Fishing: How to bag a barramundi

By: Carlisle Rogers, Photography by: Carlisle Rogers

With a bit of knowledge under your belt, you're a lot more likely to come home with the goods.

Fishing: How to bag a barramundi
"Barra live everywhere there is warm water, which means most of Queensland"

The first time I ever dropped a line in the water with the intention of catching a barramundi was on a rocky, oyster covered point just north of Cooktown, Cape York. After a couple of hours of standing in the sticky air swatting mozzies and slicing my ankles open on razor-sharp shells, I had a singular experience.

A barra the size of a small Russian 4WD decided he liked the look of the lure I was lazily jerking across the glassy black water, and as quickly as he took it, throwing himself out of the water in a silvery flash of fish bravado, cutting a delicate French curve through the air, he was gone again. And I don't know which hurt more, reeling in that lifeless line without the drag of the lure, or the forlorn, slowly nodding faces around me. You lose a fish like that and blokes will shout condolences, but their eyes won't meet yours.

The second time I chased this species was far across the continent in the Pentecost River that cuts through the heart of the Kimberley. My luck was better, but I had a guide on hand to walk me through landing that 90cm beast, and I realised then that the difference between catching a prize barramundi and meekly describing the one that got away is often just a little bit of knowledge.

I know most of you don't know the difference between a Harrison's loop and a locked half blood knot and, grandfathers not being like they used to, there's no one to answer the stupid questions, so guys spend a long time not catching anything.

To my palate, barramundi is a little overrated as an eating fish. As a fighting fish, however, there is nothing better for the shore angler in fresh or saltwater. Besides their beautiful leaps, strong runs and never-say-die attitude, this species has an uncanny ability to throw hooks. For this reason, many anglers stick with the treble-hooked poppers and bombers, which preclude working with livebait and tend to stay in the barra better than a single bait hook.

That said, mullet or minnows make great livebait and barra will hit them enthusiastically. And you don't have to keep casting either. Livebait are good for working difficult snags without risking expensive lures.

The one simple thing you have to remember with barramundi is to keep the tip of your rod up high once you're hooked. This keeps tension on the line, which means the wily barra have a harder time cutting it with those razor-sharp gills, and they can't spit out the hook if there's constant tension.

Setting up your drag properly is important too. I was at a lily-covered billabong on Cape York's west coast recently and had neglected to loosen up the drag on my reel. The first fish that hit my line was a mother, and as she took the lure and ran, I watched in horror as my line stretched and snapped within half a second, the drag screwed down tight. More nodding heads and pursed lips ensued.

Hopefully, your next barra trip will be a success, and the looks of unabashed envy you'll get when you haul up a massive barra are worth any amount of fishing gear, petrol money and mosquito bites. 


Rod: A short, stiff rod is ideal, as it will transfer the subtle movements of your wrist to the lure.
Reel: Anything with room for a few hundred metres of braid line.
Line: Always use braid, never monofilament. Braid stretches less and stands up to abrasion better, 50-80lb is ideal.
Leader: At the end of the braid use a heavy monfilament leader, around 80-100lb. This will further prevent the fish from cutting your line. One metre is usually enough.
Knots: A simple loop knot will ensure your lure still swivels well, and is easy to re-tie if you switch lures or lose one. We don't use swivel snaps because they break and interfere with the lure's action. The Albright knot is used to connect your leader to the braid.
Lures: Whatever works! Some favourites are: Golden Bombers, poppers, Tango Dancers. When fishing around snags, a diving lure can help you get in front of fish, but you're more likely to lose your lure, too.


Barra live everywhere there is warm water, which means most of Queensland and all the way around the top of Australia and back down the WA west coast to about Shark Bay. Most people agree that saltwater barra taste better.
The best fishing is usually either side of the wet season. Getting the tides right helps too. The runout tide is always when you want to be throwing a line in. In estuaries, you can chase the water downstream. Incoming tides work too.
In Queensland, barra season is closed between October 7th and February 2nd in the Gulf and November 1st and February 1st on the East coast. In the Northern Territory, the season is closed between October and February.

Source: Camper Trailer Australia #50