Barramundi

The barra is internationally recognised as one of the world's great sport and game fish and is prolific in the Northern Territory.

They are aggressive predators and terrific fighters as any angler who experiences their strong runs, high jumps, and rod-bending lunges can attest to. In the Territory, it's not uncommon to catch 10 kg-plus barra and there are plenty of fish weighing 20 kg or more landed each year.

One major attraction of the barramundi is the variety of locations where it can be found and the different fishing techniques that can be used to catch it. Barra frequent inshore rocks and headlands, coastal estuaries and creeks, big rivers and inland billabongs. They can be caught using a wide range of lures - casting and trolling - and a variety of baits can be successful. The barra is also a fantastic opponent for the fly fisher.

Northern Territory barra are available for anglers all year round in the right locations and using the right fishing techniques.

Other Names: Lates calcarifer - Barra
Location:

Estuaries, creeks and coastal headlands fish well for barra right through the year, often peaking in the late dry season from September to December.

Some of the best barra action is found in the Top End's big tidal rivers early in the dry season - usually late March through to June. Barra congregate at creek mouths and floodwater run-offs as the wet season floods start to fall and provide top lure-casting action. Trolling around submerged snags and rock bars in the big rivers produces excellent fishing as the floodwaters fall further and the waters clear.

Right through the dry season, usually from May to September, is prime time to fish our beautiful inland lagoons (billabongs). It is also a good time to fish remote estuaries and clear-water rivers.

Season:Year-round (except for periods of high wet season floods which may occur during January and February)
Method:

In the estuaries, sightcasting to barra on estuary sand and mud flats can provide exciting action for lure and fly anglers. For lure fishermen, shallow-running, minnow-style lures work well on the flats, whilst lures which get down to depths between 2 and 4 m are often effective around snags and along the edges of channels.

For casting to feeder creeks and gutter run-offs, and up in the floodplain channels, shallow-running, minnow-style lures with pronounced body roll action seem to be successful. At times, the fish will hang deep on larger creek run-offs and the minnow-style lures described below will work, as will bottom-bouncing, lead-head, rubber-tailed lures if they are retrieved with the right amount of lift-and-sink action. Small, deep-diving lures also work in these situations.

For trolling the big rivers, minnow-style lures around 125 to 150 mm in length, which swim at around 3-4 m deep when trolled about 30 m back from the boat, are best. Deep-diving (4-5 m plus) lures are used to troll deeper snags, rock bars and other bottom structures. Larger minnow-style lures are used in some specialist situations like the early run-off fishing around the downstream creek mouths.

Small minnow lures that swim to about one metre work well in the freshwater billabongs - particularly if they are cast or trolled over shallower weed beds and banks where the water tends to be warmer and feed congregates. A technique that has recently proved successful is jig trolling. The trick is to troll the lures over the weed beds and other structure, twitching it like crazy using frequent swishes of the rod tip. Noisy, popper and fizzer style surface lures will take barra and, at times, night fishing on the billabongs with these lures can provide exciting barra action.

The most useful barra outfit is a 6-8 kg rod, reel and line combination. Rods should be a minimum of 1.7 m in length and rated for casting lures to around 30 gm. Remember that the rod should be suitable for both lure casting and trolling. Small baitcasting reels that hold at least 150 m of 8 kg (or 10-15 kg braid) line are best and threadline reels can also be used. Good quality monofilament lines of 6-8 kg are used although the newer braid lines are becoming popular due to their fine diameter and enhanced feel when casting and particularly when trolling. Specialised braid rods, with cushion tips to compensate for the lack of stretch in braid, will bring more barra to the boat. Successful barra anglers use a short double of around 1 m on the end of their main line tied with a spider hitch or Bimini twist. The double is then connected to a heavier monofilament leader of 20-25 kg using an Albright knot or wind-on leader system.

Regulations:

A personal possession limit of five barramundi applies across the NT except for the Mary River, where there is a personal possession limit of two barramundi. A minimum size limit of 55 cm must also be observed.

Eating:

The barra is fabulous eating. Fish caught in the saltwater, or in the rivers when they have just moved up from the saltwater, have white, firm tender flesh with large flakes and a distinctive but mild flavour. At times the flesh can be slightly oily but this varies with the season. Fish that have spent time in the freshwater - particularly the inland billabongs through the dry season - can absorb a rather muddy flavour and are not quite as pleasant to eat.

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Roger Sinclair

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Fishing Tropical Australia Pty Ltd, Trading as Arnhemland Barramundi Nature Lodge, Box 571, Howard Springs, NT 0835 ABN 15 107 855 836

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