ONE MILLION! Magic milestone hit with Lake Kununurra barra release

A safe and accessible waterbody in the Kimberley abundant with hefty barra, some measuring more than 1m, sounds like the stuff dreams are made of.

But, such a place exists right here in our own backyard thanks to a trailblazing stocking program, which has now seen one million barra released since 2013 – that place is Lake Kununurra.

About 150 fishers and holidaymakers and Fisheries Minister Don Punch joined Recfishwest and the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group (LKBSG) for a momentous community fish stocking event along the lake’s banks at Lily Creek Lagoon on 18 July 2021, which saw the millionth barra stocked through the program.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland, Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group president Dylan Hearty and Fisheries Minister Don Punch get hands of with the Lake Kununurra barra release.

There were plenty of smiling faces and happy families at the release event, lending a helping hand.

Everyone was eager to get involved and release the 60-day-old barra fingerlings – bred at North Regional TAFE’s Broome Aquaculture Centre – safely into their new surroundings.

WATCH: The highlights from Sunday’s release!

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said fishing was always better when the fish are biting and the Lake Kununurra barramundi stocking program shows how effective fish stocking initiatives can be.

“Lake Kununurra now provides a wilderness fishing experience at its best offering the angler 55km of prime barra country to explore free of saltwater crocs and without big tidal swings typical of other Kimberley barra fisheries,” he said.

“The program highlights how true fish abundance promotes excellent fishing experiences, while also benefiting regional communities.

“Lake Kununurra is something all of us involved in the stocking program and the local community can be genuinely proud of.”

Getting the chance to set the juvenile barra on their way was a winner with local and visiting kids.

An incredible milestone 

Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group president Dylan Hearty added:

“For us, seeing the response from the public really confirmed how significant this program and fishery are for both economic and social benefits.

“The millionth barra being released in Lake Kununurra is an incredible milestone and we can’t wait for these little guys to turn into trophy fish.

Everyone was keen to lending a helping hand and release the barra into their new home.

“Our best recorded growth rate is 119cm in three years so there isn’t any shortage of great fish for people to target now and in years to come.

“All of this is a testament to the perseverance of the dedicated people over many years.

“It shows what can be achieved through partnerships and a drive to realise a vision – the Broome TAFE aquaculture guys, Recfishwest, DPIRD, DBCA, and the local community – everyone has pulled together and the result is a safe, accessible, and stunning world-class impoundment sport fishing fishery here in the East Kimberley.”

Dylan Hearty is hoping to see these barra once more when they’re 1m-long.

Fishing for metre-plus trophy fish

The State Government has committed funds to the program over the next three years through the COVID-19 recfishing recovery package, which should ensure the fishing enjoyed on the lake will continue to go from strength-to-strength.

“If you’re looking for a new fishing experience in a magnificent, but accessible setting chasing our country’s most iconic sportfish, look no further than Lake Kununurra – it is an East Kimberley fishing gem,” Dr Rowland said.

“This event would not have been possible, and this fishery would not exist, if not for the trailblazing efforts of the original Lake Kununurra Fish Stock Enhancement Committee led by Dick Pasfield, as well as the strong advocacy of Recfishwest’s Frank Prokop to Perth-based decision-makers in the early 2000s.

“We look forward to seeing many more barramundi caught on Lake Kununurra for many more years to come.”

Barra beauty! Dick Pasfield with a big lake barra. This is the calibre of fish the lake now produces on a regular basis thanks to eight years of consistent stocking.