Where To Catch Barramundi: Doc’s Barra Destination Bucket List

by | Apr 27, 2023 | 1 comment

East Kimberley Charters Brad Pasfield

By all accounts, Cambridge Gulf is a special place. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s high on the bucket list! Photo courtesy of Brad Pasfield, East Kimberly Charters

Having now run the ALF podcast for a few years, I’ve spoken to lots of gun anglers about fishing for barra in some pretty damn amazing places. One recent evening (for no good reason) I sat down over a cleansing ale and started making a list of barra fishing destinations I’d like to fish someday….. based on all of those ALF conversations.

That was the easy part. Then I tried to identify the 5 rivers/estuaries, lakes and coastal areas I’d really like to say I’d chased barra. That got challenging.

Northern Australia is vast. Bucket list barra fishing adventures are everywhere. You could be choppering in to a billabong, mother shipping a remote coastline or paddling a lake system. So how do you choose?

Some places on the uncut list I’ve already had the pleasure of fishing. Other’s I’ve only fished vicariously through my podcast guests. And there are plenty for which I haven’t done an ALF interview (yet). The Archer. The Roper. Princess Charlotte Bay to name just a few.

So I made some hard calls and crossed out a whole bunch of destinations that could (and should) easily have made the list. And they might still, if I allow myself to rewrite this article again. Tough choices.


15 Destinations I’d Like To Fish For Barra Before I Kick Off

1. Five Best Barra Rivers/Estuaries

Jackey jackey creek barramundi fishing

2. Five Best Barra Lakes

barramundi fishing- lake tinaroo

3. Five Best Coastal Barra Spots

Section 1: Top 5 Barramundi Fishing Rivers And Estuaries

Barramundi have a fondness for estuaries. They’re are a rich source of food such as mullet and prawns that hold a good number of resident fish all year round. Plus there’s the transitory fish that pass through as they move from freshwater to the coastal spawning grounds, and back. 

Rivers and estuaries are my favourite barramundi fishing spots, so choosing five was daunting when there are hundreds of great options. However, after much consideration, some locations simply had to be included on my bucket list. Some I’ve ticked off already, others are firmly in my sights…….Anyway, without further ado, here is my final list of top barramundi fishing rivers and estuaries.

Need help choosing barramundi lures?

The best advice I can give is to study ALF show notes for the areas you expect to fish and be guided by what my guests suggest. Once again, my tackle cheat sheet could help. Or you could take advantage of the ALF lure selection tool to help narrow down the field and create a shopping list!

Fitzroy River Barra Bash

Fitzroy River Barramundi Fishing

The Fitzroy River may be one of the most accessible places for southern anglers to tangle with barramundi, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a super-productive fishery. Here’s John Boon from the Fishing Central Queensland group with one of the locals.

The Fitzroy River (Tunuba) in Queensland is the largest river system on the eastern seaboard and boasts the largest catchment. This makes it a prime barramundi fishing location, with floodplains and deltas where these fish breed and mature. The system has been commercial net-free since 2015, resulting in a steady increase in the number and size of barramundi and other fish species.

The Fitzroy barra bash is a family friendly annual tournament and festival that highlights sustainable and ethical fishing. Worth checking out if you like the social aspect of fishing (plus the chance to win prizes). 

While there are many freshwater, estuarine, and marine barramundi fishing options in this area, the 45km of estuarine habitat downstream of the barrage at the city of Rockhampton is prime salty barra water. Port Alma on the southern side of the Fitzroy Delta, plus Casuarina Creek, Connors Creek, Deception Creek, and the Narrows are all top places to fish.

This large, turbid water system has numerous rock bars, mangrove forests, and man-made structures that hold barramundi at various times. The best tides are typically the making tides following a neap, as the water will be clear from recent low flows, but the increasing water movement will stir up the fish. Starting downstream and working upstream as the tide comes in is often a successful strategy.

Getting There: The city of Rockhampton is the perfect place to base yourself for a Fitzroy River fishing trip and is a seven-and-a-half-hour drive or a 75min flight from Brisbane. There’s ample accommodation ranging from campgrounds to hotels and resorts. For those bringing their own boat there a plenty of decent ramps in the Rockhampton area

Best Times: Except for the closed season (usually 1 November to 31 January, but please check) Fitzroy River barra fishing is a year-round pursuit. That said, the cooler months are slower. March, April and May can fish exceptionally well but are dependent on the wet season rainfall. September and October are prime “Big Fish” months.

More Fishing Information: Check out John Haenke’s podcast interview for a detailed explanation of how to fish the Fitzroy for barramundi, including lures, tackle and techniques. Sam Gibson also shared tips for fishing the Rockhampton area for wild barramundi



Mary River Barra Mayhem

Craig Latimore Mary River Barramundi Fishing

The Mary River System is one of our most iconic barramundi destinations and seasoned angler Craig Latimore has a reputation for knowing how to find the bigger fish…..

