The Barramundi Habitat

Every billabong and lagoon in the Darwin barramundi fishing scene is different and there is so much habitat to explore in each and every one.

A sounder is essential for consistent success, as is the knowledge to use it properly. You need to think like a fish. It makes sense but few people think of where a Barramundi would like to be. They are ambush predators and use cover to their advantage to pounce out on prey. Yes, in some instances they do drift over the open bottom- but it’s for a reason- there is food there.

Use your instincts to determine when they would be in each place. Use a thermometer to find the best water- around 24-28 degrees is good. Crocodiles also like the warmer water on cold mornings, as do the insects.

I’ve found good numbers of Barra where the File Snakes have been most active. You’ll see their heads poking up like ugly tortoises from time to time – often in large numbers. They follow the baitfish and warmer water in the cold months, so keep an eye out for them.

Rock Bars

These are found in many Top End billabongs and finding them in the vast floodplains is not always easy. You’ll either need to stumble on them by accident (unlikely) or seek local advice. On cold mornings Barramundi will congregate on them.

Care and stealth are needed not to spook these fish, and you’ll often not see them on the sounder as they will be wedged among the rocks. You’ll usually get only a couple of passes before the remaining fish glide into the depths.

Weed beds 

Along the banks in the shallows are beds of pondweed and ribbon weed. You’ll need to troll so close that the lures are hitting it every few seconds. Fish sit right among it, and for most of the season, this is where we get the bulk of our fish. You want your lures within a foot of the weed edge, or you probably won’t get much at all.

Lotus beds

These vast patches of pink-flowered Lotus are home to many fish, but trolling them is very hard as you often cannot get close enough to the structure as there are fingers of lotus pads poking out into the water- and you’re likely to find that the water along the edge is over 12 feet deep. If you can troll them, give it a go but expect to lose fish to the stems. Better off casting at these.

Mud banks

Surprising producers of big fish, shallow mud bays are often only 5 feet deep or less. Barra congregates to feed on Cherabins and Redclaw Crayfish, as when they are hooked they cough them up. This is where I will often troll Swim Shads and noisy hard-bodied lures on the bottom. Lures are trolled in such a way that they smash and grab their way along the bottom to make a heap of disturbance. Strikes are hard, and this is where we often get big fish.

Deep ledges

In some lagoons, there are deep banks under overhanging Pandanus thickets. Suss them out on your sounder as fish often sit hard against the bank in such places. They’re worth a shot if the shallows are not producing.

Undercut grass banks

Grass and other plants often grow in such a way that they spread over the surface. They look like they’re on solid ground, but get to know what these areas look like and you can cut corners to bring lures under them. Big Saratoga and Barramundi dwell there.