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From the Land Down Under ... Orlando: Barramundi in St. Cloud? Yeah, mate.

Native to Australia, barramundi possess several of the top characteristics of North America's most sought-after sportfish: Ravenous as a post-spawn bass, powerful as a snook, acrobatic as a tarpon. And guess what, mate? You don't need an airline ticket to Sydney to catch one.

A Central Florida fish farm has the unique distinction of being the only licensed barramundi fishing operation in the state of Florida. For a fee, you can hook these devils all day long. On any kind of tackle you can dream of.

"We're stocked with barramundi for both catch-and-release fishing and market sale," says proprietor Byron Hennecy. "The property is permitted and regulated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Department of Agriculture."

Similar to snook, barramundi are protandric hermaphrodites, which means by age four the boys are putting on lipstick and converting to females. In their native Australia, they thrive in estuaries ranging from 78 to 85 degrees F, making Florida's warm tropical climate an optimal location for farming. In the wild they can reach weights of over a hundred pounds, but within the Florida impoundment Hennecy estimates they'll top out at 50. Eating high protein dry pellets, they're naive and will flat out clobber artificial lures.

So what does that mean for guests? "Basically a lot of drag squealing, sore forearms, and chafed thumbs," said Hennecy. Guests can bring their own tackle or use what's provided. "We typically outfit guests with a 7-foot Lew's spinning rod matched with a 4000 series reel spooled with 30-pound braid and tipped with a 2-foot section of 50-pound leader," he said. "Barra have a mouth similar to snook with wicked sharp gill plates." They'll strike most anything thrown at them, swimmers, crankbaits, Rat-L-Traps, worms, topwater, it doesn't matter. Hennecy doesn't allow treble hooks and requires that barbs be pressed down on all hooks.

CONTACT: Osceola Outback Adventures, www.osceolaoutback.com.bkhennecy@gmail.com, (407)-908-3216

RATES: $275 per angler for 3 hours of fishing or $250 per person for groups of up to 4 or more. All tackle and drinks included. No fishing license required.

TAKE AWAY? Sadly, Florida does not allow anglers to remove fish from the property. Hennecy does raise fish for market that customers can purchase.

CAN I RAISE MY OWN? In 2003, Hennecy's was the first farm permitted to import barramundi for commercial production. In 2007, Florida passed a law banningall future barramundi farming and grandfathered this property.

NATIVE CHOW: The Catfish Place, 232413th St., St. Cloud. Minutes from the barramundi fishing. Southern specialties with (boneless) catfish, coleslaw, hush puppies, and sweet potato fries.

NEARBY: Bordered to the north by the Triple N Wildlife Management Area, just west of Bull Creek WMA, and five miles north of Three Lakes WMA, the barramundi operation is centered among several top state-managed hunting properties. Excellent fishing on Kissimmee Chain less than 15-minute drive. Hog, bass, barramundi slam, anyone?

Caption: That's not a snook ... That's a barramundi. And, it was caught in Central Florida.

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Title Annotation:WAYPOINTS
Author:Catrett, Dustin
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Mar 1, 2018
Words:497
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