Barramundi fishing enthusiasts often speak in hushed tones when the subject of the Northern Territory’s Mary River comes up. Barramundi weighing over 25kg and measuring more than a metre are reasonably common, although the fishing changes dramatically with the seasons. Tommycut Creek, a tributary of the Mary is another great barra fishing spot where the same techniques and tackle can be used.

Two boat ramps are available on the Mary River, one upstream and the other downstream of the Shady Camp Barrage wall. However, our focus will be on the downstream ramp. During the runoff season, most of the action happens near the river’s mouth, about an hour away from the ramp. With freshwater pouring in from the Mary River wetlands, barra gather at the feeder creek mouths, waiting for prey to be carried down. Fishing is impossible at low tide due to shallow waters at most of these creek mouths. Therefore, fishing halfway through the run-in tide and casting around the colour change where freshwater meets salt is advisable.

During the buildup season, fish are scattered throughout the river system, and trolling for barramundi is a popular method. As fish frequently move with the tides, trolling and using electronics to locate them is effective. Once found, anglers can continue to troll or can switch to casting lures.

Fishing regulations apply to the Mary River, including a fish management zone with possession limits and gear restrictions when fishing near the Shady Camp Barrage wall. Ensure that all applicable regulations are adhered to.

Getting There: Apart from being a famous barra fishing spot in its own right, Shady Camp is a great stepping off point for those wanting to hit the lower Mary River system. It’s a couple of hours drive from Darwin during the dry season but expect the trip to take longer in the wet, when it is definitely a four-wheel drive only route.

Best Times: Barramundi fishing is slowest during the dry season, which runs from May to September each year. A lot of anglers overlook the buildup (October to December), but there can be amazing barra fishing during that period. The wet season can fish well, but access can be tricky due to heavy rain – plus angler comfort suffers due to heat, humidity and biting insects. By far the most popular and productive period is the runoff (March-April), but expect to be sharing the water with a lot of other boats over that period.

More Fishing Information: Check out Craig Latimore’s tips for trolling up massive Mary River barra.   Alex Julius’ Arnhemland runoff barra interview is also relevant to anglers headed for the Mary system. Tristan Sloans Chambers Bay  interview will be of interest to those heading out of the mouth of the Mary to fish the adjacent coastal creeks.

Norman River (Qld) Giant Barramundi

The Norman River is a well-regarded barramundi fishing spot, particularly for big fish. However, commercial netting has made it necessary to travel long distances for quality catches. To maximize your chances of success, focus on shallow water areas with strong running tides, particularly drains cutting through flats. Fish the runout tide but be sure to leave before the water becomes too shallow. Mangrove edges can also be productive during high tide.

For deeper channels, slower tides are better. Use your sounder to locate fish, particularly around rock bars, submerged snags, and current breaks. While trolling is a popular approach, casting to snags can yield good results if your skills are up to par. Fishing is best at the river mouth early in the season (Feb-May), with better catches found further upstream during the buildup. Make sure you bring a good selection of hard bodied lures and soft vibes to maximize your chances of success when fishing for barramundi in the Norman River.

Getting There: If you’re planning on barra fishing the Norman from your own boat then you’ll find it’s a very long way from anywhere! The most direct driving route from Brisbane is about 2100km and 24 hours of driving time. It’s not a bad option to fly to Cairns and then jump on a regional flight to Normanton. You won’t have your own boat, but there are some good guides in the area who can get you on the water.

Best Times: As with most estuary barra destinations, the runoff months (Mar-May) and the buildup (Sept-Oct) are the prime fishing times. Watch the start of the closed season if you’re fishing the buildup as it differs on the western side of Cape York compared to other parts of Queensland.

More Fishing Information: Gavin “Groover” New is one of Australia’s most experienced barra guides and operates out of Karumba, at the mouth of the Norman River. Check out Groovers Norman River barramundi interview.

Daly River (NT) Barra Lunacy

Daly River barramundi with Anthony Page

The Daly River is a famous barra fishery – little wonder it hosts two of perhaps the more iconic barra fishing tournaments, the Barra Nationals and the Barra Classic. Photo courtesy of Team Doc Lures member Anthony Page (pictured)

The Daly river is a must-visit spot for any barramundi fishing enthusiast. As a trophy barra fishery, this iconic waterway hosts two of the country’s most prestigious fishing tournaments, namely The Barra Classic and The Barra Nationals.

Like most northern barramundi fisheries, the fish are heavily influenced by seasons and tides. During the neapish tides, fishing along the edges of the Daly system, particularly around small creek mouths on the runout tide, can yield excellent results. Finding a snag in the mouth of these creeks can increase your chances of success even further.

