The iconic Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) has been stocked in freshwater impoundments in Queensland for many years now, beginning in 1985 I believe, at Lake Tinaroo near Atherton from where a fish weighing 45kg has been recorded.
In recent times other impoundments like Lake Awoonga and Lake Monduran have produced incredible numbers of huge fish, unfortunately the floods in the last few years have seen massive numbers of the stocked fish go over the dam walls and those that survived the journey to the brackish and salt water have given those locations a huge boost in productivity for both the recreational and Pro fishermen. Both these lakes have recovered quite well with barra in the ninety odd centimetre range being caught in recent times.
There are some who say impoundment barramundi don’t pull and give you a good fight, well in reference to that I say. I was tying down my boat after a session at Lake Proserpine when a good mate the late Jack Erskine just arrived back at the ramp, he came over and said, “How did you go Johnny”, I said good mate, I got a 117cm model, Jack said, “Good one, it would be over fifty pounds”, I said yes it was fifty seven pounds, I weighed it in the net. Jack then said, “Those blokes that say impoundment barra don’t fight have never bloody caught one”, I laughed and said, I agree with you.
Now before you go and fish for these magnificent fish, check the rules and regulations as published by Qld Fisheries, don’t get caught out. Finally in this section, I reckon impoundment barramundi taste terrible, some say they are okay, if you must, don’t kill anything over eighty centimetres and cut out the bloodlines, my opinion is that they are too good just to catch once.
Baitcast rods, six to eight kgs, 5’6” in length for tight work and up to 7’ in more open areas.
Spin rods around the 7 to 8 kg range and up to 7” in length, good for throwing frogs.
Reels, the baitcast reels I recommend are from the Daiwa and Shimano range, good solid reels, remember if you are going to be casting for hours you don’t want anything to heavy.
Some good reels available at this time are the Daiwa Tatula Type R 100H and the Shimano Chronarch 100. Spin reels should be good quality reels with extremely good drag systems that will last, in sizes 3000 to 4000 with 20 to 30 lb braid, I use a Stella 4000 with 30lb braid when I am fishing with spin gear, but that’s not often as I prefer baitcasters in all situations.
Line, use a good quality braid as a main line, I use 50lb, yes I know you can get them on a lighter braid and you can out in to the basins where there are no underwater lay downs or a submerged forest and believe me the barra know where everyone is and they will tie you up or break you off very quickly.
Leader material is mono and I believe that Schneider 80lb is the best to use in tiger country, in more open water I sometimes drop down to 60lb. Check and double check the trebles and split rings on your lures, they may need upgrading. Use Owner ST66 or VMC 6Xstrong trebles and equal split rings.
To attach the leader to the main line I only use the FG knot or Ted Donlans leader knot, I have not had a failure with either. Just a word of warning for those who insist using an Albright knot check it regularly as that knot with small rod guides will cause the knot to loosen and come adrift.
These knots I have recommended are for joining a relatively small diameter braids to the larger sized leader material.
There are many proven impoundment Barramundi lures, far too many to list here but we will name a few all in shallow and deeper models, Barra Bait, Reidy’s B52 , Rapala X Rap, Scorpion, Tango Dancer.
The best bet is to pop in and ask either Ian or Adam who are the guys behind the counter at Tackle Land what is working at the time, colours don’t mean much but sometimes the fluoro green gets a few more looks than the others. Tie them on to your leader using a loop knot which will allow the lure to work as it was intended.
And of course there are many soft plastics that catch barra, some of these are the Squidgy Slick Rig, the Berkley Hollow belly plus many others as long as the tail has a good action and the body has a good roll, used in sizes four to six inches. One last mention in this part, never use a clip to attach your lure to the leader, use only the loop knot, all the Barry Barramundi have a huge pool room down there and its chock-a-block with lures that they have taken off fishermen who use clips.
When to Fish
Impoundment Barramundi can be caught all year round, just remember it’s all about a comfort level for the fish. In the winter during the daylight hours they will move into the shallow water so they can warm up and as the sun goes down and the heat starts to leave the water they will move back out into deeper water where the temperature takes a longer time to change and is more stable. In summer they range all over and can be found where there is bait fish evident, in extremely hot conditions the fish will sometimes lie in the thermoclines for comfort at quite deep levels.
