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Alex's Column 28 July 2023

It’s just over two months away when the ninth season of Million Dollar Fish kicks off.

It’s testimony to the success of MDF that it has lasted this long, and there are at least another three seasons after this one to go.

Given that more than 90 10K barra have been captured since 2015, who would have thought a Sportsbet tagged barra worth $1 million is still to be caught.

This coming season, there will be 100 $10,000 red-tagged barra released, and up to 10 barra worth a million bucks – including the Season 9 fish – still swimming around.

Sportsbet underwrites the prize money for MDF, and Sportsbet’s Thijs Bors is super excited in anticipation of a great Season 9.

“We’re hoping for a fair bit of action following last season when 20 red-tagged barra were caught and over $220,000 was paid out in prize money,” Thijs said.

“This year, we’re hoping it will be $1,220,000!

“There are four years left counting this one but I would look forward to an extension.

“I don’t think it will impact at all on the future if the $1 million fish finally goes off; it would just cement the competition with all the hype and jubilation to follow.

“The only disappointment really is that it hasn’t gone off already.

“Last season it wasn’t quite a million but we were almost a quarter of the way there,” the Sportsbet representative explained.

“Million Dollar Fish is a win for the NT; people change their plans to come to the NT for MDF.

“The corporate slogan is Bringing Excitement to Life… barra fishing is exciting enough but, add a 10K tag to the excitement, and it becomes fever pitch.

“I still remember Leon Danicic’s reaction when we caught his red-tagged barra down the Victoria River.

“Leon was travelling to WA on holiday from Darwin and he was so excited just to catch a barra; but when he saw the red tag, he reckoned his heart was racing and the intensity of the catch and the volume of his screaming went through the roof,” Thijs told me.

“It was the first time we released fish in the Vic River which was a mission in itself.

“We didn’t expect one to be caught and then Bang!... one was caught right at the start,” Thijs explained.

The Million Dollar Fish team will commence tagging on 1 August, but won’t be revealing any spots just yet.

However, once again, fish across the five regions – Darwin, Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Tiwi Islands and Katherine – will be tagged and released.

Over the course of the competition, a Million Dollar Fish has now been released in each of these five fishing regions.

Thijs said: “We have a solid release schedule, but we don’t over-stock Darwin Harbour, and we spread them throughout the different waterways.

“I can tell you that we don‘t release fish into Cullen Bay.

“What blew me away last year is that the barra don’t stay in the same spot.

“Recaptures took place up to several kilometres from release points.

“We keep GPS marks of actually where they are released, then ask where recaptures were made; if we released a barra in the Mary River and it was recaptured in the Adelaide, we’d ask questions.

“It’s good for Fisheries too to know the tagged fishes’ movements.

“We don’t do multiple releases in the one spot; we spread them out,” Thijs said.

This season, about 30 freshwater barra will be electro-fished and retained at the Darwin Aquaculture Centre where they will be acclimatised for tagging and release into salt water.

Up to five barra will be kept as spares.

Thijs said: “The balance will be electro-fished and released on the spot; the exception will be the Tiwi Islands where barra tackle will be used as the team can’t electro-fish in salt water.”

Million Dollar Fish Season 9 will run from 1 October 2023 to 31 March 2024, with registrations open from 1 September 2023 to 31 March 2024.

You have to be registered to be eligible to win – registrations for Season 9 open on 1 September 2023 at

You can subscribe now to be the first in the know when registrations open.

In Season 8, Leon Danicic was land-based fishing near the Victoria River boat ramp when he caught his 59cm Sportsbet tagged barra.

Rory Laidlaw-Hall found himself $10,000 richer after snagging a Season 8 barra at Mary River Bridge Lagoon.

The first interstate visitor to catch a Sportsbet tagged barra in Season 8 was Victorian Ranae Eels who reeled this one in at Bynoe Harbour.


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