On the larger tides, the barramundi become pelagic and can run with the incoming or outgoing water walls. At these times, trolling hard-bodied lures with the current can be surprisingly effective. Boat speeds of up to 15-18 knots are effective, with lures running beneath the thick foam that flows up or down the middle of the river.

The best time of year to catch big fish in the Daly system is at the end of the wet season through the end of the runoff. During this period, the majority of the big fish congregate at the mouth of the system. From there they’ll ride the first big spring tide after the wet season all the way back upstream, redistributing throughout the river.

Getting There: The public boat ramp at the end of Wooliana Road is about a 4 hour drive from Darwin, largely on sealed roads.

Best Times: The runoff months (Mar-May) are what the Daly River is famous for, but the buildup (Sept-Oct) is almost as good. Fish can be caught right through the year but June-August can be tough with the cooler water. The wet season can fish better but is very uncomfortable and there’s always the chance of a trip being cut short by a cyclone.

More Fishing Information: Glen “Watty” Watts is a Daly River barra fishing guide who provided tons of great tips in ALF podcast episode 496, as did local barra enthusiast Charlotte Klose back in Episode 165

Jackey Jackey Creek Barra (A Hidden Gem)

Jackey Jackey may not be the best known barramundi fishing spot, but plenty of enthusiasts are aware of its reputation! If you’re an ALF Podcast listener, you’ll remember that “Barra Dave” Donald included Jackey Jackey Creek in his top five dry season barra fishing destinations on the Cape during Episode 501. Jackey Jackey Creek boasts 72 waterways teeming with barramundi and other species. Unlike more “traditional” barra estuaries, it receives limited freshwater flow and has greater tidal influence, resulting in a diverse range of bycatch. A proven strategy for fishing in this area is to target mud drains on the runout tide and switch to snag bashing at other times, especially in the numerous creeks, rivers, and inlets that are found here.

Getting There: The trek to Cape York is a popular route for 4WD enthusiasts, but do some research before towing a boat up that way. The nearest town is Bamaga, which is reasonably accessible these days without too much hard-core four-wheel driving, but rough, corrugated and unpredictable roads can take their toll on vehicles and especially boat trailers. Boat hire is available at Bamaga, so you might consider driving or flying and then hiring a boat. Alternatively, it’s possible to put your vehicle and boat on the barge from Cairns, then fly up to meet it.

Best Times: The Cape is most accessible during the dry season, and the nature of Jackey Jackey Creek means it doesn’t have extensive floodplains to create feeder creeks and runoff mayhem. That said, barramundi bite best here between the wet early season and start of the dry season, when temperatures stimulate the fish to be more active.

Other Top Barra Fishing Rivers And Estuaries

Wet Tropics Rivers (Far North Queensland) are often overlooked by anglers booking their dream barramundi fishing trip, but there are plenty of opportunities on offer. Karim De Ridder, Damon Gruzdev (episode 274), Kim Anderson and Will Pritchard have all provided tons of advice on fishing the rivers and estuaries in this area.

Mackay. The central Queensland area has a lot to offer estuary barramundi fishers, with the Pioneer River and Murray Creek both top locations to flick lures. Mick Hassett , Wally Wilton (episode 226) and Paul Dolan have shared a ton of tips for fishing these areas.

Upper Burekin River. Nathan Kellets interview on this system opened my eyes to the massive opportunity for trophy fish!

Ord River. Western Australia’s Kimberly region is a dream barra fishing destination and Dick Pasfield’s Ord River Runoff Barramundi episode is gold for anyone heading for those parts.

Weipa. The Mission River and others in the Weipa area are not renowned for holding the largest barramundi, but the fish are there in good numbers and very respectable sizes. Dave Donald’s rundown on Weipa barra fishing is an excellent resource, as was Ben “Notso” Bright’s interview (Episode 413).

Section 2: Top 5 Barramundi Fishing Lakes And Dams

Freshwater dams, impoundments, natural lakes, and billabongs are some of the best barra fishing spots, especially if trophy fish are your target. Most manmade dams and impoundments don’t have connectivity to the estuary but are stocked for recreational fishing purposes. In natural lakes, lagoons, and billabongs, juvenile barramundi recruitment occurs during the late wet season when the tiny fish can navigate upstream.

Once again, it was a fairly tall order to limit discussions to just five top lakes or dams. There are numerous other systems ranging from large and 

Need help choosing barramundi lures?

The best advice I can give is to study ALF show notes for the areas you expect to fish and be guided by what my guests suggest. Once again, my tackle cheat sheet could help. Or you could take advantage of the ALF lure selection tool to help narrow down the field and create a shopping list!

Lakes Monduran And Awoonga: Barra Heaven

Monduran and awoonga barramundi fishing

Lakes Monduran and Awoonga are two of the premier barra impoundments. Jase Wilhelm is a giant in the impoundment barramundi scene and has put together an incredible resource for anyone wanting to grow their barra fishing skills on any freshwater lake, billabong or impoundment. Check out Jase’s Impoundment Barra Mastery.

