Stocking Journey

The Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group is a local community group, aiming to provide a long-term sustainable fishing option on Lake Kununurra for locals and visitors to the East Kimberley. Check out the history of Lake Kununurra in our timeline below.

Mar 01
Lake Kununurra Formed

Lake Kununurra Formed

Lake Kununurra was formed through the building of the Kununurra Diversion Dam (KDD). This cut the migratory pathways for catadromous fish, such as barramundi, moving from the Ord River estuary system upstream into much of the freshwater environment of the river. However due to the design nature of the dam’s water release points, the downstream flow of fish was less inhibited. As a result, trapped populations of those impacted fish either moved downstream for breeding purposes or lived out their lives in the dam and slowly died off. The result was the gradual loss of some fish species to the upper regions of the river. In 1972, the Ord Dam was constructed about 55km upstream of the KDD, forming what is now known as Lake Argyle.  
Mar 16
Commercial Barramundi Enterprise

Commercial Barramundi Enterprise

The 90s, and potentially slightly earlier, saw the establishment of a commercial barramundi enterprise at Lake Argyle. This commercial venture included a number of ‘grow out cages’ on the lake. There were occasions when fish escaped from the cages due to net damage or harvest incidents. In the mid-90s professional fishermen catching silver cobbler on Lake Argyle started to find those barramundi escapees, catching them in their nets as the fish moved around the lake.

Mar 04

Regional Recreational Fishing Advisory Committees

Regional Recreational Fishing Advisory Committees were created in WA to provide advice to State Government on various recreational fishing issues. In 1993, the East Kimberley Recreation Fishing Advisory Committee (EKRFAC) was formed when the Kimberley group was split between east and west. From the onset, the EKRFAC started to advocate for finding a means to re-establish migratory pathways on the Ord River to allow fish to regain access above the two dams to the full length of the river.

Mar 03

Barramundi Bag Limit

Barramundi slot bag limit introduced to the Lower Ord River

Mar 04

Lake Kununurra Fish Stock Enhancement Group Created

EKRFAC renews its intention to pursue the issue of re-establishing migratory pathways to allow the restocking of Lake Kununurra with barramundi. The following year, the Committee invited stakeholders to form a working group called the Lake Kununurra Fish Stock Enhancement Group (LKFSEG). The member organisations were:

  • Shire Wyndham-East Kimberley;
  • Ord Land and Water; and,
  • Fisheries WA.

The LKFSEG gave itself three objectives to determine the feasibility of the concept:

  1. A report on the economic impacts of a successful recreational barramundi fishery in Lake Kununurra.
  2. A report to identify the ecological and social issues concerning the establishment of that fishery.
  3. If the first two reports were positive in their recommendations, investigate options for the development of an engineering strategy to allow barramundi to become resident in Lake Kununurra in numbers that would sustain a successful fishery.


Mar 01
Barramundi escape!

Barramundi escape!

Though probably in residence much earlier, barramundi escapees from Lake Argyle were documented in having moved into and down the spillway creek situated between Lake Argyle and Lake Kununurra.

Mar 01

Lake Kununurra Barramundi Fishery Economic Benefit Study

The Lake Kununurra Barramundi Fishery Economic Benefit Study was completed. It reported that provided Lake Kununurra could be successfully stocked with barramundi the expected benefits could be:

  • Between 1,760 and 3,696 extra visitors to Kununurra per year;
  • Direct economic benefits of between $2.1 million and $2.8 million annually;
  • An extra 13 jobs for every $1 million of tourism expenditure; and,
  • Indirect economic benefits of between $3.1 million and $5.6 million.
Oct 24
Tagging Program

Tagging Program

The EKRFAC carries out a tagging program, catching small barramundi below the KDD and releasing them into Lake Kununurra. More than 300 fish were released over the period, with a couple of returns coming from the lower Ord and one from Spillway Creek

Feb 27

Ecological and Social Issues Report

The report on the Ecological and Social Issues Concerning the Establishment of a Recreational Barramundi Fishery in Lake Kununurra was released. The summarised findings were:

  1. Competition for food and habitat between barramundi and resident species would be minimal;
  2. Impact on resident fish from barramundi predation would be minimal;
  3. Little data available on effective ways to move barramundi up fish ladders;
  4. A fish ladder could be used by other species;
  5. Saltwater crocodile management would need to be able to exclude them from entering Lake Kununurra; and,
  6. Fish would move downstream to breed.


