Posts Tagged ‘Gear for Barramundi Fishing’
By MATT FLYNN of North Australian FISH FINDER TM
The Northern Territory is one of the most remote, unpopulated parts of Australia. Many visitors are pleasantly surprised by the standard of the roads and the modern amenities available.
Nonetheless, from a barramundi fishermen’s point of view, Territory conditions are different from those down south, and fishermen equipped with the right vehicle, boat and fishing tackle will enjoy the Top End fishing experience to the full.
That’s not to say you can’t have a great time with a 2WD vehicle, a car-topper dinghy and a two-bob fishing rod. But sooner or later you will want to upgrade to really enjoy barramundi fishing. Here we look at what is best suited to local conditions.
Barramundi fishing vehicles
A four-wheel-drive vehicle is a distinct advantage in the Northern Territory, but by no means essential.
While many of the best fishing spots have sealed road access and concrete ramps, some do not. Four-wheel-drive gives you piece of mind, especially launching from the banks of rivers and billabongs.
Likewise, the Northern Territory’s wet season creates boggy conditions. And who wants to be restricted to sealed roads?
Steep billabong and river banks in remote are much easier to launch from with a 4WD vehicle.
Whatever vehicle you will use for barramundi fishing, ensure the cooling system is in first-class working order because travelling a hot Territory road with a trailer in tow will quickly test a poor cooling system.
Always carry extra cooling water. Carry spare fan belts, at least two spare tyres if travelling off-road, and a can of the proprietary aerosol puncture repairs products. If you are going bush in a 4WD vehicle you should carry a full set of recovery gear. A snatch strap, kangaroo jack and spade are a minimum requirement. A winch is handy, but the best safety policy when going to remote areas is to travel with another vehicle.
Barramundi fishing requires trevalling long distances in the Northern Territory to reach some of the more remote places.
For this reason, a long-range fuel tank or a couple of jerry cans can be invaluable, and you should also carry a back-up supply of drinking water. Large, good quality cool boxes or portable fridges are essential for keeping perishables fresh. If you are planning a trip to a remote area, get a detailed map.
The ideal barramundi fishing boat
The beauty of the Top End is that you only need a small boat to enjoy it, and that is why the Territory is the home of the aluminium dinghy.
Sure, there are remote islands and shoals accessible only to those who own a 7m cruiser.
But you can always visit these places on a charter boat. I have listed here the perfect fleet for fishing the Top End. Few people could afford such a fleet, so I have also described an ideal all-round boat below.
A specialist barramundi fishing boat is usually from 4.8m to 6m in length with a suitable engine for high-speed travel. It has front and rear casting decks. It has long range fuel and an electric motor for trolling. A good sounder/GPS unit is useful, if not essential. The boat will also have ample water storage and eskie space, plus a radio or satellite phone. It will have space to stow camping gear, and a canopy that can be easily stowed so as to not get in the way when the fish are on.
Hulls can be any hard-wearing material, usually alloy or polly (plastic), as collisions with rocks and tree stumps are common.
Barramundi fishing car-toppers
A 3.5m lightweight cartopper punt or V-bottom with 3hp outboard is handy for places where there is no boat ramp. This lightweight rig is for those hard-to-get-at inland billabongs and upstream reaches where you must launch from the bank and manhandle the boat over rocks and other obstacles.
The boat is too small for the big rivers and harbour arms and offers little corocdile or poor-weather safety. It fishes two people comfortably.
Barramundi fishing dinghies
A 3.8m to 4.8m dinghy or punt with 30hp to 50hp outboard is ideal for tackling the Top End’s tidal rivers, harbour arms and creeks. Whether you choose a runabout (steering at front), centre console (steering in middle) or tiller mount (steering at rear) is up to you.
Family fishermen might prefer a runabout, but a centre console or tiller mount is best for fishing, because it gives the most room. This boat fishes three or four people comfortably, but only two will fish happily in the smaller sizes, as there is a lot of lure casting in barramundi fishing, and having treble hooks whizzing around in a small boat is not safe.
There is a huge range of trailerable 5m to 6.5m half-cabins, cuddy cabins, centre consoles and runabouts. The bigger the boat, the more range, load-carrying capacity, safety … and price. These boats aren’t ideal for barramundi fishing, but they will get you into remote areas.
There is plenty of reef fishing to enjoy far off Darwin, and these are the craft to get there. But avoid small half-cabins if you are serious about your fishing. The cabin is often ultimately considered just hot and a waste of space in the tropics.
We will take a punt (excuse the pun) at choosing the perfect all-round boat for the Top End. It’s a 5m aluminium centre console hull with a 60hp to 115hp outboard motor. The hull is big enough to fish coastal reefs, yet small enough to take barra fishing in the rivers and billabongs. It is light to tow and draws little water. A centre console provides the most space, fishing four people.
Useful extras for barramundi fishing
Aside from fishing tackle and serviceable safety gear, every fishing boat should carry:
1. Global Positioning Unit (GPS);
2. Quality echo sounder;
3. Shade canopy;
5. Soft seats (or pieces of foam rubber);
6. Livebait tank and berley bucket;
7. Gaff and landing net;
8. Quality ice-box;
9. First-aid kit;
11. Fuel and outboard oil reserve (perhaps 20L of petrol and 500ml of oil).
Trailers for the north
Do not buy the cheapest trailer you can find. The mudguards will probably fall off as you drive down the first corrigated road. Heat and humidity means you should get a solid galvanised trailer.