To meet my goal of sharing five barramundi impoundments with good geographical spread, I’ll lump Lake Monduran and Lake Awoonga together. To be honest, they each deserve their own discussion but are close to each other and share some similarities. Both Lake Awoonga and Lake Monduran offer year-round barramundi fishing, although the prime time for catching these fish is during the warmer months. Remember to purchase a stocked impoundment permit before hitting the water though.

Lake Awoonga is situated just outside of Gladstone and boasts a healthy population of barramundi, with fish in excess of 120cm being regularly caught. The dam is stocked annually, ensuring a good supply of juvenile fish growing into larger specimens. A feature of Lake Awoonga is its submerged timber, which provides excellent structure for barramundi to hide and ambush their prey. These timbered areas can be fished successfully using shallow diving lures and soft plastics. The dam is also home to several species of catfish, which can provide great sport and a welcome bycatch.

Lake Monduran, located near Gin Gin, is also known for its trophy-sized barramundi; Fish in excess of 130cm are possible. Lake Monduran is less timbered than Awoonga, with structure such as rocky points, weed beds, and drop-offs providing cover for barramundi. Surface lures and deep diving hardbodies are popular choices for targeting these fish.

Getting There: Getting to both of these lakes is fairly easy. If you’re coming from Brisbane then the road is sealed for the entire way and it’s about 4 1/2 hours drive to Lake Monduran and roughly 6 hours to Lake Awoonga. If you’re coming from further afield there are regional flights to Bundaberg and to Gladstone respectively and plenty of guides to take you out on the water.

Best Times: These lakes fish well all year round.  However, where you find the fish and how you go about catching them differs tremendously from season to season and even from day-to-day. A number of ALF podcast guests have given plenty of tips for catching barramundi at lakes Monduran and Awoonga, so definitely check out podcast interviews with Jason Wilhelm, Rusty Townsend, Roderick Walmsley, Will McNee, Dean Silvester and Justin Nye.

Corroboree Billabong: Chrome And Crocs

The Northern Territory’s Corroboree Billabong is renowned for having the highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles of any place in the world. Of course, barramundi are a favourite food item for crocs, and it’s the presence of large numbers and large sizes of barra that attracts the crocs in the first place. Not to mention sportfishers. 

The quality of your fishing experience at Corroboree Billabong is largely influenced by the amount of rainfall received during the preceding wet season. Bigger fish tend to be more plentiful following a big wet season. But even after a relatively dry wet season there are enough big barra in Corroboree to keep you interested, plus plenty of saratoga, tarpon, and smaller barra.  

Getting There: Corroboree Billabong is an easy 90 minute drive from Darwin, and unlike many other NT barramundi fishing destinations, the roads are largely sealed and devoid of corrugations and potholes. If you’re doing a guided session it’s usually possible to arrange for your guide to collect your party from Darwin.

Best Times: Corroboree Billabong fishes well for barra all year round, though many locals focus on the estuaries during the buildup and runoff periods, then take advantage of the billabong during the dry season when the estuaries are quieter.

Kinchant Dam: Barra And Salad

Luke Galea Kinchant Barramundi

ALF Podcast guest Luke Galea shows off a typical Kinchant Dam barra. With the right knowledge and tackle this dam can produce quality barra year-round.  Check out Hooked On Mackay for lots of great info on fishing not only Kinchant, but other local waterways too.

Kinchant Dam, located inland of Mackay in central Queensland, is a small but popular trophy barramundi fishing dam. A bonus for anglers is the fish-attracting structures installed into the lake by Mackay Regional Council. The GPS marks for these are available on the council’s “Hooked on Mackay” webpage and a great place to start looking for barra.

There’s also plenty of natural habitat. Extensive weedbeds in the shallow waters of Kinchant Dam provide shelter and food for barramundi, and anglers need to know how to work their lures through the salad to land a catch. David Brace’s Kinchant Dam barra interview provides excellent tips for this.

As a popular destination for water skiers, the weekends can see a lot of activity on Kinchant, making weekdays a better option for serious barra fishing. Alternatively, fishing after dark can be very effective and enjoyable, especially when daytime temperatures are high. But Kinchant Dam isn’t just about barramundi – it’s also stocked with sooty grunter, providing an extra incentive for anglers to visit.

Getting There: Kinchant Dam is around 44 km (an easy 40min drive) to the west of Mackay. Take the Peak Downs Highway for west for 25min, turn left on to Marian-Eton Road and then onto Kinchant Dam Road. For those coming from further afield, Mackay is a 12-hour drive from Brisbane, or a 100-minute flight from the Queensland capital.

