While we were in Kununurra, we had the pleasure of being invited out on a fishing trip with a local couple – Crystal and Jarrod. The destination was Keep River, which is about 70km north of Kununurra, across the border into the Northern Territory. The trip didn’t take long at all, even after a quick visit to the Hoochery, and we had our camp set up by around lunchtime.
Keep River is a muddy, tidal river inhabited by saltwater crocs. During the dry when the river is low and the muddy banks are baked in the sun, you can see massive croc tracks in the dry mud. That’s why you need to be super careful when fishing next to the river. You don’t want to stand in the water while fishing, avoid repetitive activities near the water and don’t camp or clean your fish next to the river. There are a few species of fish that live in the Keep River, and the most wanted of all is barra!
Barramundi is massive. When you go fishing for barra, legally, your catch needs to be between 55cm and 80cm. It has a maximum size because most barramundi over 100 cm are sexually mature females and we need them to make more barra. There are two kinds of barra – the kind that swim in salt water and the kind that swim in fresh water. Saltwater barra are silver with yellow fins and taste delicious while the freshies are more muddy and don’t taste as great.
You don’t need a license for recreational fishing in the NT but you do need to stick to the fishing regulations and size limits for each species. If you catch a barra that’s too big or too little, do the right thing and carefully unhook it and chuck it back in the water.
We started off with a rig that involved a massive hook and a float, and we used a cast net to catch live bait. Popeye mullet was available in abundance and when we saw a big school skipping about in the shallows close to the bank, we’d run towards them and throw the net. The live bait was pierced through the base of the tail so that they could still swim about and attract the barramundi.
All you have to do is cast in your line, loosen the reel and wait.
Rumour has it that barramundi often feed at night after a gush of high tide. We camped just off the banks of the river in our 5 million star accommodation, and built a fire close to the rods so we could hear if we caught something.
During the day, you may see a ‘logodile’ float by, but during the night, you can shine your torch over the water and see the little red, beady eyes of the crocs.
When a barra is on the line, you can hear your line pulling (bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz). There were a few times during the night when Jarrod rushed over to the rods and pulled out a good sized barra. If it was close to eating time, he’d fillet it straight away and chuck it in a pan.
A great way to prepare them is to fillet the fish, coat in a mixture of flour and curry powder and cook in a frypan. Delicious! The flesh is soft and buttery and a pleasure to eat.
Dave’s rod snagged a stingray that looked more like an alien, and on the next day we caught a catfish too – both of these are crap eating so we unhooked them and chucked them back.
Seeing as we were with locals, they took us to where the locals go, not where all the tourists go. The only other people around were other locals so we all had plenty of space to ourselves. We had heaps of fun barra fishing at the Keep River and we’re so lucky to have had the privilege. We’d like to extend a massive thank you to Jarrod, Crystal and Gavin for showing us such a great weekend.