Did you know?
You are not allowed to use a speargun to take barramund in in the NT. And you are not allowed to take mud crabs from Kakadu National Park. Click the link to download a brochure of Northern Territory barramundi fishing regulations.
By MATT FLYNN of North Australian FISH FINDER TM
Today, the bibbed minnow remains the most popular style of barramundi lure. Soft plastic lures are attracting a growing following.
Surface lures take third place, followed by jigs.
Most barramundi lures are bibbed minnows that float until retrieved. Sinking and suspending models are also available.
Floating lures are good for casting over rocks and other snags. They will rise when the retrieve is stopped.
The floating-diving minnow with a big bib is best for trolling snags. Most deep-divers have big bibs and tend to swim head-down with the bib bumping over snags, keeping the hooks clear.
Sinking minnows are harder to fish – the lure will often sink into snags. Nonetheless they can be very effective when snags are too deep or steep for floating divers.
A sinking lure or floating lure with a weighted trace can be used where a snag or bank is steep and instant diving ability is required.
Depth of dive is the main issue when choosing a bibbed minnow.
The lure’s rated depth of dive should match the depth you intend to fish. Most lures are made in several dive ratings, usually stated in feet as 3+, 5+, 10+ and so on.
Dive depth also varies according to the boat speed, the amount of line out and line thickness.
Trolling depth can be altered a little by raising or lowering the rod, but fishermen still need shallow, medium and deep divers for trolling at different depths.
Shallow divers or surface lures are essential for fishing flats and shallow bank edges where predators ambush bait.
Soft plastics and prawns have become popular in the barramundi fishery because they are effective, especially in the wet season, often getting a strike when hard bodied lures won’t.
The waggly tail seems to drive predatory fish wild.
Soft plastics no longer have to be assembled on a jig head – they can be bought in packs with each lure’s hook and weight moulded into the body.
Some anglers however like to use a range of jig heads on the same bodies and buy the heads and bodies separately.
Resin heads are popular for finesse fishing with almost unweighted lures, and can be hugely effective because of their lifelike action.
Most soft plastics have a single hook and the hook-up rate can be low, but the fish will often strike soft lures multiple times. Plastic prawn imitations also work well in northern fresh and saltwater.
They work best on a light threadline (eggbeater) outfit because they are so light.
Jigs are dropped down and then jigged back up to the boat, or are simply jigged up and down on the spot.
Small rattling jigs are effective on barramundi when jigged along deep snags. Jigs can also be cast and retrieved but tend to foul easily way because they have no bib to bounce over the snags.
Poppers and fizzers are worked on the surface and can be very effective at night or in shallow water.
They can also be effective around snags and weedbeds.
Work poppers slowly, especially at night.
Many people like to catch barramundi using bait. A popular bait is cherabin, or freshwater prawn. Freshwater prawns are one of the Top End’s special treats.
The prawns, locally called cherabin, grow as big as saltwater prawns, taste as good, and can be easily caught. Cherabin live in most freshwater habitats. They can be caught in baited traps, with a spear, or with a cast net, but are easiest to catch at night, when they are most active.
In shallow sandy areas such as the far upper Daly River or Katherine Rivers, a fish carcass can be staked to the bottom, and a cast-net thrown over the carcass every half-hour to collect cherabin – but watch out for crocodiles that may be attracted to the bait. Cherabin eyes shine red in torchlight, just like a barra.
Cherabin are the number one barra bait, if you manage to not eat them. Another inland crustacean is the redclaw, which looks like a southern yabby, or freshwater crayfish. These are caught using similar methods to catching cherabin. They are also great eating.
Mullet are also top livebait for barramundi. They can be caught in a cast net. Herring, garfish and sardines are also good baits. Barramundi only occasionally take dead baits.
The Northern Territory has good roads and most boat ramps can be accessed by 2WD, although 4WD is recommended as even good concrete boat ramps can be slippery and difficult at low tide.
Boats of all sizes are used to go barramundi fishing, but because of the presence of large crocodiles in Northern Territory, anything under 3.7m is not recommended.
Casting platforms are very useful in a barramundi boat, as are livebait tanks, and a long-range fuel tank. However a standard 3.7m cartopper is suitable for many barramundi hotspots.
Click on the link here for more on barramundi fishing boats.
Rods and reels for barramundi fishing
Overhead casting reels are hugely popular for lure fishing. Small spinning reels (eggbeaters) work fine however and are good for casting light lures. Click on the link to find out more about barramundi fishing reels.
See your tackle shop to find a matching rod – there’s too many choices to list here, but good rods are available at low prices.
Line breaking strains today are usually 8kg to 15kg, with a tendency to use the modern braided lines.
A good echo sounder can help you locate barramundi, although it is not an essential item for much barramundi fishing. A GPS unit is handy when you are in unfamiliar waters as local fishing maps generally provide GPS data.
You will need a landing net, preferably a small mesh net that will not split the fish’s fins. Many barramundi are released because the NT has strict bag and size limits and these fish must be handled carefully to ensure their survival. A measuring sticker should be attached to the gunwhales so you can see if your barra is over the legal 55cm limit.
A lure desnagging pole will help you retrieve lures that are invariably snagged while fishing the lairs in which barramundi shelter.
Sunscreen, a good hat and lots of drinking water are other essentials.