Fishing and boating

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.

Check out our fishing and boating rules to keep you and the park healthy.

  • Fishing in the East Alligator region

    A great spot for barramundi, particularly in the run-off season.

    • 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

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  • Fishing in the South Alligator region

    Fish the South Alligator River or the many billabongs. 4WD required.

    • 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

    • 2 Mile Hole

      This small, tree-lined billabong is good for trolling and casting for barramundi and saratoga. There’s a shady camp area nearby. 2 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

    • 4 Mile Hole

      A large open billabong further along from 2 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 2 Mile, depending on the water levels after the wet season. 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

    • Bucket Billabong

      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

    • Alligator Billabong

      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

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  • Fishing in the Yellow Water region

    This is a lovely spot to hit the water. Join a fishing tour or launch your own boat.

    • 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

    • Home Billabong

      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 wet season (December 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

    • Mardugal Billabong

      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 wet season (November to April).

      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

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  • Fishing in the Nourlangie region

    Try the billabongs around Muirella Park.

    • Sandy Billabong

      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

    • Muirella Park

      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

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  • Fishing regulations

    Live bait fishing is not permitted in Kakadu. Recreational fishing, using a line with a single hook or lure is permitted in waters west of the Kakadu Highway except in the West Alligator River system. A landing net may be used to land hooked fish. To provide refuge areas, fishing is not permitted in waters east of the Kakadu Highway except at the camping areas of Muirella Park (Djarradjin and Sandy Billabongs) and Jim Jim Billabong. Crab pots and taking crabs, firearms, traps, nets, spearguns and spears are prohibited in any Commonwealth Reserve.

    • Fishing is allowed

      At the waters west of the Kakadu Highway except in the West Alligator River System, the camping areas of Muirella Park (Djarradjin Billabong), Sandy Billabong and Jim Jim Billabong.

    • Fishing is NOT allowed

      At the waters east of the Kakadu Highway (except for the areas described above) or in the waters in the West Alligator Rivers System.

    • Fish possession limits

      Kakadu National Park has the same catch limits as other parts of the Northern Territory. From 1 January 2010, each person may have the following numbers of managed species in their possession:

      • five Barramundi (minimum overall length 55cm, fillet 27cm)
      • two Black jewfish - previously five
      • two Spanish mackerel - previously five
      • five Golden snapper
      • three sharks (sawfish may not be taken) - previously no limit
      • The speartooth shark Glyphis glyphis and a river shark Glyphis garricki are threatened species and must not be taken

      A general possession limit of 30 fish also applies to each person. This limit includes managed species. To assist with identification and effective enforcement:

      • The entire skin must be left on fillets or trunks
      • If a fillet is dissected, each portion will be considered a whole fillet and equal to half a fish
      • Fillets of managed species must be kept separate from fillets of other species
    • Other rules

      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 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
      • 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
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  • Boating

    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.

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