Barramundi

Barramundi

[bar-uh-muhn-dee]
Not to be confused with the Barramundi Cod or the Australian members of the genus Scleropages (which sometimes are referred to as Barramundis).

The Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) is a species of diadromous fish in family Latidae of order Perciformes. The native species ranges from northern and eastern Australia through the Torres Strait to New Guinea.

Origin of Name

Barramundi is a loanword from a Queensland Aboriginal language of the Rockhampton area meaning "large scales" or "large, scaly river" fish. Originally, the name barramundi referred to saratoga and Gulf saratoga. However, the name was appropriated for marketing reasons during the 1980s, a decision which has aided in raising the profile of this fish significantly. L. calcarifer is also known as the giant perch, giant seaperch, Asian seabass, Australian seabass, white seabass, and by a variety of names in other local languages, such as Siakap in Malay. It is nicknamed the silver jack.

Description

Barramundi are a salt and freshwater sportfish, hunted by all types of anglers. They have large silvery scales, which may become darker, depending on their environment. They reach up to 1.8 meters, though evidence of them being caught at this size is scarce.

They are mainly a summertime fish, but can be caught all year round, and may be found frolicking in disturbed waters. They are usually targeted with large hard-bodied lures or live bait fish. Although many fishermen are well known for catching and studying these fish, there is much to be discovered about these mysterious predators.

Lifecycle

The barramundi feeds on crustaceans, molluscs, and smaller fishes (including its own species); juveniles feed on zooplankton. This catadromous species inhabits rivers and descends to estuaries and tidal flats to spawn. At the start of the monsoon, males migrate downriver to meet females, who lay very large numbers of eggs (multiple millions each). The adults do not guard the eggs or the fry, which require brackish water to develop. The species is sequentially hermaphroditic, most individuals maturing as males and becoming female after at least one spawning season; most of the larger specimens are therefore female.

Fishing

Recreational

Highly prized by anglers for their good fighting ability, barramundi are reputed to be good at avoiding fixed nets and best caught on lines and with fishing lures. In Australia, the barramundi is used to stock freshwater reservoirs for recreational fishing.

Impoundment barramundi, as many anglers recognise them, are growing in popularity as a catch and release fish. Popular stocked barramundi impoundments include Lake Tinaroo, near Cairns in the Atherton Tablelands, Peter Faust Dam near the Whitsundays, Teemburra Dam near Mackay, Lake Awoonga near Gladstone and Lake Monduran around an hours drive south from Lake Awoonga.

Fishing techniques revolve mainly around casting and retrieving all types of lures including soft and hard body lures. Trolling is also a favoured and productive technique for impoundment barramundi.

Impoundment barramundi are also a popular target with surface lures as they are known to eat all types of foods from the surface of the water including frogs, injured baitfish and even baby swans and other birds.

The distinct 'thunk!' noise which barramundi make when surface feeding can easily be recognised and echo up to long distances at quiet times like still nights.

Many anglers travel to Queenslands barramundi impoundments to catch the elusive 'metrey', a barramundi measuring in excess of a metre and weighing anywhere from 10kg - 25kg, depending on the fat level of the fish.

When hooked on a lure, the barramundi will often clear itself from the water several times throughout the battle and make long powerful runs. This is what makes it such a popular target and it is believed that when you have caught one, it can become addictive!

The eating quality of impoundment barramundi is quite low, with a rating of around 1.5/5 stars.

The flesh has a 'muddy' taste due to the barramundi spending all of its life in silty, freshwater environments. Although, some people do have their own cooking recipes for removing or masking the muddy taste.

Barramundi caught in salt water however is excellent table fare.

Commercial

The fish is also of large commercial importance; it is fished internationally and raised in aquaculture in Australia, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands. Farmed in the UK by the Aquabella Group, a single facility produces up to 8 tons a year for distribution throughout the UK and Northern Europe.

Food

Barramundi have a white, flaky flesh on them, though the larger freshwater ones commonly carry a lot of body fat. Saltwater barra, however, have a general reputation as great eating material.

Consumers should be aware that Nile perch - a similar fish found in Lake Victoria, Africa - is often mislabeled as barramundi. However it does not fall under the recommendation for U.S. farmed barramundi. The species was originally assigned to genus Holocentrus, in the beryciform family Holocentridae.

External links

References

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