Best Times: Many anglers prefer the warmer months from late spring through to early autumn, but Kinchant Dam barramundi fishing is a year-round pursuit. The winter months see less boating traffic but require a slightly different approach, as Luke Galea’s ALF interview explains.

Lake Tinaroo: Tablelands Trophy Barra

lake Tinaroo barramundi with tropic barra adventures

Lake Tinaroo, on the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, holds multiple records for big barra. Here a couple of happy customers of Tropic Barra Adventures show off some memorable catches.

Lake Tinaroo, perched on the Atherton Tablelands, is a world-renowned fishing spot for large barramundi, with multiple world record catches made over the years.

As a sizable dam, it’s important to scout out the best fishing spots before casting your line, as barra guide Brodie Quaas explains in Episode 577. Seek areas with wind currents, mudlines, weed beds, or submerged timber that attract baitfish or redclaw. Use side-imaging sonar or try trolling to maximize your chances of finding prime locations.

Local guide Dylan Brier-Mills (Episode 135) recommends a stealthy approach, positioning yourself where the fish are likely to pass through and presenting your lures quietly as they come into range.

Be aware that Lake Tinaroo can get quite busy during peak seasons, particularly on weekends and holidays when water skiers can create chaos. It’s worth scouting out quieter areas away from the crowds to increase your chances of success.

Getting There: Most people who travel to Tinaroo for the barra fishing are either locals or are visitors who fly into Cairns and then hire a car or a guide and head for the lake. The roads are sealed the whole way, ramps are good and there is ample accommodation ranging from basic campgrounds to luxury B&B’s. There’s no shortage of restaurants and hotels in places like Yungaburra or Atherton, either.

Best Times for fishing Lake Tinaroo: Most locals will tell you that Tinaroo barramundi fishing is a September to November affair, but experienced barra anglers know that fish can be caught year-round if the angler knows how to change things up. Avoiding the crowds is the major hassle and can dictate fishing at night or on the crack of dawn before the ski boats start their day.

Lake Kununurra

Lake Proserpine Peter Faust Dam Barramundi Curtis Parker

Lake Kununurra is a unique barramundi fishing spot, a hybrid between a river and a lake! The barra love thrive in this system and offer anglers some remarkable experiences. Photo of Curt McCartney courtesy of ALF Podcast guest Dick Pasfield.

Venturing to the west, we arrive in the East Kimberly, where Lake Kununurra was created by damming the Ord River system to irrigate the Ord Basin. This is a unique and unusual system that’s kind of a hybrid between a river and a lake. Over a million barramundi have been stocked and have benefited from consistent water levels, lush vegetation, and connected wetlands.

In a recent ALF Podcast (Episode 251), angler and guest Dick Pasfield revealed that fishing for barramundi in Lake Kununurra is a unique experience that combines elements of both river and lake fishing. The lake boasts extensive fringing weedbeds, as well as both laydown and standup timber, with schools of barramundi often found congregating over gravelly areas. Trolling is an effective way to locate barramundi schools and then entice them with cast lures, but it’s crucial to approach quietly and maintain a stealthy presence.

Getting There: The major airlines offer daily flights to Kununurra, where there is a range of accommodation ranging from sparse to luxurious. Boat hire is available in town, enabling the fly-drivers to get on the water. For the road trippers, it’s a 10.5hr drive from Broome or an 8hr drive from Darwin.

Best Times: Barramundi fishing in Lake Kununurra peaks early and late in the wet season, but those who persevere will catch plenty of quality barra right through the year.

Other Top Barra Fishing Lakes

Lake Proserpine Peter Faust Dam Barramundi Curtis Parker

Unfortunately, Peter Faust Dam (Lake Proserpine) didn’t make the cut, one of many. I’ve fished it, but not with these sorts of results, sadly. Photo courtesy of ALF Podcast guest Curtis Parker.

Peter Faust Dam A phenomenal big fish dam, it was difficult call for it not to make the “top five” cut! Check out the interview on Barra Fishing Faust Dam with the Wells boys or Curtis Parker’s barra episode for more info.

Fairbairn Dam. This central Queensland inland lake system is a known big-fish haunt that flies under the radar of all but the most astute anglers. Matt Hildebrandt shares tips for this system in Episode 132.

Teemburra Dam. Close to Mackay in central Queensland and only a stones throw away from Kinchant Dam is Teemburra. Check out Brendan Pollards tips for barra fishing in Teemburra.

Callide Dam. Another central Queensland system with a reputation for large fish. Nigel Kruger gave his tips for Lake Callide Barra Fishing in Episode 308.

Cape York Waterholes. These are river systems during the wet season but are inaccessible until the dry, when they become a series of waterholes. Nigel Webster’s Cape York Waterholes barra episode has the info you need!

Lenthall’s Dam. The southernmost of the recognized Queensland barra fisheries, this is a small system that holds excellent numbers of barramundi. Check out Luke Opelt’s Lake Lenthall barra fishing tips here.

