The couple were fishing on the Adelaide River, which is notorious for the deadly predators, when the attack happened.
Police say the saltwater crocodile struck when the 57-year-old victim, as yet unnamed entered the water to untangle his line.
Northern Territory Police duty superintendent Jo Foley said the woman did not see her husband attacked, but heard “a scream and then turned and saw a tail splashing in the water”.
Police and wildlife officers found and shot a crocodile – named “Michael Jackson” by locals because of his strange pigmentation – a few hours after the attack on Monday afternoon.
The fisherman’s body was recovered on Monday evening.
His wife alerted Tony Blums who runs Adelaide River Queen Jumping Crocodile Cruises. He said: “She drove round to us and I called the police. I told them the spot to go to.” He said the crocodile was well known because of its distinctive colouring.
“It’s very unusual to have an albino croc,” he said. “It’s sad they had to shoot him. I’m always telling people not to go fishing because the sound of the fish splashing attracts the crocs, who go take a look and then lurk just under the surface.”
Rob Marchand, owner of Wallaroo Tours, which runs Jumping Croc cruises across the river from where the man was taken, said: “Michael Jackson was one in a million, and unfortunately being an albino would have been picked on by all the others. The croc has only been doing what nature intends it to do, and that’s survive … if you’re not going to look after yourself, you’ll find yourself being eaten.”
Tourists flock to see the crocodiles of Adelaide River every year. The man was attacked near the Arnhem Highway bridge, close to where cruise ships show sightseers crocodiles leaping from the water to snatch chicken carcases hanging from poles.
Police Superintendent Bob Harrison said the reptile had regularly leapt for chickens dangled from cruise ships and was well-known to operators of the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise.
The death on Monday is the first in Australia since June, when a 15ft 5in crocodile snatched a 62-year-old fisherman from his dinghy on the South Alligator River in the Northern Territory.
A 12-year-old boy and 22-year old man were also taken by crocodiles in separate attacks earlier this year in the territory.