Positive and negative social impacts included:

  1. Guarded support for the concept overall;
  2. Concerns over the viability of the project (could it work?):
  3. No proponent identified to take the project past this point;
  4. Access, development and management issues on the lake;
  5. Genetic miss breeding if fingerlings were used;
  6. Loss of the current wilderness values the lake holds; and,
  7. Will the fish stay in the lake?  
Mar 05

Commercial Fishery Closes

The commercial barramundi fishery on Lake Argyle closes due to marketing issues. In the process of harvesting the remaining fish, a large number of barra inadvertently escape captivity into Lake Argyle.

Apr 21

Interagency Meeting

An interagency meeting was held between representatives from the following organisations:

  • Department of Fisheries;
  • Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley,
  • Water Corporation;
  • Recfishwest; and,
  • Kimberley Development Commission.

The meeting resolved the following as its key findings:

  • The principle issue is the development/enhancement of a recreational barramundi in Lake Kununurra;
  • A fish way option holds the most promise. Experts with extensive experience in fishways should be consulted to gather further insight and advice on options; and,
  • A successful project will be as much about the management of people as the fishery itself. Issues that need to be addressed will include: possible changes to bag and size limits; fishing permits and other funding options; consideration of wilderness values and competing resource users.

The meeting proposed the following steps in order to progress the project:

  • Feasibility study on migratory corridors/fish-ways, must address the crocodile issue;
  • Promote the concept to facilitate community stewardship;
  • Develop detailed operational plan; and,
  • Secure political support and capital works funding.
Jul 22

Biologist Report Released

Fisheries Biologist, with Queensland Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, visits Kununurra to carry out investigation and provides a report on his findings in September 2004.  The summary:

  • Establish a program for facilitating the restoration of fish passage in the Ord River;
  • Analyse hydrological data regarding head and tail water operational ranges;
  • Compile data on migratory fish and crustacean species of the Ord River in regards to known biology and migratory requirements;
  • Host the Fourth Australian Workshop on fishways in Kununurra;
  • Establish a technical advisory group to assist in achieving the most effective fish way designs;
  • Call and award tenders for the design and construction of the fishways.
May 18

Australian Technical Workshop held in Kununurra

The Fourth Australian Technical Workshop was held in Kununurra.

Its recommendations included:

  1. It was agreed that restoring fish passage along the length of the Ord River was a desirable and achievable goal, with benefits to the ecological, economic, social and cultural values of the East Kimberley.
  2. Government should plan for funding of major works through a budget allocation for capital works within the next five years.
  3. There is an urgent need for biological studies to further our understanding of fish populations (species, sizes, movements in response to flows) around the Kununurra Diversion Dam to optimise the design and function of the fish passage.
  4. It is recommended that such a facility be incorporated in the design to attract tourists and increase public awareness of the benefits of the fishway.
  5. Given community concern about estuarine crocodiles passing into Lake Kununurra, the fishway will be designed to exclude them.
  6. To initiate this process, State Government is asked to fund a project leader to carry this project through from its feasibility to completion.
Nov 16
Ord River Project Study

Ord River Project Study

The fish assemblages of the Ord River project was undertaken.  The study was specifically designed to gauge the effect of migratory barriers on fish of the Ord River, to investigate fish passage requirements and solutions and found:

  • Provided the unique flow conditions and requirements of the fish fauna of the Ord River is given full consideration there is no reason why fish passage cannot be successfully restored; and,
  • The impact of the restoration of fish passage on fish assemblages in Lake Kununurra is difficult to predict but it is unlikely that there will be any negative impacts.
Apr 12
Spillway Overflows

Spillway Overflows

Spillway overflows of about 2m and large numbers of escapee barramundi, most between 80cm and 1m, move into the spillway and downstream into Lake Kununurra.  Kununurra locals fish the spillway over that Easter in droves and many fish are caught and lost in the rapidly moving water

Jun 14

Funding Secured

Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley and the Miriwung Gajerong Aboriginal Corporation are successful in securing funding for Design Options and Costing and Cultural Fishing Values, through the Commonwealth Recreational Fishing Community Grants Program.