Koombooloomba Dam. Near Tully in Far North Queensland is this hidden gem of a lake that gets a lot less traffic and attention than the other dams mentioned here. Riley Ward’s Koobooloomba Dam barramundi fishing episode is a great place to start your research.

Section 3: Five Best Coastal Barra Fishing Destinations

Coastal fishing for barramundi rocks! It’s often overlooked by those focussed on big chrome estuary salties or shadowy impoundment fish. But barramundi can consistently be caught on flats, beaches, headlands, and in coastal mangrove fringes, bays and inlets.

Choosing a “Top 5” costal barra spots was no easy task, but after chatting with multiple podcast guests, I’ve narrowed it down to these options.

Need help choosing barramundi lures?

The best advice I can give is to study ALF show notes for the areas you expect to fish and be guided by what my guests suggest. Once again, my tackle cheat sheet could help. Or you could take advantage of the ALF lure selection tool to help narrow down the field and create a shopping list!

Darwin Barramundi Fishing: Harbour Of Million Dollar Fish

Darwin Harbour Barramundi

A beautiful Darwin Harbour barramundi taken by Steve Sarev. Photo courtesy of Alex Julius at NAFA Magazine.

Come to Australia’s northernmost capital city for some amazing barramundi fishing during the buildup to the wet season! While it may not be known for monster fish, Darwin Harbour’s five arms have good stocks of decent-sized barra that make it worth the trip.

When fishing Darwin Harbour, anglers need to be prepared for a massive tidal range that can reach up to eight meters. But don’t worry, top-end barra icon Alex Julius emphasized during his ALF podcast interview that barra can be caught on any tide! He prefers tides of 1 to 1.8m and positions himself around the mouths of the many snake drains a few hours before low tide. The start of the run-in can also be productive in these areas, with a lull at the bottom of the tide.

To catch these barramundi, use small hard bodies, weedless soft plastics, or soft prawns. Apply a little bit of S-Factor or Berkley attractant to your lures, and you’ll have the “secret sauce” to Alex’s success!

Getting There

There are plenty of direct flights to Darwin from every Australian capital city and also from Cairns and Townsville. Once there you can hire a boat, or better, hire a guide and get out on the water and into the fishing! There’s no shortage of tackle shops and of course there are connecting and private charter flights to plenty of barra destinations across the top end.

Best Times

If you’re in Darwin for reasons other than fishing, then take advantage of being there as any time is a good time to target the barramundi! However, if you’re planning a trip to Darwin with barramundi fishing in mind, then the “buildup” (October to December) is when the weather warms, humidity builds and barra become more active and aggressive. January through March or April is the wet season and while the fish will be active it can be very uncomfortable on the water, plus there’s always the risk you’ll get sidelined by a cyclone. The period from April to June are second only to the buildup, with the fishing getting progressively slower as the weather cools.

Cairns Barramundi Fishing: Beaches And Headlands

From the jungle-clad rivers of World Heritage-listed rainforest to mangrove-lined estuaries and rocky shores and headlands, the Wet Tropics Region has it all. And for the travelling angler, Cairns barramundi fishing starts about 15 minutes from the airport…..

Trinity Inlet is a massive coastal wetland and part of the “Net Free Zone” that’s a haven for barra and other species and right on Cairn’s doorstep. It’s a tidal system that doesn’t have a lot of freshwater inflow, so the water stays cleaner than a lot of local estuaries during a big wet, giving plenty of opportunity to chase the healthy population of barra.

But the coastal barra fishing in Cairns isn’t limited to Trinity Inlet, there are numerous opportunities along the mangrove fringed shorelines. For the landbased anglers there’s also some pretty good headland fishing, especially during the wetter months. And of course there’s the beaches…….. this style of fishing epitomises land based Cairns barra fishing! Since the implementation of the net free zone many of the beaches in this area have become amazingly productive places to cast soft plastic lures for barramundi.

Getting There

There are plenty of direct flights to Cairns from most Australian capitals and some regional centres. Hire boats, vehicles and of course sportfishing guides are all available in town.

Best Times

The east coast barra season usually runs from February through to October (but do check). The best barra fishing around Cairns is definitely early and late in the season – especially February and March when wet season rainfall still has an influence. Tides play a big part, so listen in to the conversation with Karim De Ridder about barra fishing the Wet Tropics region for more info.

Hinchinbrook Fishing: Barramundi Paradise

Hinchinbrook Channel Barramundi Fishing with Jimmy Falkenberg

Hinchinbrook Channel is a massive mangrove wetland that holds some stunning barra like this one caught by ALF Podcast guest Jimmy Falkenberg!

