How to Catch a Barramundi in the Kimberley

If you’re visiting the Kimberley in Western Australia, you’ve got to know how to catch a barramundi. No visit to this region is complete without eating a barramundi, and just consider how well rewarded you’ll feel if you’ve been the one to actually catch one of these fellows.

Barramundi, it seems, are not only good eating, they also give a tremendous bit of fun during the challenge of the catch.


Photo by Davidfntau on Flickr

Getting to Know the Barra

Just what kind of fish is a barramundi? It’s a member of the sea bass family, and you’ll find it in the northern waters of the Australian continent as well as off the south eastern shores of Asia. Originally called Asian perch, its name was changed for marketing purposes in the 1980s.

Barramundi means river fish with large scales, and this fish has large bones, easily removed when prepping it. Once cooked, its flesh turns white, and it is tender and flaky with a buttery flavour to it. Smaller ones have a less noticeable flavour. Indonesia produces barramundi for use in America, but the fish exported there are just 10 kg or less (under 20 pounds).

The barramundi grows very large: The biggest one ever captured weighed in a 44.6 kilograms (98 pounds). This is a very elongated fish, and some of them are longer than 130 cm (more than 4 feet). Some people capture them and return them to the river, and so there may be argument that larger ones have been captured, but to date no bigger catch has been documented.

The thing is, however, that very large barramundi are protected in the Kimberley. Regulations protect barramundi that are smaller than 55 cm (21 inches) or larger than 80 cm (31 inches). The reason is that the barramundi actually develops into a female as it grows older! All barramundi fish are hatched as males, and by the time they are three to five years old they have changed. In order to protect the species, the females must be thrown back into the water.

That means, of course, that all female barramundi are really cougar-fish just preying on the innocent younger guys floating around in the water. In fact, the flesh of the barramundi is believed to have an aphrodisiac effect when eaten—some people call the barramundi by the name of passion fish. Here’s why:

A Fishy Love Story

Eons ago before there were fish in the world’s oceans, there was a young Aborigine named Boodi who fell in love with the beautiful Yalima. However, they were not permitted to marry because it was Yalima’s responsibility to marry one of the tribe’s elders and then spend the rest of her life taking care of him.

The two of them ran away, knowing that capture would mean their certain death. No matter how far they ran, the tribe elders pursued them relentlessly. Finally they were trapped against the edge of the Earth, and they faced death at the hands of the elders or in the waters of the sea. They collected branches to make spears for their last stand, but soon their weapons were gone.

Boodi told Yalima that the only way they could remain together was to jump into the sea.

And so there they went, where they turned into Barramundi and remained hidden in the roots of the mangroves. If you see the spines of the barramundi, they are from the spears that the tribesmen threw at them as they leapt into the water to be together forever.

The Thrill of the Fight

As mentioned, barramundi are known for putting up a good fight against the fisherman attempting to snag it. They’re quick and they jump a bit, and they seem to be smart about evading capture by nets when fixed from a boat, and you’ll have the best luck if you stick to line and lure. The wet season is the best time to go after them because the waters are warmer.

What should you look for in a lure? The Shimano Waxwing places both upper and lower wax fins on the lure. The top one causes the lure to wriggle realistically through the water; the bottom one stabilises the lure so that it doesn’t roll over.

The Rapala X-Rap has also proven its worth in Barramundi waters, designed for long casting and dynamics that keep it fluttering and moving in the water, with foiled tails that will flash and tease the Barra you’ll be either eating—or tossing back into the water.

No matter which you do, you’re bound to enjoy your day out on the Kimberley waters—and you’ll no doubt have success fishing for barramundi!


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