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FISHING FOR THE RIGHT  TERRITORY GUIDE By Evan Needham,  Recreational Fishing Unit, Department of Primary Industry and Resources

The Northern Territory is arguably one of the most-visited destinations for the travelling angler. Each year more than 30,000 fishing tourists visit our fair shores and their activities make up a quarter of the Territory’s overall recreational fishing effort.

The great expanses of NT waterways provide a pristine environment for our northern species, including the iconic barramundi.  But with so much fishable water available, finding where the fish are on any given day can be a frustrating experience for those unfamiliar with local conditions and angling techniques.   Whenever traveling to a new location, one of the smart ways to get the best fishing experience is to employ the services of a licensed fishing tour operator (FTO), more commonly known as a fishing guide.

Hiring an experienced and accredited fishing guide provides many advantages for the visiting angler, or for Territorians unfamiliar with fishing locally. For those less-experienced anglers and/or those on a tight visiting schedule, fishing guides are a great way to go as they have their fingers firmly on the Territory fishing pulse. As they are out on the water all the time, fishing guides are most likely to know where the fish are, and importantly when the best time is to go and catch them. They also provide all the fishing gear needed and tuition on how to use it.

Unfortunately, there are occasions when individuals set up unlicensed fishing charters. These charters have not been checked to verify if the operator has the required first aid training, a skipper’s ticket or that the vessel meets legal safety requirements for commercial operation. Also it is very likely that they do not have the required public liability insurance should something go wrong. Such operatives undercut the livelihood of licensed fishing tour operators, exploit our wonderful fishery (as their catch and effort is unrecorded), and may put people at unnecessary risk. So if you plan on using a fishing guide, please check that they are appropriately licensed before booking soyou don’t jeopardise your fishing trip of a lifetime.

If you are suspicious of an operation, or want to make sure that they are properly licensed, you can contact NT Fisheries on 08 89992144 or check with the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association (NTGFIA) at To ensure that visitors and locals alike are getting the best fishing experience possible, from 2017 the NT government is implementing changes to enhance the management and operation of the FTO sector, and to ensure the sustainability of our fish stocks for all. Following consultation with FTOs and the NTGFIA representative body, from 1 January 2017 licensed operators will be subject to a number of new management measures.

As part of the new measures, a new licence will allow a FTO business to more easily employ additional guides, while ensuring they are still appropriately trained and are of good character. Fishing guides will now be required to undergo a criminal history check in addition to the necessary vessel and first-aid qualifications. To make identification of licensed FTO vessels easier on the water, they will need to display a Unique Vessel Identifier (UVI). FTOs, or fishing guides, continue to be a big part of the Territory’s fishing landscape.  As mentioned earlier, FTOs play a vital role in maintaining and growing our visitor base. Changes allowing for increased business flexibility and enhanced professionalism of operators are not only a win for the sector and tourists, but also benefits our visitor-based economy.

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