Darwin based Fishing & Outdoor World has been servicing the needs of the Northern Territory’s fishing, camping and shooting aficionados for more than 50 years.
Despite enduring the worst wet season in living memory, Fishing & Outdoor World (FOW) continues to do well. The Covid pandemic shutdown had an impact on tourism, and this was reflected in retail sales, although FOW weathered the turmoil better than many.
Store Manager Ronald Voukolos says the fishing is okay and explains: “Rain, hail or shine, people still fish. We had a marginal dry season, but anglers have learned how to better fish these conditions.”
The Territory has endured a poor wet season. Ronald explained that a La Nina event was blamed for this: “Our wet season has been close to the worst ever, and in some areas, rivers are drying up,” he said.
“The fishing is challenging, but it is still good. The barra season didn’t last long. However, local fishos have wised up on how to better fish the Build-up and the Dry.”
As an example of changes in fishing, Ronald highlighted the Adelaide River: “People were hanging out for the neap tides to fish this waterway, and yet, as a youngster, I remember we used to wait for the big tides.”
Ronald said their customer count is slightly lower, but locals are dominating the customer base: “And that’s because they better understand how to fish the conditions.”
The lifting of travel restrictions resulted in more southern tourists heading north and this created as a strong tourist season lift right across the Territory. Ronald said the shop was going well and they had been able to maintain a good level of local staff (15 including part timers).
“Imparting information is a challenge,” he said. “Fishos are switched on, so we need staff who know what they are talking about because bullshit doesn’t go far in this business.”
Ronald’s father and shop founder, George, still works in the store, making a father and son team that has long played a significant role in the evolution of fishing in Territory waters. George and Col Stringer started the store in 1972. Col left the business, selling out to George in 1978, and moving on to become a pastor.
“George coming in and working a few days a week helps us rotate staff. We are competing against big companies for staff, and we need to be flexible because with late night trading everyone is working long hours.
“George is 72 years-old, and he probably should scale back a bit, but he can’t seem to take his foot off the accelerator,” Ronald said.
Six years ago, new premises (version three) were purchased in Cavenagh Street. The shop features 600m2 of floor space and 400m2 of warehouse, but it’s already bursting at the seams. Version two of FOW was across the road at 27 Cavenagh Street and was 220m2!
“Even though we now have 1000sq.m of shop, we are still running out of room,” Ronald commented.
Product range is key to bringing customers through the doors, and FOW seems to have everything anyone with fishing in mind would want. Rods and reels from companies like Shimano, Daiwa and Dobyns; lures from popular stables like Reidy’s and Classic plus walls of soft plastic variations. Yeti products are as popular as ever and on the hunting side it is thermal imagery (night scopes) that is proving popular.
Ronald said the business was built on return customers and one of its strong suits was as a rod and reel repairs specialist.
“On paper this part of the business costs us money, but it is an integral part of the shop. We know people are likely to come back if they have a good experience,” he said.
Hunting is still a major part of FOW business, and magpie geese are a favourite target bird for local shooters. Hunters are allowed to harvest more waterfowl this season with bag limits on geese lifted from five birds to seven, and 10 ducks.
“There is a strong green element that don’t understand it is a managed harvest not a hunt,” he explained.
Ronald said buffalo hunting was a sort of closed shop, but Parks and Wildlife have created some back country control areas to enhance a Back Country Hunting program*: “Land is valuable and large areas are designated National Parks, Aboriginal Lands or pastoral, so access is controlled.”
* Over the years, the Northern Territory Firearms Council worked behind the scenes and quietly lobbied the Territory Government to open up areas of public land hunting. The Back Country Hunting initiative is a product of these efforts.