There is undoubtedly no denying nor mistaking the fact that Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) are one of the iconic poster-fish of Northern Australia. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of anglers travel to the far north each year to try their hand at capturing these fish. They are the stuff that dreams are made of. So much so, that when people envision a barramundi, their thoughts immediately race to an image where a chrome sided, bucket mouthed barra is leaping out of the water in a bid to dislodge a lure from it’s cavernous gullet.
Most people who make the annual pilgrimage north to target barramundi each year, mostly do so in the salty, estuarine systems. I guess there are many reasons for this. Two of these reasons would be the fact that saltwater barramundi are quite good eating and also the fact, other highly desirable targets such as Threadfin Salmon, Mangrove Jack and Fingermark are also commonly encountered where barra reside.
At the end of the day, the above are generally good reasons to target saltwater barramundi, but if you are into catch and release fishing like many of us are these days, well our Northern impoundments should not be discredited as a viable and enjoyable fishing option. I release at least 95% of my fish these days in the salt and 100% of my freshwater fish, as for me it’s not about filling the freezer or the ice box, but the thrill of the hunt and knowing that I fooled that fish on an artificial (either a hardbody or soft plastic lure). It’s all about sustainability and ensuring future generations get the same chance to enjoy these fish.
A lot of people don’t bother fishing for impoundment barramundi as they taint them as being fat, lazy and do not fight as well as a saltwater barramundi. I am not going to enter into this debate and say outright that Impoundment barramundi fight less hard or fight harder than a saltwater barra as I have not caught a saltwater barra anywhere close the size I have caught impoundment barra BUT what I will say, is that impoundment barra are definitely not lazy, fight out of their skin and should not be tainted otherwise. The barramundi I have tangled with in Peter Faust Dam and Kinchant Dam have been anything but slouches and have the ability to peel tens of metres off braid off your reel, wrap you around 4 trees and bog down in weed within seconds of the initial take, and that’s with a fully locked drag and thumb on the spool.
Medium to heavy spin or baitcast gear loaded with 20-30lb braid and 60-80lb leaders are essential when targeting big impoundment donkeys. I choose to use a Shimano Rarenium 4000 matched to a 5-8kg, 7 foot spin stick and also Shimano Curado 200G7’s matched with 5-8kg baitcast gear. Many people choose to target heavily treed areas of the dams but for me personally, I love to lower my electric motor and poke around the shallow, weedy bays throwing 4-5inch paddle-tail plastics rigged weedless on Worm hooks. Many people can’t stand flicking the weed beds as they continually foul up their hardbody or large plastic in the weed but rigging your plastics “weedless” is simple and very very effective. It gives you the ability to cast into this weed without fowling up. After all, this is where the bait is and where the barra will be feeding as well as seeking cover.
I always rig the weedless plastic on the baitcast gear and always have a weedlessly rigged surface frog on my spin gear. Burning frogs across the top of the weed beds, particularly after rain is absolutely awesome and will completely blow your mind! Seeing that massive bow wave materialise behind your frog before it is inhaled, is something that will make you work at the knees and will live within your memory bank forever.
So please, next time you are in close proximity to a stocked barramundi impoundment, please don’t write these barra off as being lazy and non fighters. Do yourself a favour, give them ago and I think that you may be pleasantly surprised...