A Beginner's Guide to Barramundi Fishing

May 6, 2022 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

If Australia is your fishing playground, then there’s hardly a more iconic fish to target than the mighty Barramundi. Barramundi fishing is one of the favourite pastimes in the northern regions of the continent. Barras are some of the best underwater fighters you’ll find and on top of that, they’re very tasty.

A young girl holding a Barramundi with greenery and water in the background

When translated from one of the indigenous Australian languages, the name Barramundi means “large-scaled river fish.” When you take into account its appearance, size, and preferred habitat, the name hits the nail on the head. We’ll tell you all about why they’re so important, as well as when, where, and how you can target them. 

All about Barramundi

While Barramundi are a euryhaline species (they do well in both freshwater and brackish waters), they prefer constantly warm water temperatures – in the mid-to-high 20s. They thrive in North Australia, but you can also find them in South Asia, around India, and the Philippines. 

A Barramundi being held with greenery and water in the background

Barramundi are sometimes called Giant Perch, Palmer Perch, or Giant Seaperch, too, but Barra is the favoured nickname. You’ll easily recognise them by their big scales and concave forehead. The colour of the fish changes significantly depending on where they live – darker ones (brown and dirty green) usually live in estuaries and rivers, while brighter silver specimens stick close to saltwater.

Barras live and hunt just above the bottom, though they come closer to the surface to feed during the night. The species is mostly protandrous, meaning that the fish are males when they’re born. After a few years, they can change into females – and this is when they can become really large.

A smiling fisherman in a cap and sunglasses holding a Barramundi fish

A good-sized Barra can be around a metre long, with their weight between 10–20 kilogrammes. What distinguishes Barramundi is their prowess and strength. They’re infamous for their acrobatics, headshakes, and incredible ability to get off the hook. 

What adds to Barramundi’s appeal is the fact that they are so delicious. Their white flaky meat is considered a specialty in Australia, so with Barramundi fishing, it’s both about the hunt and the feast that comes with it. 

What’s the best time to catch Barramundi?

One of the many things about Barramundi is that they’re “catchable” all year. However, the best time to land a Barra, is during the wet season, from November to mid-May. The dry season, which lasts from mid-May to mid-August, isn’t as productive.

A smiling angler in a cap, standing on a boat, holding a big Barramundi

If you want to get the most out of your hunt, then hitting the water from March to May is your best bet. That’s when Barras spawn, so they’re at their hungriest and most comfortable due to the near-ideal water temperatures. 

When it comes to the best time of day to catch Barramundi, low-light conditions are the way to go. Just before sunrise and after sunset can be excellent. Night fishing is another good option because Barras are braver then and they come closer to the surface to feed. Target them during the ebb and flood tide – this is when their food comes to them and they’re more heavily congregated in shallow areas.

Bear in mind that there’s always a seasonal closure for Barramundi fishing in Australia. The dates can vary depending on the area, but the ban usually lasts from October to February. Always check the local regulations before you go out. If you really can’t wait or you’re on a tight schedule, you can go to one of the Barramundi farms and get yourself a few there.

Where is the best place to fish for Barramundi?

The main thing to think about when you’re fishing for Barramundi is structure. These fellas are ambush predators, so they need a place to hide and wait for their prey to swim by.

A fisherman in a cap and sunglasses holding a Barramundi, with mangroves in the background

The best place to fish for Barramundi changes during the year. They spawn exclusively in estuaries, and you’ll find them aplenty in coastal areas, tidal rivers and flats, and lagoons. It’s also a good idea to cast your line in areas where freshwater meets saltwater, and around rock bars. 

If you prefer fishing in freshwater, drop-offs, ledges, snags, sunken trees, deep holes, creek mouths, and mangroves are a good starting point. Areas of the brackish rivers that are anywhere from 20–80 kilometres from the ocean are the sweetest spots for Barramundi. 

