Barramundi (Lates -calcarifer) occur from northern Australia to the Philippines and southern China, around the coasts of India to the Persian Gulf, according to 2013 IGFA World Record Game Fishes. Barra mature in fresh water and move downstream during the wet seasons to spawn. These fish are also hermaphrodites that start life as males; they transform to females after about the second year.
A delicious-eating fish, the barra’s body shape resembles a snook, but it is also closely related to the giant Nile perch. Its pinkish-red eyes reflect sunlight and glow at night.
Experiencing the Northern Territory — even if your luck fails on the weather — ranks as an all-time, once-in-a-life event. It’s remote but familiar. It’s wild but serene. Every person we met offered warmth and humor.
To get there, I flew Qantas from Jacksonville, Florida, to Dallas to Brisbane, Australia, and finally to Darwin. Qantas’ overnight flight (about 16 hours) offered comfortable reclining seats — even in coach — and multiple meals, as well as a full list of entertainment options on a seatback video screen.
Darwin’s population tops 100,000, making it a fairly small city for a capital — well shy of Sydney’s 4.6 million. Its setting appears quite tropical, and it’s rimmed by a harbor and bay.
We stayed at Skycity Darwin (61-08-8943-8888, skycitydarwin.com.au) the first night. The resort’s pool is expansive, and its main building features a -casino. The second night we moved to Darwin Central Hotel (61-08-8944-9000, darwincentral.com.au), a contemporary building with spacious rooms in the heart of the small downtown district. Nearby attractions included Crocosaurus Cove (crocosauruscove.com), dedicated to the territory’s famous reptiles (and also featuring a tank filled with giant barramundi), and Darwin Cruises and Charters (darwinharbourcruises.com.au), for dinner tours of the harbor.
Our heli-fishing -partner — out of Darwin — was Airborne Solutions (61‑08-8972-2345, www.airbornesolutions.com.au).
We spent three nights at Bamurru Plains, a Wild Bush Luxury resort (61-2-9571-6399, bamurruplains.com). Bamurru is the aboriginal name for the black-and-white magpie geese that populate the flood plain.
Bamurru’s nine cabins each feature a broad, mesh-screen wall fronting the plains, so you feel like you’re part of the surroundings. However, the beds and sheets are amazingly soft. The meals — barramundi, steak, kangaroo — would more than please any avid foodie. Solar panels generate most of the lodge’s power. The main building features an expansive deck with a saltwater infinity pool.
For more information about the territory, visit Tourism Northern Territory’s website at australiasoutback.com. To watch a Tourism NT webinar featuring a recap of our journey, go to outbackyourway.com/fishing, and to see a photo gallery from the trip, go to sportfishingmag.com/barramundi-australia.