The area between Hinchinbrook Island and the mainland is a legendary wild barramundi fishing destination…. But be warned that at 45km long Hinchinbrook Channel is a large and expansive stretch of water with numerous fishing options. It would take a lifetime of fishing to really get this area sorted out – and a few people have accepted that challenge! If you’d like a head start then it’s worth checking out Jimmy Falkeberg’s tips for Hinchinbrook barramundi fishing in ALF Podcast episode 223.

The vast majority of this area is only accessible to boating anglers, with ramps at Cardwell at the northern end of the channel and at Lucinda in the south. There are couple of rough “bush ramps” in between that can give small boats access to the channel and its incoming creeks.

On bigger tides it can be productive to flick lures around the mouths of mud drains on the runout tide, which carries baitfish and prawns off the flats to waiting barra. Smaller tides bring cleaner water and are good for fishing the creeks and inlets. Despite only 3m of tidal range, this is an area of strong currents, and frequently strong winds. The key is to find places where pressure points and mudlines attract feeding barra. Don’t neglect rocky shorelines, either!

Getting There: Hinchinbrook Channel is popular with both Cairns and Townsville Locals, being approximately a 2hr drive on sealed major roads from both north and south, respectively. It’s popular with those on extended road trips, too. Fly-drivers can pick up multiple daily flights from Brisbane and other capital cities to Cairns or Townsville and hire a car. There are plenty of guides operating through this area, so plenty of options to choose from. 

Best Times : Like many barra fishing destinations, Hinchinbrook Channel can produce quality fish all year round, although the period from September to May (excluding the closed season) is often considered the most productive. If you’re targeting barra, jacks and other species at other times of the year, it’s worth catching up Jimmy Falkenberg’s five best winter fishing spots around Hinchinbrook. And Kim Anderson’s episode is worth checking out too – it covers some creeks and rivers on the mainland side of Hinchinbrook Channel

Cambridge Gulf Barramundi Fishing

Cambridge Gulf Barramundi Fishing

The remote, rugged beauty of Cambridge Gulf is only surpassed by the rugged beauty of the barra it produces! 

Western Australians seem to keep very quiet about the amazing barramundi fishing they have on their doorstep, but Dick Pasfield spilled the beans on Cambridge Gulf barra fishing back in Episode 268. In fact, it was that very conversation with Dick that captured my imagination and cemented Cambridge gulf on my barramundi bucket list. This is certainly a very wild area with 6-7m tides and treacherous waters with shoals and whirlpools to navigate before you get to where the action is. Get past these and into the creeks north of the Ord River and you’ll be met with some pretty extraordinary barra fishing habitat.

If you hit the gulf on a spring tide you’ll be wanting to focus your efforts around either the mouths of creeks or on rockbars on the last half of the runout tide. If you’re there on a neap tide you’ll still get 3-4m of water movement but will experience cleaner water and can focus on the snags that have 3-6m deep water in front of them.

Getting There: The major airlines offer daily flights to Kununurra from Perth and from there it’s a one hour drive to the port of Wyndham, the launching point for your boat ride to fishing paradise. Unless you’re into long distance road trips with a boat in tow, it’s probably best to find a local guide to get you onto the water and onto some barra.

Best Times : Warm water definitely tends to activate and motivate barramundi, so the months from October to April are when you’ll find them to be most obliging. Much of that period coincides with the north Australian wet season, and like anywhere in the north monsoonal rain and cyclones are are a possibility. The fishing tends to slow in the cooler months from May to September, but persistence and smaller lures should still connect you with some very respectable barra.

Chambers Bay (NT) Carnage

Chambers bay (NT Barramundi fishing in the runoff

Fishing the tidal creeks along the coastline to the left and right of the Mary River mouth during the runoff is definitely a must-do. ALF Podcast guest Tristan Sloan explained how to go about during his interview in Episode 581

Motor down the Mary River (NT) until you reach the coastline, and you’re in barramundi Nirvana. Once you’ve navigated out of the river mouth you’re in Van Diemen Gulf. From there you can turn left and head into Chambers Bay or you can go right and head into Finke Bay. Whichever direction you opt for, if you’re there in the runoff months (March to May-ish) there is some serious barra fishing on offer.

The key to fishing this coastline is to find the coastal creeks that fill up on the massive incoming tides. When the tide turns and starts to run out the freshwater that’s been held up comes with it, resulting in massive flow. Barra sit on the flats outside of these creeks, away from the main channel where the flow is strongest. The mullet, prawns and other bait carried down by the huge flows are easy pickings, which is why big barra gather there in numbers.

Anchoring up on the flats adjacent to the main channel and working big soft plastics, noisy, rattling hard bodies or topwater lures is the order of the day. It’s all about the tides though…. these flats are high and dry at low tide and the water drains off them fast. It’s important to be at your spot before the top of the tide and to watch the water depth whilst you’re fishing. It’s easy to be so excited about the fishing that you get stuck and have to wait it out until the next tide.