It will take a minute before you get the hang of the Barra behaviour patterns in your area. The truth is that they’re quite lazy and won’t go through too much trouble to chase the bait. That’s why you need to serve it to them practically on a silver platter. Just by knowing that structure is key to successful Barramundi fishing, you already have a head start.

Barramundi Fishing Tackle

Let’s take a peek into the tackle box of every Barramundi chaser. The gear is straightforward and you don’t need to be a rigging expert to make it work.

A Barramundi fish caught mid-jump on a fishing line

Rods that work the best are short – around 2 metres work like a charm. When you’re casting around underwater structure, your casts need to be precise, and shorter rods with soft tips help you with that. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time holding the rod, you’ll want light graphite rods that can hold anywhere from 2.25–7 kilogrammes. 

Most Barra anglers swear by simple casting reels, also known as eggbeaters. The size varies depending on the size of the fish, so anywhere from a 700 to 4000 reel size is on the cards. You’ll want lighter reels for live baiting, and stronger ones for trolling lures. More experienced fishos use baitcasting reels because they help them cover more water and be even more accurate.

When it comes to fishing lines, you can choose between the monofilament and the braided line. Mono (10–15 kilogrammes) works better with live bait, while braided (7–13.5 kilogrammes) is better suited for lure fishing. You’ll also need a strong leader so that your mainline doesn’t get cut on the rocks snags. The best choices are abrasion-resistant leaders (20–30 kilogrammes), be it steel or sturdy monofilament.

Finally, when it comes to fishing hooks, circle hooks up to 6/0 size work the best. What you should put on that hook to get Barramundi’s attention we’ll discuss next.

What is the best bait for Barramundi?

A Barramundi fish with its head being held out of the water, the rest of its body in the water

There’s a general consensus that Barramundi respond better to live bait than to lures. This has to do with the fact they’re apex predators and they can’t resist the movement or the smell of injured bait fish. Even during the dry season, when Barras are at their most sluggish, well-presented live bait can spur them into action.

Mullet are the go-to choice of Barra fishermen, especially poddy mullet. Other popular options include minnows, freshwater prawns (cherabin), and shrimp. Even perch and barra frogs can work very well if you’re fishing the watershed that has them.

What are the best lures for Barramundi?

Even though live bait works wonders on Barra hunts, lures have their well-deserved place in your tackle box. There’s a wide variety of artificials you can use, we’ll just mention some of the favourites.

A smiling fisherwoman holding a Barramundi with mangroves in the background

First of all, you’ll need large lures, somewhere in the 8–20cm range. You can use smaller ones when you’re casting around a lot of structure, and bigger ones when Barras are in deeper waters. Hard-bodied lures work well, especially poppers and rattling lures. Minnow imitations are excellent, and you can take your pick between shallow-diving minnows (for creeks and around structure) and deep-diving minnows (for trolling).

Soft plastics can also tempt your prey, especially if you opt for imitation of shrimp, mullet, worms, and similar bait fish. As long as they’ve got good action and they match Barra’s food, you’re golden.

How do you fish for Barramundi?

There are a few proven ways that can put you on Barramundi action, and these are the best techniques for you to try out.

Casting 

Casting and jigging are the most popular techniques when going after Barramundi because they’re the most fun and productive. You can cast from a boat or from land, though from a boat is usually more successful.

A middle-aged fisherman standing on a boat, holding a Barramundi, with clear water and blue skies in the background

The most important thing to remember with casting is to change up the speed of your retrieve frequently. You want the bait to move slowly but still be active and loud – your retrieval should be about one turn per second. It’s necessary to cast the bait very close to Barra so that they don’t have to work hard to get it.

Barras like to eat, so getting them to inhale bait isn’t very hard, but landing them is. The main reason for this is the Barramundi’s extremely hard mouth, which can make it virtually impossible to get them properly hooked. Add to that their jumps and headshakes, and you’ve got a proper battle of wits and strength. When you get a bite, keep the line taut the entire time. At the same time, the tip of your rod should be very low, so that there’s a smaller chance for the fish to escape.

