A School of Barra

Johnny Mitchell’s Wild Adventures ‘Science and Research’ service includes catching wild broodstock fish for hatcheries.

A client required stock, permits were sorted and guidelines set on two specific sizes of barramundi.
10 trips totaling 16 hours water time (ramp to ramp) provided the 32 fish needed to finish the job.

60 to 70cm males and 100cm range females were targeted during the end of July and early August.
Barra behaviour was no different to expectation, the fish changing style with every environmental change, doing the common things like

depth adjustment and pose, changing from upward facing, horizontal, to downward facing depending on a few key variables.

Lure choice, and more importantly lure presentation was critical for obtaining results. Sometimes you have to fish just above them, in front, or other times just below them. In winter there’s merit in deadly accuracy, near on putting the lure in their mouth, and I mean that. Think about that statement for a minute!

The females were captured from the surface to 11m down while the males were caught in shallow fringe water using both hardbody and soft plastic tails.
Like typical barra fashion, even in hot bites they still ignored some lures because they didn’t stimulate the right response.
I took the project seriously, converting 95% of strikes into fish on deck and focused energy deliberately to maximise return on time spent.


One session on males landing six from seven, bombing the seventh because I tuned out into an autonomous mode for 10 seconds and lost the advantage as the lure was eaten on splashdown.
Being harsh on ourselves is important for self development, the lesson reinforced. It’s great to set a high standard and maintain it. We can all do it, if we desire.

Fish were kept on board with oxygen, never once did they touch carpet or a dry surface, something many anglers should strongly consider when engaging in C and R. Carpet is harsh and a fast slime remover, unsuitable for fish health.

Looking back, it was an enjoyable challenge to produce fish with an attached deadline.
Not only do these challenges allow us to fish at our peak, they allow hunting instincts to flourish while utilising all skillsets and learned knowledge.
One example was cast angle, having cast at a small school of adults for 10 mins without a touch it would be easy to think they’re not hungry, but by utilising a cast angle technique thoroughly explained in the masterclass seminar the next five casts produced three 95-100cm barra.

Without fine-lined knowledge none of those three would have been landed, the voice inside the head (instinct) saying “Make the adjustment!”

It’s the same technique responsible for many masterclass captures including a 120+cm fish landed recently.
Accepting that some very fine lines exist in fishing is the first step in learning where the outer edges are and making sure you’re fishing inside the boundaries because the rules are quite abrupt and can leave an angler frustrated asking “why?” That’s across the board on all species.

The captured stock are being used to further science, research and breeding programmes in Australia. I doubt very much the Aussie barra will become extinct with the host of barra impoundments and farms across the country.
The main challenge, (my opinion) to establish stronger fishery guidelines so true wild stocks of barra are not lost, overexploited or overpowered by escapee stocked fish which has proven to show (in regions) during the last decade.

Johnny Mitchell

Science and Research

Saltwater Barramundi Masterclass Seminar

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