Getting There: The kickoff point for a Chambers Bay barramundi trip is the boat ramp at Shady Camp on the Mary River, approximately two hours drive from Darwin. It’s about a 45 minute run by boat to the mouth of the Mary River (Sampan Creek) and then it depends on which creek you plan to fish as to the travel distances. For those travelling from interstate there are daily flights to Darwin from most capital cities and some regional centres. You’ll need to book well ahead though – most barramundi guides are booked out 12-18 months in advance of the NT runoff!

Best Times: This definitely a runoff fishing adventure. Depending on the year, wet seasons can vary a little but generally late March through to mid-May are the prime months, with the season extending into June in a very wet year.

More Info: Check out the interview I conducted with Tristan Sloan about Chambers Bay Runoff Barra Fishing

Mackay Headlands Havoc

Barramundi fishing on the Mackay Headlands with Jono Clark

The rocky headlands around Mackay were a last-minute addition to my barra destinations bucket list, inspired by a great chat with Jono Clark in Episode 591

Yep. I’m aware that including this location has broken my goal of limiting discussion to five coastal barra destinations. But I’d mostly written this article by the time I interviewed Jono Clark in Episode 591. It was such a cool and inspiring interview that I had to add Mackay Headlands barramundi to my destinations bucket list, but couldn’t bring myself to bump another location off the list. So here it is…..

There are plenty of rocky headlands to both the north and south of Mackay, and it turns out that most of them hold some very decent barramundi. They’re not easy, evidently. Big fish in shallow, snaggy water rarely are. But if you can get a boat close enough to throw some lures tight to structure on a high tide you stand a very good chance of tangling with a monster or two. Even for the land-based angler there can be good access to some headlands. Look for the mudlines and flotsam that indicate a fish holding eddy.

Getting There: This location is ample evidence that a monster barramundi trip doesn’t always have to mean jetting to distant and remote locations. It’s a 100 minute flight from Brisbane to Mackay. The airport is actually at Proserpine, so organise a hire car in advance, hire a boat or hit up a local guide and spent more time fishing, less time travelling!

Best Times: There are usually a few barra lurking around headlands, but there is definitely a spike in activity towards the end of the wet season, typically March to May. Jono favours night fishing in the leadup to new and full moons, but unless your familiar with the area it would be best to stick with daytime fishing at first. 

Other Top Coastal Barra Fishing Spots

Great Sandy Strait Easily accessible from Brisbane, the stretch of water between Fraser Island and the mainland holds good numbers of quality fish! Check out my interview with Ryan Holdsworth on for more info.

Blue Mud Bay The rugged, remote Northern Territory coastline has numerous barramundi fishing spots, but back in Episode 430 my chat with Bomber Farrell about Blue Mud Bay barramundi really stirred the imagination.

Townsville Beaches Vinnie Versfeld’s tips for light tackle flicking along Townsville’s beaches highlighted just how accessible barramundi fishing can be to anyone, even those who don’t own a boat. Check it out in Episode 405.

Bowling Green Bay Another coastal barra opportunity close to Townsville, Episode 205 with guide John Campbell is one of my favourites for the quality of tips that were shared. Find out more about Bowling Green Bay barramundi.

Barra Bucket List Final Wrap-up

I have to be honest, it was much harder to write this article than I expected. Clearly I’m an addict because there isn’t a place that’s been covered in the ALF podcast interview list that I wouldn’t like to go fish for barra.

And those past barra episodes barely scratch the surface….. There are numerous prominent and lesser-known barramundi fishing haunts that we haven’t even touched on the podcast (yet). I wouldn’t be surprised if some end up displacing some of the above in a future review of this article. 

But that’s the great thing, isn’t it? We’re so spoilt for choice in Australia that we have to make a call between “great” spots and “exceptional” ones. And even as we tick a bucket list destination off the bottom of our list we’ll add two more to the top!

 Time to get out and get exploring.


Your Turn. What Barra Destinations Have I Missed?

1 Comment

  1. Lee Fitzpatrick

    1) I have fished the Hinchinbrook Channel regularly for the last 20 or so years. For me at least, it has deteriorated as a barra fishing spot over that time to the point where I now look elsewhere. What’s the problem – bull sharks, maybe?

    2) The McArthur R (King Ash Bay) area in the NT is now our ‘go to’ barra spot! Has yet to disappoint!

    3) Jackey Jackey? Fished with a name guide a few years ago. Promised much but didn’t deliver.

    4) Norman River? Two trips to the Karumba region have been disappointing. Lots of under size barra but few legals.

    5) The Cambridge Gulf is top of my barra bucket list. 2025, hopefully!

    6) Planned to do the Fitzroy but things got messed up – maybe next year.

    7) We were to fish the Albert and the Leichhardt from Burketown in early April, but it got flooded out. Better luck next time!


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