Barra ‘Big Brother’
  |  First Published: April 2004

I RECENTLY acquired two juvenile barramundi as aquarium specimens and they are proving to be extremely interesting from an angler’s point of view.

Both fish came from the same large holding tank where 1500 barra swam in lazy circles. They were approximately 200mm in length when I first got them and both carried the distinctive stripe down the front of the head. Some people think this is because they’re young, while others are convinced this is a sign of stress. I’m on the fence at the moment whilst I hunt around a bit more!

One fish, which is slightly larger than the other, had suffered a small amount of damage to the dorsal fin at some stage between capture in a landing net to arrival at its new home via a huge aerated esky. The other fish appeared to be undamaged. Strangely, the damaged fish settled in immediately while his healthy friend seemed very anxious about the whole affair. On the other hand, while the undamaged fish appeared to be rather tense about the unfamiliar surroundings, its dorsal fin was quite erect just about the whole time. The opposite was the case with the damaged fish!

These fish were hatchery born and bred. From the hatchery they were tank transported to a barra farm and then housed in a large poly tank and fed pellets for several weeks. Once again, the fish suffered the rigours of travel to my place, and were then introduced to a diet of live freshwater crayfish, live shrimp, frozen prawns and pellets (which were smaller than those at their last home). Both fish quickly set upon the crays until the few that remained discovered that they’d live much longer if they sheltered under a handy log or rock. The live shrimp suffered a similar fate but seemed to have trouble grasping the fact that they’d become dinner if they didn’t find suitable shelter, and quickly. The tank’s population of shrimp very soon became zero.

Pellets were the next introduction to the residents of Barramundi Lodge. The fish with the limp dorsal fin was immediately switched on and keen for these tasty morsels. His buddy, however, totally ignored them! Mr. Limp sat almost motionless as the pump-induced current carried the pellets to him. He devoured every second or third pellet until the remainder were either on the surface or the bottom of the tank. The ones on the bottom were ignored but the floating pellets were unceremoniously boofed, one by one, until the supply was exhausted. Interestingly, the ‘barra boof’ was identical to that of his larger relatives, although not quite so dramatic or loud.

Lastly, I offered frozen prawns to the most spoilt fish on the planet. The quiet fellow with the erect dorsal was momentarily distracted by the sudden appearance of a cray. He cruised over and made a lunge at his quarry but the escape was good. Next on the agenda was a prawn. Perhaps stimulated by the cray, this fish greedily grabbed a prawn and had to wrestle his flatmate for it, like two dogs sparring over a bone. Mr. Erect won the battle and scoffed his first ever prawn. Mr. Limp sulked under a snag for a while, but eventually came out to join the party. I was surprised to see the other three prawns go untouched, thawing out on the bottom.

At this point one of my mates arrived to inspect the new arrivals. Upon witnessing the prawn fiasco he suggested tying a length of cotton to a prawn and seductively bouncing it up and down. Jackpot! Mr. Erection launched himself at the dancing prawn, swallowing it twice in a matter of seconds. While I nervously handlined my barra from above with two feet of fine cotton (good name for a horse), Mr. Erection had trouble removing the tucker from the line. After two attempts he gave up and no matter how I jiggled what was left of that prawn, or the next for that matter, he and Mr. Limp refused to eat.

Were they disillusioned? Was my standby tucker unacceptable? Would they only eat live food, other than pellets? I don’t know the answers but I’m working on it.


Unfavourable weather conditions kept most offshore boaties at home for much of February and the beginning of March. Those who ventured out generally stayed close to home just in case, and those who made the effort were well rewarded.

The run of mackerel has continued right along the Sunshine Coast. Not in massive numbers, mind you, but there have been enough fish about to keep most anglers happy who had a go. The Spanish mackerel are increasing in size, and as of early March the best I had seen was 12kg. This will increase to 20kg or so by the end of April.

School and spotted mackerel have been about in very good numbers and good sizes as well. Plenty of quality fish to 6kg have succumbed to trolled lures, cast slugs and cubed pillies drifted down a trail of the same.

Bottom bashers haven’t missed out either. Sunshine Reef has been firing exceptionally well and has delivered quality coral trout, snapper, big sweetlip, a few cobia and an assortment of reef dwellers to round off an impressive catch list. North Reef has fished well too, particularly for those chasing pelagics.

Northern bluefin tuna have been rather scarce but some top class fish have been boated along the coast. Along with the blues have been an occasional prized yellowfin, and plenty of mack tuna and a few bonito as well.


The Noosa River and most Sunshine Coast estuaries have fished very well for the last month or more. Dawn sessions have seen quality tailor and trevally coming aboard, with those anglers who’ve been casting soft plastics or trolling small minnows through the pack doing the best. Poppers have also been productive, and plenty of fun too! Slugs are worth a cast and they certainly assist with covering plenty of territory. Most basic casting gear can throw a slug 50m or so, while a quality rod of the correct length matched with a good threadline will see your slug landing 80-100m away. A quick retrieve is all you need to be in business.

Mangrove jacks have been elusive, but turning up regularly here and there. Unfortunately I’m here when they are there and vice versa, but I’m persevering! Some quality fish have been taken on diving minnows between the lakes, particularly gold Headmasters and Barra-Pros. Lower in the Noosa system the jacks have responded better to livebaits and soft plastics cast around structure and along the rock walls. Young Ryan Murnane from Davo’s Bait and Tackle landed a top class jack of 52cm (three kilos!) in early March casting an Eco Gear soft plastic.

Flathead and bream have been quite active, particularly around the Frying Pan and the river mouth. The stretch alongside Harbourtown is always worth a troll for flatties, and the shallows at the lower end of Goat Island are worth fishing for big whiting. Small live prawns are the gun bait, although mad keen local Eddy Sweres found another way to catch whiting recently. Eddy was as surprised as anybody to nail a good specimen on a popper! Not only that, the big fellow backed up with a flathead better than 60cm, also on a popper!

Speaking of poppers, the new Rio’s range are sensational in many ways. They look fabulous, they carry their colour and chrome exceptionally well and most importantly they catch fish! I saw a Rio the other day that had caught 60-odd fish up in the Whitsundays, and had been belted by countless others. This lure was battle scarred to say the least, but it held together beautifully and was ready to do it all again. For a spectacular range of Aussie designed and made poppers look no further than these!

1) A very happy angler and his 28kg cobia caught off Noosa on the Down Under II.

2) Rob Korst with 13kg of wahoo that took a liking to his trolled purple Outsider ‘C’-Lure.

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