WA has some of the best fishing areas in the world. Fishing is also great fun and very relaxing. We strongly recommend that you look at the Fishing WA website and consider becoming a member. The organisation’s website and magazine provide wonderful information and interesting reading.
One of the primary motivations for getting off the ‘beaten track’, in Northern Australia, is to find a waterhole where you can catch Australia's premier native sport fish, the barramundi.
The "barra' is highly prized mainly because of its great fighting qualities. As you try to reel one in, chances are it will make some powerful runs; usually leaping clear of the water and shaking its head in an attempt to throw the hook.
Smaller fish (3kg to 4kg) put up a decent fight, but when they are about 6kg or more you have a fight on your hands that can last several minutes.
The barramundi is also a prized table fish; although the taste of the flesh depends, to some extent, upon where the fish is caught. Those caught in saltwater, or tidal rivers, have the sweeter flavour; whilst those in landlocked waterways can have a muddy flavour and soft flesh, if the water is murky.
Theories as to where, when, and how barramundi are most likely to be caught are varied. The fish is generally found throughout coastal and river waters of the Kimberley.
The best time to catch them seems to be just after the wet season, from around late March to the end of May. At this time the rivers are receding and the fish tend to gather in freshwater creeks, where there is plenty of food. They can still be caught in the June to Sept period, when the areas are more accessible. However, during this time they tend to look for cooler waters and stay deeper.
The best fishing method is to cast a lure around snags and fallen trees; where food may be concentrated in pools, at creek junctions, or channels below waterfalls. Coastal inlets and tidal rivers may offer the best fishing at the October to December period. Trolling lures are the best method, although live bait also gets good results.
During the Wet season, from January to March, fishing is generally done from boats. This is because many tracks and roads are flooded, making vehicle access difficult.
In tidal rivers, barra seem to strike more during the ebb tide, particularly later in the day. The same applies to saltwater areas, although the first couple of hours of the rising tide are also good.
Good Fishing Practices
Apart from following legal restrictions regarding bag limits and fishing licenses, there are a number ways to enhance the quality of barra fishing for yourself and others who follow.
When releasing fish, try to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water: use a net to land the fish for "dehooking' and weighing. When it's necessary to handle the fish, grip it firmly by the lower jaw ensuring, your fingers don't get under the gill cover.
To store fish in top condition, they should be killed and bled as soon as possible. Bleeding by cutting the gills or throat is the best method; place the fish in iced water to reduce clotting and aid bleeding.
Rapid cleaning will preserve the quality. It's helpful if you can avoid cutting into the flesh surrounding the gut region or rupturing the intestines. Chill the cleaned fish as soon as possible as this slows the rigor mortis process. When rigor mortis takes place the violent muscle contractions result in loss of natural juices and the flesh has a tendency to fall apart when filleted.
Clean and rinse fish in a container, if possible, and do it carefully as most of the places you find barra you also find salt water crocodiles.