An article about fishing for Barramundi.
"Barramundi." The fish's name sounds exotic, and it is, unless you live in Australia. Since the RiverGeezer has neither the funds nor the time to fly to Melbourne, Australia, I drove to Melbourne, Florida to do my exotic fishing.
Fishing guide, Capt. Randy Dumars and I have fished together on the Indian River near Sebastian Inlet, Florida. Randy asked me if I wanted to fish for something "different." When we agreed on a date, I asked Nightcrawler Patterson if he wanted to drive down to Florida with me and catch some real fish. Maybe some snook.
And herein lies the coincidence: our snook is a related species to the Australian barramundi. Randy mentioned that a friend of his, Byron Hennecy, had some private lakes stocked with barramundi. And Byron's lakes are the only place in the US to catch this exciting game fish. The clincher was when Randy said, "And his place is only a half-hour drive west to Holopaw.
Imagine 4 stocked lakes with 10 thousand fish that average 6-15 pounds, and you have an idea what the action was like. Byron harvests the fish for food and sells to high-end restaurants around the country. He also allows fishermen, for a fee of course, to catch his fish. But this is catch-and-release, only. And if you can conjure up a bass on steroids, you have a good idea of what hooking a barramundi is like.
When Randy, 'Crawler, and I approached the first lake, things looked pretty normal: quiet water disturbed only by the twin water aerators at the far end of the lake. I didn't see any surface activity, so I was surprised when Randy suggested I tie on a red-and-white popping bug to the leader of my fly line. And for the fly fishermen amongst us, I used no tippet, but tied directly to the 10-pound test leader. And a 40-pound test bite tip from the leader to the popper. The barramundi have sharp gill plates like snook. You can lip both species-if you can hold on-but you don't grab these fish by the gills.
I made 2 casts, stripping in the line and constantly moving the lure. Nothing. The third cast was up against some water plants growing along the edge. On the first pull of the line the surface exploded where my popper had been. I pulled back on my 9 wt. TFO rod and tugged down on the fly line in my left hand. Big mistake! The line ripped out of my fingers so fast that they actually burned. "Whoa...this ain't no 1 pound trout or 2 pound bass!" For a couple of minutes I listened to the zippp of the drag as line spun off my reel. When I finally stopped the fish's first run, it jumped. I knew it would be a while before this fish was worn out enough to unhook and release it.
And so the afternoon went. I fished less than 2 hours and caught 8 barramundi. And I was tired after the fishing. These fish fight hard and grow big. There are some over 20 pounds in the lakes, though my biggest was12. And 12 pounds was plenty for me on a fly rod.
Even 'Crawler caught them. And he met Dr. Marty Arogusti and fished with him. Marty, who holds 200 IGFA records (The first man to ever do so) is a low key guy and handed me a couple of his hand-tied poppers when the first few barramundi destroyed mine. Dr. Marty holds the world record for the largest fish caught on a fly rod: a 430 lb. lemon shark.
There's always been reasons why anglers go to Florida to fish, and now there's another one-barramundi fishing. And about a half-hour from Disneyworld in Orlando. So, next time the kids want to go to Disneyworld, say, "Sure, as long as I can visit Byron Hennecy's lakes to fish for barramundi."
If you're going:
*Dr. Martin Arostegui, in 2006, received international media attention for his largest fish ever caught on fly, a 385-pound lemon shark caught off Key West.