Big fish don’t move!

Over my years on the water catching barra with my fishing charters, I have noticed a distinct pattern with re-captured fish.

In the earlier days when I didn’t have grey hair, we caught many smaller barra as part of tagging programs.

With these smaller barra, I noticed that many of them were tagged between 100 and 200 kilometres away from where I caught them. Thus meaning that small fish do travel along the coastline from system to system. It seems obvious that small barra are transient. The same cannot be said of the larger fish.

It is my belief that when the tidal run is large, the big girls will move around on the flats, but always seem to return to their favourite haunt when the tidal movement eases. On six occasions now I have been lucky enough to re-capture big girls, noticeable by distinct markings or scars. For example the fish in these photos has a definite growth or tumor on the lower lip.


Interestingly, this particular fish was re-captured in EXACTLY the same spot it was previously caught. Note the tumor on the lip in both this and the top photo.

The same can be said for the other five occasions - four in the Bohle River and one in the Haughton River.

Now when I say the same spot I don't mean the same river, I mean the exact same spot, the same rock bar etc. The barra pictured above was originally caught on the 8th of October 2013 and was recaptured just recently. Now, I am wondering how many other big barra have I caught over and over again that I have not recognised through distinct markings.

This could be why aggregations of big barra at certain hot spots are getting thinner and thinner.

Perhaps because they are resident fish and those taken out of the fishery are not being replaced! So please, just in case my theory has merit, let the big girls go!

They are not crash hot to eat, they are vitally important brood stock and better still, I am proof that you can catch them again. I can also assure you they fight just as hard the second time around! I am hoping that the Queensland Fisheries will reduce the maximum size limit to one metre in the upcoming fisheries overhaul.

As always, love to hear your views in the comments below and any experiences you may have had recapturing the same fish.


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About The Author

Ryan Moody

Ryan Moody started his fishing career on the reef boats before catching bucket list marlin for the likes of champion heavy tackle angler Johnno Johnson, INXS and the King of Sweden. Branching out in the late 80's to guided barramundi fishing, Ryan has made a name for himself as a Big Barramundi specialist and to date has put clients onto over 2000 metre plus barra. That is over 2 kilometres of metre plus barra! With attitudes changing from 'keep all you can' towards catch and release, Ryan has decided to share his extensive knowledge and hopefully inspire people of all ages to get out from behind the computer screen/TV and into the fishing outdoors lifestyle he has spent his life perfecting.

Facebook comments


  • Paul Tennant

    Reply Reply October 2, 2019

    In victoria they charge us a fair bit for a fishing licence marine and inland .and have done so for as long as i can remember .marine for 15 odd years . Melbourne and Geelong surround port Phillip and Corio bay all commercial licenses have supposedly been Bought out ,the last being in 2019 ..things should improve for whiting /flathead snapper unless they just hammer their migratory paths.but Vic should be a decent guinea pig to keep an eye on.Some time will tell.fingers crossed

  • chris Binks

    Reply Reply February 7, 2018

    hi ryan i have been a fishing guide in the kimberley for the last 12 years and have found your stuff to be pretty on the money thanks for your insight if you wish to talk about other ideas dont hesitate to reply

    thanks chris binks

  • Anthony Bergamo

    Reply Reply January 30, 2018

    I live in Nhulunbuy East Arnhemland NT. After years of fishing and seeing the places up here there is definately areas where the bigger fish hang out. The impact from netting here is very easy to see and to visit an area after a mother boat has worked it is very easy to see. For those of you asking what can you do we have started a group called keep east arnhem fishing and have representatives that take our concerns and ideas for to the people who will listen. Good job Ryan on your blogs as it gets conversation and ideas flowing. All the best

  • Brad

    Reply Reply January 9, 2018

    I am the son of a commercial fisherman from the gulf that has since retired from professional fishing. And I learn a lot about the fish over the years ablertross bay is completely closed to commercial fishing and I rec fished there for years and seen the damamge mining had on fish stock. Mining there removed more swaps and habitat. For breeding Barra. Most of the commercial fishing is done away from where your average jo goes daily. And I don’t know how many of you have ever commercial fished but I know commercial fisherman target arrears where average size fish move. Excatley like Ryan has said in this email. I have seen many scientists work with my dad over the years. To help with the sustainability of commercial fishing. I am a proud rec fisherman that also dose a lot of catch and relase. I currently do most of my fishing out of Lucinda from where I live. In the last week I have caught Barra in landlocked swamps all 90 cm up when the rain comes these big girls will move out there is hundreds of rats in these swaps. Question for Ryan. How long has commercial fishing been banned from the channel and have you seen an increase in Barra stocks or decrease. Since the closure. And I think you know as well as I do not to many people catch the big girls consistently and they guys that do don’t keep them. So how hard is the big Barra stock been hit and no commercial fishing is to blame. I watched clips you posted with huge schools of Barra. Is that regular for you to see or has that become less and less over the years.

  • Anthony Caccioppoli

    Reply Reply July 31, 2017

    Hi Ryan,
    I lived in Broome WA for 17 years up til 2013.
    The Dampier Creek females lived under the jetty and laid their eggs in the mouth of Dampier Ck. Before the jetty was closed to all public, “for security reasons”, the big girls used to be slaughtered. Dampier Ck went quiet after an extension involving much pile driving for a few years, so they must have moved away. I believe that after The Fisheries restocking program, the fishing is improving in that system. WA has a 55cm to 80cm size limit which should be 60cm to 75cm in my opinion and 1 keeper. I am happy to say that in our last 10 years in Broome we never took any, catch and release only.

  • Daniel Terry

    Reply Reply January 3, 2017

    Ryan, how does one get there voice heard by the right people with regards to fisheries and bag/size limits ect. Its fine for us all to bitch about it but concerns need to to bought to the right people for action to be taken. Just my 2 cents


    • Ryan Moody

      Reply Reply February 8, 2017

      Hi Daniel, I meet with fisheries around 3 times per year and they also run surveys, there was a green paper just closed a while ago – you can probably find out more and get on their mailing list here These mailing lists keep you informed of rule changes and opportunities to comment. There are aslo a ton of recreational fishing lobby groups like Sunfish Queensland who are very informed and do a great job getting our voices heard. So yeah, get involved, plenty of opportunities. Thanks for the 2 cents.

  • keith everingham

    Reply Reply January 3, 2016

    yes its important to secure the breeders for the barras future and for ower benefit to enjoy catching fish and for the next generation of fishers but do the big girls survive pro nets as we’re asked to do the right thing pro nets catch all

  • don

    Reply Reply September 12, 2015

    I think the best size barra to eat is under 65cm. Anything else let go i reckon.

  • Chris Koch

    Reply Reply August 24, 2015

    I have a friend who catches heaps of Barra every year and only takes maybe one for a feed now and then he has a rule that is ” if over 85 stays alive”. I have been busy all year and have not been able to try out what I have learnt on my Barra Basics Course hopefully from next week things will be better. As far a net fishing goes a good way to police the taking of oversize barra is to make it that all netted Barra are sold “Whole” not filleted.

  • Adrian Twigt

    Reply Reply March 22, 2015

    I agree with Ron , how about a restriction for the commercial netters. No fish has a chance when they are around ,and how can you police their activities when they have huts and mother ships. They do what they like when no one is watching .

  • Ron Lindley

    Reply Reply March 20, 2015

    I think reducing the max to 90cm and limiting commericial netters access to gulf systems will improve our barra stocks in the gulf for generations it really pisses me off when news that the fish are on gets around by the time we get there every creek and inlet has nets on them they don’t even give the poor things a chance.

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