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What is a Barramundi?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Barramundi is a freshwater fish species found in tropical and semitropical regions ranging from the Persian Gulf to China, and found as far south as Australia, as well as north to India. In Australia, it is both wild-caught and farmed for export to the global market as a table fish, and some recreational fishermen enjoy its pursuit as well. Barramundi has been popularized for human consumption because it has been viewed as a sustainable fish, with strong stocks, a healthy habitat, and careful stewardship all contributing to its longevity as a species. The fish is widespread and shows no signs of being at risk.

These fish can get quite large, weighing up to 132 pounds (60 kilograms), and they are very strong. The barramundi has a concave forehead, pointed head, and a large jaw, with large scales. Underneath, the fish is silvery, while on top, it is green to gray, providing camouflage for most river environments. It is carnivorous, eating small fish and insects, and has a dense dry white flesh which is normally enjoyed grilled and sauteed.

Depending upon where the fish has been harvested and what it has been eating, sometimes the flesh of the barramundi is not as appetizing. For this reason, much of that exported for human consumption is farmed so that the fish can be fed a controlled diet and purged before sale to prevent unpleasant flavors from saturating the flesh. Farming the fish is viewed to be more sustainable because stocks can be carefully monitored for overall health.

Barramundi are hermaphroditic, beginning life as male and transitioning to female at approximately five years of age. Males tend to be smaller because of their younger age. Females lay numerous eggs that will hatch within 20 hours, producing larva which grow rapidly into mature fish. The species is also catadromous, meaning that it matures in freshwater and moves to inter-tidal zones to spawn.

It is sought after as a sport fish because of its large size, flavor, and strength. Many Australian tourist companies offer barramundi fishing trips where anglers can either cast or troll for their prey. As with most sport fish, barramundi is usually caught and released, although there are no restrictions on taking the fish for consumption as well.

When available in the store, barramundi is an excellent choice for conservation conscious consumers, and also tends to be lower in mercury than some fish species. For this reason, it is recommended by many health and marine conservation organizations and is becoming much more popular in other parts of the world.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon241910 — On Jan 21, 2012

I just had Australian Barramundi last night. Delicious!

By EarlyForest — On Aug 10, 2010

Does anybody know where to buy barramundi fingerlings in America? Do they even have them here?

By gregg1956 — On Aug 10, 2010

@Charlie89 -- I've got a few. I don't go barramundi fishing that often, I usually just buy farmed barramundi, but when I do these few things.

First, you should use herrings, prawns, or garfish for your bait. Some people say to use poddy mullet, but I've never had much luck with that.

Then you need to make sure your tide is right. The best freshwater barramundi fishing is right after the wet season in Australia.

Try to work your way up to the farthest place affected by the tide in riverbeds where you fish. This is usually a good spot to start looking for your barramundi.

Other than that, it just takes patience.

Good luck!

By Charlie89 — On Aug 10, 2010

Does anybody have any good barramundi fishing tips?

By DinoLeash — On Aug 02, 2010

Two summers ago, we had the privilege of visiting Australia. That was the first time I had heard of barramundi. I probably don’t have this recipe exact, but this is pretty close to what we were served.

You need: 4 barramundi fillets, 2 Tbsp. butter, 1 clove of garlic (minced), ½ tsp. salt, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 5 leaves of basil (minced).

Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Rub them with olive oil. Sauté them on high heat with all of the ingredients for two or three minutes (skin side up). Flip them and then cook on the other side for a couple of minutes and serve.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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