Barramundi

(Lates calcarifer)

Commonly referred to as Barra!

The Barramundi is without a doubt the most iconic sportfish of our nation and its not hard to see why, they can be encountered in most northern estuary systems both fresh and salt, they can grow to around 180cm in length and over 60kg in weight, they leap from the water shaking their bucket mouthed heads causing all anglers to buckle at the knees and they are big, bright and beautiful to look at. What more could a nation ask of its premier sport fish? The adventure of getting into Barramundi territory is always half the fun and the scenery one is faced with upon arrival is often unforgettable.

Distribution

Barramundi can be found from as far south as the Ashburton river (located from approx 100km south of Newman to 20km south west of Onslow) right around the top end of W.A to the Northern Territory border. Both the Pilbara and Kimberley region hold healthy numbers of quality Barramundi. Northern QLD from Townsville to the top end also holds healthy stocks of this iconic Australian species.

Growth

All Barramundi are born as hermaphrodite males which live for a period of 5 years and grow to around 60cm in length before changing sex and becoming females. Barramundi can grow to a staggering  1.8 meters in length and reach over 60 kilos in weight. Fish of this size are rarely encountered these days with the magical meter mark still setting the precedence when it comes to targeting Australia’s number one sport fishing icon. Most Barra encountered throughout Australia average around 60cm in length depending on location.

Habitat

Barramundi inhabit both salt and fresh water estuary systems throughout the top end of W.A and prefer warmer waters of around 20 C plus but will generally only feed aggressively in temperatures of 30 C plus depending on location. Like most fish Barramundi love to hang around structure, Mangrove systems, rock bars, deep holes, channels, even wharf and jetty pylons will all hold fish at certain stages of the tide. Fresh water billabongs and areas where small tributary streams meet larger rivers are also likely Barra haunts. Coastal areas where rivers meet the ocean and even rocky outcrops and headlands will also hold Barra at times as will coastal sand bars and mud flats.

Identification

The Barramundi is a silver colouration with a pointed head and concaved forehead, it has a large jaw that extends past its eye and a rounded cordal fin. The first dorsal fin has 7 or 8 very strong spines and the second has 10 or 11softer spines called rays.

Juvenile Barramundi are generally darker in colour and have a distinctive white stripe from their nose to their front dorsal fin. Barramundi have a large, powerful paddle tail which is a chocolate brown colouration on freshwater fish and bright yellow on salt water fish with a combination of both typical with fish moving from fresh to salt and vice versa. The Barramundi is a heavily scaled fish that also has a very large, very sharp anal spine that can inflict some serious damage, beware!

Taste rating

  • Seventy Taste Rating
    70%

The Barramundi is a fantastic table fish when taken from clean salty water.

Sport rating

  • Ninety Sport Rating
    90%

The Barramundi is one of the most thrilling Australian fish species an angler could ever encounter!

Tackle requirements

Most anglers prefer to target Barramundi with short, robust, bait caster style overhead or spin combos spooled with 20 – 30lb braided or gel spun lines joined to clear nylon or fluorocarbon leaders of around 60 – 100lb. Low profile bait casters are typically used to throw lures in tight situations and larger profiled reels with greater line capacity are better suited for larger areas and live/dead baiting. Rods should be robust enough to pull heavy fish from cover yet also have the sensitivity to cast light lures accurately. Gel spun lines such as fire line are also well suited to Barramundi fishing as they are extremely abrasive resistant compared to most braids and will generally hang in there a bit tougher than most when they come into contact with structure. Longer rods and spinning reels can be used to target Barramundi from shore when extra casting distance is required. Bait runner style spin and over head reels are best suited for this and when fished out of gear allow fish to swim off with a bait without feeling any reel pressure before the hook is set.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Live pop eyed mullet would have to be the ultimate Barramundi bait with fresh water cherubin and prawns closely following. (Please check with your local fisheries department for regulations on legal bait collection methods)  www.fish.wa.gov.au There are hundreds of Barramundi lures on the market today with hard bodied minnows still proving to be the lure of choice whilst targeting Barra. Soft plastics and surface lures will also work at certain times with the key to lure choice being what ever style you choose make sure it is –

1 – Going to be visible to the Barra in the water colour you will be faced with at your desired fishing location?

2 – Going to have the correct swimming action to entice a Barra into striking?

3 – Going to be able to swim at the correct depth the Barra will be hunting at?

4 – Going to be the correct size for the Barra to attack?

5 – Going to be strong enough to land the Barra or do you need to make modifications such as attaching stronger treble hooks and rings?

You will obviously need to take a variety of lures with you to use in different fishing scenarios for instance if fishing for Barra on a full moon at night in calm conditions take heaps of black surface lures. When chasing Barra around deep snags take heaps of deep diving hard bodies and soft plastics for trolling and casting. When the water is cool and the Barra don’t seem to want to bite lures try using live and dead baits.

The simple Barra live or dead bait rig is ideal for targeting Barramundi of all sizes and at all locations

Handy hints and tips

Try to work your lures with a short, sharp, stop, start motion and never just wind or troll the lure steadily. This can be easily achieved by thrusting the rod tip forward then slowly back when retrieving the slack line with the reel when casting or simply flicking the rod tip forward then slowly back to position whilst trolling. When trolling lures through snags hold your rod tip forward and when you feel the lure’s bib bump into a snag simply drop the rod tip back creating slack line and the lure should float back off the snag, this is called driving a lure through a snag and is a technique that has accounted for many big barra over the years!  Whenever trolling hard bodied lures remember that the higher you hold the rod tip the shallower the lure will swim and vice versa, it even pays to plunge your rod tip right into the water when passing extra deep snags, rock bars and holes.

Preferred fishing times and tides

Barramundi will generally feed during the hotter parts of the day depending on location and time of year. They can be found chasing bait in shallow heavy cover during high tides and concentrated into deeper pools and channels during low tides making them slightly easier to target. Full moons are also a great time to chase Barramundi on surface lures as they profile their intended prey against the bright sky.

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