park may be transported into or through the park only along the Oenpelli Road, Arnhem Highway and Kakadu Highway. These items must be securely stowed at all times and not used
Boating on Kakadu's waterways can be dangerous due to strong currents, sand bars, submerged logs and crocodiles. For this reason use of non-motorised vessels (canoes) is prohibited.
Please let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. In tidal areas always carry life jackets, water, oars, flares, torch, tool kit, extra fuel and a satellite phone. Refer to the Northern Territory Marine Act signs for more detailed safety information.
- Make sure you comply with NT Marine Safety legislation and have enough safety equipment for every person on board - life jackets, drinking water, oars, flares, torches, tool kit, extra fuel and a satellite phone.
- Ensure your boat and motor are in sound working order and drain plugs are tightly inserted
- Check the tides. For Cahill's Crossing add five and a half hours to Darwin tide times. For the South Alligator River bridge, add four hours on to Darwin tide times.
- Check the weather. Where possible seek local knowledge. If in doubt, don't go out.
- Boating is prohibited in certain areas - check at the Bowali Visitor Centre for details.
- Concrete boat ramps are located at the South Alligator River near the Arnhem Highway, the East Alligator River, Yellow Water, Mardugal and Jim Jim Billabong. Unsealed boat ramps are located at Waldak Irrmbal and Muirella Park.
Always remember, crocodiles occur near boat ramps.
- For your safety, be alert for crocodiles at all times.
- Keep away from the water's edge and do not enter the water.
- Take extreme care when launching and retrieving boats.
- Do not reach into the water to bring up a fish; use a landing net.
- Do not clean fish or bleed fish in or near the water's edge, as this may attract crocodiles.
- Remove all fish and food waste, which attract crocodiles.
Areas where motorised boats for recreational use are allowed:
- South Alligator River and associated billabongs, including Red Lily, Alligator and Leichhardt Billabongs on the South Alligator River;
- Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Water);
- Four Mile Hole;
- Two Mile Hole;
- the East Alligator River (except near the egret rookery near the mouth of the East Alligator River);
- Jim Jim, Mardugal and Home Billabongs on the Jim Jim Creek system;
- Djarradjin and Sandy Billabongs on the Nourlangie Creek system;
- the West Alligator River; and the Wildman River
- Boating on the West Alligator River requires a permit. Contact the Permits Officer on (08) 8938 1140 for more information.
See also the notes above on where you are permitted to fish within the park. If you have any doubts about where you can use your boat for fishing or other recreational activities, contact the Bowali Visitor Centre, telephone (08) 8938 1120.
Beware of salvinia
Salvinia is a free-floating aquatic fern native to South America. It was originally imported as an aquarium plant. It reproduces very rapidly by growing from small fragments. The areas between Yellow Water north to the South Alligator River, and the Magela Creek from Mudginberri to Nankeen Billabongs have been closed to boating as a quarantine measure. If boating near Salvinia please help stop this weed from choking Kakadu's wetland areas. Check your boat, trailer and car and remove any salvinia before moving on.
Stay croc safe
- Keep away from the water's edge and do not enter the water
- Take extreme care when launching and retrieving boats
- Do not reach into the water to bring up or resuscitate a fish; use a landing net
- Be particularly careful if fishing at night
- Do not clean fish or bleed fish in or near the water's edge, as this may attract crocodiles. It is an offence to clean fish within 50 metres of a water body. Please use the fish cleaning bays where provided
- Remove all fish and food waste, which attract crocodiles
Please tell us if a crocodile has gotten too close to your boat or acted in an aggressive way - call our rangers on 08 8938 1120 as soon as possible.
If you see signs of people doing the wrong thing, please let us know. This could include commercial fishing vessels within the park, floating dead fish, gill net markers, floats or nets. Thanks for keeping an eye out - you can report anything suspicious to our rangers on (08) 8938 1120.