How to Fish
Impoundment Barramundi can be spooked very easily in shallow water so keep the banging and thumping in the boat down and try to be as quiet as possible. In the winter time concentrate on the shallow water in the backs of bays, on points, tie up to a tree or anchor quietly, throw your lures back into the shallows then retrieve slowly with the flick-flick pause and stay there in that location for a reasonable time, wait for the fish in each location you try, remembering to flick, pause on your casts, look for the fish with your structure scan fish finder to pick your spot, it’s no use fishing where there are no fish.
Impoundment Barramundi seem to move in certain patterns that bring them back past a given spot meaning that if you stay in a spot where you have caught fish they could return maybe in half an hour or even an hour depending on their feeding route. At night in winter go back to camp sit at the fire and drink rum etc.
In the warmer months you have a few more options; night fishing can be very rewarding by fishing surface and shallow running lures fishing around and over weed beds and in some open areas in the trees. In daylight hours there are a few more options like moving slowly around lily pads on the electric motor, casting along the edges, up little timbered creeks casting as you go.
If you can find living trees in the water and I mean a lot, you can cast back into the trees, twenty feet or so using the little alleys between the trees, work your lure out to about ten feet out from the trees and pause, hang on, it’s just magic seeing a meter plus barra come screaming out of the trees and smashing your lure.
Sometimes the fish will sit in the heads of submerged trees with just a few branches out of the water, you may now understand why we use 50lb braid, also moving through the trees just casting at laydowns and other likely fish holding spots, DON’T FORGET THE RIP-RIP PAUSE IN YOUR RETRIEVE .
When fishing weed beds fish on the side the wind is blowing on to, when fishing bays fish the bays that any wind is blowing into or if there is no wind, look for the bays that has a current flowing into it. Ha you say current, how can that be? Yes there are at times huge movements of water in impoundments, sometimes you can see it as it runs past trees and sticks in the water, you can often see strands of weed waving in the current, of cause this all means that you have to be aware of what is happening around you.
Then of course you can always troll if you wish, this is generally done in the more open parts of the lakes, meaning no trees or snags or not many. Troll at a steady pace, they are not tuna so about walking pace. This area is also a very safe place to catch fish on lighter gear, just remember that hooking one of these fish is like foul hooking a B-Double on the Bruce Highway and tired spent fish do not revive very well.
If you have fished for Australian bass and you use similar tactics are in the right zone.
A saying from the N.T. well worth remembering and using if not all the time at least some of the time is, “No Wobble No Gobble”.
Lift the fish out of the water in the net, never at any stage hold the fish up by the jaw or with lip grippers as the weight of the fish will break it’s throat latch and the fish will die even if is seen to swim off. Support the body of the fish at all times they are very valuable, De hook the fish and take your photo’s as soon as you can then get the fish back in the water.
If the fish starts to flounder and find it difficult to swim off hold the fish by the bottom lip, keep the fish upright and swim it, if you have a mate in the boat get him or her to drive the boat steadily so the water runs through the mouth and out the gills, when the fish is ready to be released it will generally bite down on your hand, just free it and it will swim off.
All the previously mentioned gear plus a large strong landing net, a large pair of bent nosed pliers for de hooking, spare lures, leader material, first aid kit, knife, sun glasses, sun block, a good hat, camera, a good esky with ice for your tucker and drinks.
Good luck I hope to see you on the water.
Tackle Land would like to thank John for taking the time to share years of hard earned knowledge with us all so we may get out the and chase Impoundment Barra with more confidence.
I recon John has spent more time perfecting his techniques than I have had birthdays!
We hope that in the course of pulling John’s article apart and adding bits and pieces of it to your own knowledge; you achieve the elusive 1m+ Impoundment Barra.
Thanks again for your words of wisdom John and we look forward to reading and learning from your next article.
Maintain the Passion!