Examining the shredded length of fifty pound leader attached to my lure, I’m amazed that after several hours the ferocious inhabitants of this shallow impoundment are still striking. “They’ll eat all day long during spring and summer,” explained Byron Hennecy, Owner of Osceola Outback Adventures in St. Cloud Florida with his wife Kim where anglers can “Fish the Pit” for Australian barramundi. These super exotics from down under possess several of the top characteristics of North America’s most sought after sportfish. With a ravenous appetite similar to a post spawn bass, coupled with the power of a snook, they take to the air like tarpon once hooked and best of all you don’t need an airline ticket to Sydney to catch one. Located in Central Florida tucked away off a quiet dirt road, this small Florida fish farm has the unique distinction of being the only licensed barramundi fishing operation in the state. “We’re the only location in the northern and western hemispheres of the world where anglers can legally fish for barramundi,” explained Hennecy. “We run a catch and release fish farm stocked with barramundi for both market food and commercial fishing. The property is licensed for restricted species and regulated by the Florida Game and Fish Commission and Department of Agriculture.”
Similar to snook barramundi are protandric hermaphrodites, which means by age four they undergo a gender bending metamorphosis converting them to females. In Australia they thrive in the warm estuaries and lagoons of the outback in temperatures ranging from 78−85° making Florida’s warm tropical climate an optimal location for farming. Popular as a food fish in Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific region of the world, they’re also prized in the U.S. aquaculture industry for their table fare quality and ease of rearing. In the wild they can reach weights of over a hundred pounds, but within the Florida impoundments Hennecy estimates their maximum size to reach close to fifty. Enhanced on a daily intake of high protein dry pelleted feed, they grow at an accelerated rate without the use of outside forage. “Rearing them on dry feed without live baitfish ensures they receive optimum nutrition and will continue striking artificial lures,” he said.
So what does that mean for guests? “Basically a lot of drag squealing, sore forearms, and chafed thumbs,” he joked.
So what does that mean for guests? “Basically a lot of drag squealing, sore forearms, and chafed thumbs,” he joked. Charters are generally booked as half days of fishing, but during my last visit I caught upwards of fifty fish in less than two hours leaving me physically exhausted yet quite satisfied knowing I’d gotten more than my money’s worth. “You can throw hardbaits, Stanley Top Toad frogs, DOA jigs, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing they won’t beat the paint off of.”
Guests can bring their own tackle or use what’s provided as part of the chartered service. “We typically outfit guests with a 7’6” Vexan Med Heavy spinning rod matched with a 4000 series Shimano Stradic spinning reel spooled with 30lb. PowerPro braided line that’s tipped with a two foot section of 50 lb. Ande mono shock leader,” said Hennecy. “Barra have a mouth similar to snook with wicked razor sharp gill plates, so make sure if you bring your own gear to use minimum 40 pound mono or fluorocarbon leader.” While these barramundi strike most anything thrown at them, Hennecy doesn’t allow the use of treble hooks and requires that barbs be pressed down on all hooks. “If you’d like to bring your own lures, please just make sure to change out your treble hooks with circle or J hooks or we can do it for you as well. This is to ensure the safe catch and release of the fish.”
For booking information Contact:
Osceola Outback Adventures