Fish Species Of North Queensland
Barramundi –Lates Calcarifer
The Barramundi is widely regarded as Australia’s premier native sportfish and Tropical North Queensland offers excellent opportunities to target this much sought after species.
Their range is diverse, from the stocked impoundment of Lake Tinaroo, approximately one hour drive west of Cairns, to the pristine jungle clad rivers of the World Heritage listed rainforest, mangrove lined estuaries and bays and the rocky shores and headlands. Each environment has its own challenges and techniques vary to suit the size and feeding patterns of these magnificent light tackle sportfish.
Lake Tinaroo has been stocked with fingerlings several years ago and these fish have thrived. Fish of over sixty old fashioned pounds are common but these monsters are not an easy target.
Dawn and dusk is the preferred time and the summer months (November to March) during calm humid conditions produce best. Deep diving lures cast around structure, weed beds, drowned timber etc. is the way, although trolling can also produce the goods.
A little dinky rod and reel is not the go here, these horses can destroy inferior tackle and quality rod/reels loaded with at least 20lb line and even heavier mono leader to 50 lb required to extract these fish. Don’t let anyone tell you that impoundment fish are lazy!
Summer time is also the rainy season here in the Tropics. This annual deluge can see a meter of rainfall in only a few weeks, flooding our local rivers and pushing the bait, prawns, sardines etc. out to sea, forcing the Barramundi to congregate around any rocky foreshore or headland.
Where the bait goes, the predators follow and it is here after heavy persistent rain that you will consistently find the largest barramundi.
These brutes, fish of over 40lb are common, also require beefed up tackle with strong leaders, XO hooks and large 6-8 inch lures. Casting around the rocks can produce an amazing strike from these silver saltwater barra and deft rod and foot work is required to stay connected.
Medium sized barramundi to 15-20lb can be had all year round in our tidal estuaries and although these fish do prefer warm water, a calm winters day spent casting lures around the sheltered shallows, mangrove roots and weed beds can still produce. Prime time however is still during the summer months and depending on the river/tidal conditions either the salt water tidal section or the sweet water upstream region (best a few days after heavy rain/clearing conditions) can be targeted with success.
The golden rule to Barramundi fishing is to use a lure to suit the terrain. If fishing upstream amongst the weed beds for small juveniles (45-65 cm fish) or downstream for larger fish over the mud flats, gutters etc., use a shallow running lure. The Gold Bomber long “A” 6 inch lure has probably caught more barra than any other popular lure and is excellent in these conditions.
If however you are targeting fish in deeper tidal areas with steep banks or deep snags, use a lure that will get down to the fish. Lures that work well in this scenario include “C” lures, Leads deep divers and Rapala Shad Raps in most popular colors including natural, pink/purple, gold and brown.
A baitcasting rod and reel, or spinning outfit fitted with 6-8 kg line, is the ideal choice for river and estuary work.
Barramundi can also be targeted using traditional bait fishing techniques, but always remember that structures holding the fish for a period during the tidal cycle is paramount. Fresh live bait works best, either large prawns, mullet, sardines or mud herring rigged to swim in the current.
Anchor upstream of the structure and drift the bait to the snag with as little lead as possible. HANG ON and these fish will hit hard and many fish are lost at the initial hook up stage. Obviously this style of fishing is not for the faint hearted and quality gear or heavy hand lines are essential.
Barramundi are great to catch, their leaping fight is exhilarating and their strength renowned. Their numbers, although secure are not expanding greatly due to the commercial fishing pressure on this prized table fish. Bag and size limits do apply and there are heavy fines for offenders.
There is also a closed season for the taking of Barra by any means during their breeding cycle. Any barramundi accidentally caught during this period must be returned unharmed to the water. For the East Coast fishery, this period is 1st November to 1st February each year, while the Gulf Fishery (Gulf of Carpentaria and the west coast of Cape York) is variable from year to year, depending upon the spawning season, and may start as early as early October.
Only take what you need and handle every caught fish thoughtfully. Scientific research has shown that fish are susceptible to being “stretched” when held up by the mouth or gill for taking photographs etc. and most barra will not survive this common practice.
Small fish should be cradled by the head and body while larger specimens should be lifted in the landing net or better still, photographed in the water.
It’s a great thrill to see a magnificent specimen, having given you the thrill of the strike, that leaping fight and finally the photo and memories, flick its tail in defiance and swim away. Try it, you just might be enlightened.
Trolling For Barramundi
We have an excellent article by Keith Graham from Bransfords Tackle Shop about Trolling For Barramundi in Cape York explaining how lures can work a treat in the tropical fisheries of North Queensland.