Q&A with Merv Hughes

Legendary former test cricket fast bowler and crowd favourite Merv Hughes has been coming to the Northern Territory for almost 40 years. He’s entrenched himself in the Top End’s fishing world, returning every year to fish our pristine rivers and azure blue waters, and competing in the Barra Classic for the last 16 years. Merv has been a keen fisherman since he was a kid growing up in country Victoria, spending time on the local rivers and creeks. Although Merv lives down south, the Territory is his second home and he can’t wait to take part in Million Dollar Fish Season 9. Merv shares his fishing insights with us.

What is your favourite spot to catch a barra in the NT?

I’d have to say along the Daly River. In the last 16 years I’ve been coming up here for the Barra Classic. Competing teams descend on Darwin from all over Australia, as well as overseas, to fish this week-long annual competition. It is arguably Australia’s premier barramundi fishing tournament and I always have a good time.

Where is the most scenic spot to go fishing in the NT?

There are way too many to choose from, but some of my favourite spots would have to be remote places like the Moyle River, which is about 200km south-west of Darwin, and the Goomadeer River in West Arnhem Land.  Other hard-to-get-to spots include fishing around Croker Island, Braithwaite Point and Junction Bay. Oh, and the Tiwi Islands are pretty special, too.

Where is the best place to grab barra for dinner in Darwin?

Hands down the best way to have barra is to catch and cook it yourself. You know it’s fresh. There are plenty of places in Darwin that will cook your catch for you, and if I’ve had an unsuccessful barra fishing trip, and there have been a few of those, I’ll go to Mr Barra down on Fisherman’s Wharf. You can buy a barra pack and just tell everyone you caught it! Otherwise, I’ll head to The Cav in the CBD and if there’s grilled barra on the specials menu I’ll have that.

What is the biggest barra you’ve ever caught?

Well, you know all the biggest ones are in the Daly River. I was out fishing with mates. There was a couple of us in one boat and Shane Compain, from Tackle World in Darwin, was in another. We were up near one of the s-bends and I hooked a huge one. It was massive – at least 120cm. I know this because Shane saw the fish before it got away. He said it was a monster. Shane knows a lot more about fishing than me, so I’m going to stand by that yarn. The second largest barra I caught was 86cm, and this time I got him into the boat.

Do you prefer land-based or fishing from a boat?

When I’m fishing down south I get seasick, but in the Territory the waters are calmer. So I do prefer to fish from a boat when I’m here, whether it’s in one of the rivers, creeks, estuaries or blue water. I also prefer boating because of the crocs. Don’t fancy meeting one of them on the water’s edge.

What is so special about fishing in the NT?

It’s just amazing up here. There’s so many beautiful spots to fish and great people to spend the day fishing with. Whether you go with friends or the family, you’ll take home the best memories and, of course, fish. Also, where else can you win a million bucks for catching barra? I’ve still got my fingers crossed for a red-tagged Million Dollar Fish, and I’ve got four fingers crossed to reel in the mill.

What is your best fishing memory in the NT?

It has to be nude fishing in Bynoe Harbour. I was with a mate and we were at Crab Claw Island Resort. We were watching the footy when one of our fisho mates from Darwin came into the bar and said, “The tide’s at its best”. We’d had a couple of beers and I was a bit half-hearted at first as I wanted to watch the Bulldogs play the Lions. Anyway, we went out and as we left, Bill Briscoe, the owner, reckoned we wouldn’t catch anything. It was during the dry season and the local fishos were wrapped up in coats, but coming from down south we were hot. So we stripped off and made up a song called ‘Nude fishing in the dark’ as we headed out. It was a great laugh and we weren’t taking things too seriously, but we caught four fish in 15 minutes. One was over a metre long. You should have seen Bill’s face when we slapped the biggest one on the bar and asked, “Can you cook this up for us, mate?”

What’s your top tips and tricks to help a fisho reel in a barra?

My number one piece of advice would be talk to the locals. If you’re new to the Northern Territory ask them where the best places to fish are, and the best times. They’ll know all about the tides, spots to avoid and how to reel in a barra. I’d also book a charter, especially if you don’t have a boat. I’m lucky to now have a few fisho mates who have boats, but for visitors, I’d ask around and book before you come up. If you’re short on time I’d go to the tackle shops for info. All those guys in there are fishos and are really knowledgeable. You’ve also got to remember the essentials – a good pair of sunnies, hat and long-sleeved fishing shirts, and keep hydrated.

Do you have a lucky lure?

Reidy’s The Judge is my go to lure. It has to be in green and gold, Australia’s colours. I find if I’m not having much luck, I’ll go back to this lure and, most times, I’ll catch a fish.

We can’t wait to see Merv back up in Territory throwing in a line. Click here to check out Merv’s thoughts on Million Dollar Fish Season 9!

Season 9 has ended.