When you do catch a Barramundi, be very careful how you handle it. Even though they’re quite big, they’re gentle and prone to “stretching” when out of the water. Use a net to get them into the boat, and hold them with both hands to avoid harming them. This is particularly important for a successful catch and release. If you plan on keeping your catch, then simply focus on getting your Barra into the cooler.

Trolling

Another good technique to try out if you’ve got a boat is trolling. It will allow you to cover more water and you can make it as hands-on as you’d like. When you’re out with a fishing guide, trolling is the name of the game.

A middle-aged angler in a cap, standing on a fishing boat, holding a saltwater Barramundi

Depending on where you are, you can do shallow trolling or deep trolling. Shallow trolling will be in less than a metre of water, with the trolling speed up to 10 kilometres per hour. The lures will be smaller and you can jig them around to create commotion and get Barra to bite.

Deep trolling is reserved for deeper rivers and lakes, and it requires ample use of your fishfinder. You’ll be navigating your way around a lot of structure, and you want your lure to be as close to it as possible. You’re welcome to twitch and jig your lure a lot more aggressively to get Barra’s attention and, hopefully, a bite.

Night Fishing

Last but not least, let’s talk about night fishing for Barramundi, which is undoubtedly productive, but not without its risks. Barras do come out to play in the dark, but that’s also the time when crocodiles come out too. Needless to say, you need to be extremely careful where you fish.

A smiling angler sitting on a boat, holding a Barramundi caught while night fishing

What draws Barramundi closer is light, be it the moon or artificial lights. Some fishermen swear by fishing during the full moon – the brighter the light, the darker the shadow where Barra can hide in ambush of their prey. Boat lights will attract them as well – and even lights from bridges and nearby streets. 

While it can be fun and successful, Barramundi night fishing shouldn’t be taken lightly. Be extremely careful and check if the area you’re fishing is free from crocodiles. Also, bring a lot of mosquito repellent. You’ll need it if you don’t want to be eaten alive.

Where can I fish for Barramundi?

The most popular Barramundi fishing destinations are in North Australia, though there are Barramundi farms all over the continent. Still, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland have the best Barramundi-rich waters. Let’s see what some of them are.

A view of Kimberley region in Australia
  • Cairns: If it’s urban fishing you’re craving, then Cairns is one of the best places to target Barras. Here, you can go after your prey in nearby lakes like Lake Tinaroo, or cast a line from the beach and land yourself a nice specimen. 
  • Dundee Beach: The Northern Territory is famous for its Barramundi action, and Dundee Beach justifies its reputation. Here, silvery saltwater Barras abound throughout the year, and there are plenty of other game fish to catch as well.
  • Darwin: The capital of the NT has a lot to offer to prospective anglers. You can fish for Barramundi straight from the harbour or head to the Kakadu National Park, where fishing action is hot most days of the year.
  • Kimberley: For anglers who’d like to head out into the wild and catch themselves a trophy Barra, the entire region of Kimberley is promising. There are many tidal rivers and creeks to explore, especially Fitzroy and Lower Ord Rivers.
  • Saint Cloud, Florida: Surprise! If you don’t have the time to travel to Australia, you don’t have to! There’s a small Barramundi farm in Central Florida, the only one of its kind on the continent. If you’re reading this from the US, you know where to go!

Barramundi Fishing – Every Adventure Angler’s Dream

A fisherman in a hat and sunglasses holding a big Barramundi, standing on a boat

By now it’s easy to see why Barramundi are among the Holy Trinity of species in Australia (along with Australian Salmon and Mulloway). Their fighting abilities are unparalleled, they’re widespread, and they make for excellent table fare – all qualities of an amazing catch. No wonder Barramundi fishing is so well-known and loved. How can a passionate angler resist?

Have you ever caught a Barramundi? What are your experiences? Is there a tip you’d like to share with your fellow anglers? Share your stories in the comments below!

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