One of the most popular reef fish on the Great Barrier Reef has to be the coral trout, an awesome looking fish with spectacular colours, fights hard and sometimes very dirty. Also arguably one of the best eating fish in the ocean and definitely one of my favourites.
Check out your local seafood shop and with prices reaching $40 a kilo for fillets, it’s always great to catch a good feed of coral trout. One of the first things you’ll notice when filleting are the perfect white fillets with no blood lines, just unreel. Bites can be very timid at times and once hooked, can be very hard to keep the coral trout out of the reef and safety of there home amongst the coral.
Snorkelling is a great way to observe these beautiful fish, and always take a speargun if possible. With a bit of stealth, they’re a fairly easy fish to spear and a great bonus. Coral trout love to sit and watch what’s going on, generally always looking up for an easy feed. Heaps of Spanish and Shark Mackeral, live around the reef edges feeding on schools of bait fish such as fusiliers.
Once they’ve smashed through a school of fish, bits and pieces drift down where the coral trout are sitting, waiting for an easy feed. Keep this in mind, and drift down half a pilchard every now and then, Trout can’t help themselves, and is a popular technique used by Live trout professional fishermen and the old Handliners.
They must be doing something right.
You’ll catch trout on your usual bait such as Squid and Pilchards, but always have a bit of fresh flesh bait if possible, Coral trout can’t help themselves. Don’t forget the wings and a bit of Yellow tail from a Fusilier can land that real quality fish. Small live fish such as a small fusilier or banana fish caught on a bait jig are prime bait, and will soon get smashed if any coral trout in the area.
There are four main species of coral trout and they can be very tricky to distinguish between them, your Common Coral Trout, Barcheek Coral Trout, Blue Spot Coral Trout, and Passionfruit Coral Trout. Take note of the following which will help in distinguishing the differences.
Common Coral Trout
Most common around the reefs and growing up to approx 10kilos, and are caught in good numbers at times up to 3 or 4 kilo’s. Also known as Strawberry trout, due to the lovely pink colours when caught. To help identify differences look for numerous small dark edge blue spots on head, body and fins, a distinctive blue ring around eye and also they have a transparent pectoral fin.
Barcheek Coral Trout
Also caught around the reefs and inshore islands, some real horses of up to 5 kilos are also caught in the deeper reefs and shoals. A beautiful fish to catch, but keep an eye out for Elongated blue spots or bars on cheeks of the trouts head, with numerous blue spots on body and fins also to tell the difference from the common trout.
Blue Spot Coral Trout
These are the real trophy fish of the Reef, with some true monsters, growing up to 30 kilos or more, A truly impressive fish and always blow people away when we catch one, with several caught up to 15 kilos. Big fish really take some stopping and generally will bust you up real quick before you know what’s happened. Colours can be truly amazing with juveniles a beautiful yellow which fades when they get larger.
These ones are often referred to as Chinese Footballer trout. Other names referred to include Tiger trout or Ocean trout. Look for dark broad bands across the body, harder to see in adult fish, medium dark edged spots on head, body and fins. They also have a dark non-transparent pectoral fin.
Passionfruit Coral Trout
One of the rarest trout and rarely caught. I look forward to the day when I do, so feel free to send me a photo if you’re lucky enough to beat me, Photo’s show numerous dark edged blue spots over entire body, with a distinctive appearance, such as a passionfruit pattern, which they’re named after. Also known as leopard trout or Squaretail trout.
New Bags limits are now in place so please ensure you know the following, and with reductions in live trout fishing by the professionals, coral trout can be caught in good numbers on the Great Barrier Reef. Only take what you need, with a combined bag limit of 7 for all coral trout species.
They have a minimum legal size of 38cm. When you do get that monster Blue Spot, Gaff carefully in the mouth, and keep in mind Blue Spot Coral Trout have a size limit of 50 cm minimum and 80 cm Max. keep an eye on the Max size, take a photo and release those big breeding females. If you do get a monster trout, generally it is the bluespot coral trout and will be over the 80cm size limit, take some photo’s and return to the water as soon as possible.
Coral trout are a great fish to catch on the Great Barrier Reef and once hooked, so will you, Good luck!!
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