May 03
Catching Large Barras

Catching Large Barras

Large barramundi, measuring 1m and larger, start to become viable angling targets in Lake Kununurra and Lake Argyle, but are only targeted by only a very few number of anglers.

Nov 07
Final Report

Final Report

The final report on preliminary design options and costing of a fish lift attached to the KDD was received.

Dec 13

Priority for Fishway Project

The Shire of Wyndam-East Kimberley writes to the State Government, advising the fishway project is a priority for the East Kimberley region. The correspondence urged the State Government to commit funds for the capital infrastructure.

Mar 04
Breeding Program Starts

Breeding Program Starts

KTI travels from Broome to Kununurra and with local recreational anglers begins broodstock collection in Parry Creek and Ord River resulting in a number of small male fish being transported back to Broome to await the female fish. Another attempt at gaining further broodstock was undertaken in May 2011 where more male fish were collected but no female fish.

Mar 12

Pilot Study Accepted

A proposal is put to the Kimberley Development Commission to collect bloodstock and stock a small number of barra into the lake, as a pilot study – it is accepted in April, 2010. A month later, the Western Australian Fish Foundation was awarded the contract to collect broodstock and provide fingerlings through Kimberley Training Institute (KTI) for a pilot study.

Sep 22
Big Barramundi Caught

Big Barramundi Caught

The then-leader of the WA National Party, Brendan Grylls, fished Lake Argyle with a local angler and caught two 1m-plus barramundi, while dropping a third specimen at the boat.

Despite the small number of commercial escapees in Lake Argyle, this demonstrated fish would remain in the lake due to abundance of prey to support a recreational fishery.

Feb 10
Females caught from Ord River

Females caught from Ord River

Anglers collect female broodstock, with a holding cage secured and assembled on Lake Kununurra. Between October and December, about 20 fish are collected and kept in the cage until they could be transported to Broome just prior to the new year.

Mar 04
Lake Argyle Reaches 200%

Lake Argyle Reaches 200%

Lake Argyle reaches 200 per cent capacity and the spillway runs at 8.32m over the top. Hundreds, if not thousands, of fish are swept downstream, many perish.

Mar 01

$700,000 For Restocking Lake Kununurra

Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy provides just under $700,000 for restocking Lake Kununurra, with Kimberley Training Institute winning the contract.

Dec 21

Barramundi Genetic Report

Barramundi Genetic Audit (Dec 2013, Final Report) undertaken across northern Australia demonstrates Ord River and Cambridge Gulf barramundi stock are essentially the same cohort. This information was crucial with regards to stock collection.

Jan 25
20,000 Released

20,000 Released

KTI, alongside Recfishwest and the State Government, release 20,000 barramundi fingerlings into Lake Kununurra to mark the start of the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Program.

Mar 06

Giant Barra Caught

Residue fish in Lake Argyle caught by anglers are regularly measuring more than 1.2m. 

May 14

200,000 Released

Another 200,000 barramundi fingerlings are released into as part of the Lake Kununurra Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Program.

Mar 12
East Meets West

East Meets West

Fin clips taken from fish captured in Lake Kununurra and analysed show that both eastern (escapees) and western (local) fish were present in the lake. Length of the ‘local’ fish sampled ranged from 1m to 1.15m.

Mar 13

Fish Graph

Data was recorded by volunteers showing catch effort per trip and fishing hours. The number of fish and fish lengths were recorded to give a further indication of growth rates. See graph below.




















Dec 12

Stock Enhancement Committee Reactivated

Lake Kununurra Fish Stock Enhancement Committee is reactivated, becoming the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group.

Mar 07

Economics Benefits Study Released

A new economic benefits study is released by the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group, indicating the fishery could have a conservative economic value of $9.16 million to $9.81 million annually if the restocking program continues.

Jul 18
Don Punch joins the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group

Don Punch joins the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group

Fisheries Minister Don Punch joins the Lake Kununurra Barramundi Stocking Group, Recfishwest, North Regional TAFE – Broome and members of the East Kimberley fishing community at a fish stocking event where the one millionth barramundi is released into Lake Kununurra.

Mar 04

Restocking Contract

Work continues towards stocking more barramundi into Lake Kununurra thanks to $975,000 funding through the State Government’s recfishing COVID recovery package, announced in August 2020. This package was developed by the State Government in conjunction with Recfishwest.

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