Commonly referred to as Trout!
Coral trout are a vibrantly coloured fish that is well known for its fantastic eating qualities and great looks. They can be located throughout most northern angling destinations using a large variety of tackle and techniques making the coral trout one of the most highly sought after species in the country!
Coral trout can be found from as far south as the Abrolhos Islands up to as far north as cape Leveque here in Western Australian waters and are also prevalent from northern Queensland up to the Northern Territory.
Depending on the species coral trout grow to around one meter in length and can weigh as much as 25kg. Common coral trout only grow to a maximum length of 70cm with the larger bar cheek growing to over a meter. They are a fairly slow growing species with most of the larger specimens proving to be females.
Coral trout prefer areas of living, coral reef ranging in water depths of 1 – 100 meters. Large coral lumps and deep crevices or ledges are all typical coral trout haunts. Man made structures such as wharves and wrecks will also hold healthy numbers of coral trout in most northern waters.
There are commonly four species of coral trout found throughout Australia, the common, bar cheek, passion fruit and the blue spotted and although the common (Plectopomus leopardus) and bar cheek (Plectopomus maculatus) are more commonly encountered throughout W.A there are also a couple that exist in remote locations such as the Rowley shoals and Scott reef. Common coral trout are very similar in shape and colouration to that of the bar cheek variety with both species either greenish brown or reddish orange in colour with bright neon, blue spots or streaks present on both the head and torso of the fish. Bar cheek coral trout grow to a larger size and have horizontally, elongated streaks rather than spots on their heads and can also be identified by their non transparent pectoral fins. Common coral trout have translucent pectoral fins and rounder blue spots on the head. (Plectropomus areolatus) Passion fruit coral trout are generally found in exotic and remote offshore locations such as the Rowley shoals and Scott reef. They grow to around 70cm in length and are covered in blue spots with darker margins and have white margins around both the dorsal and cordal fins. (Plectropomus laevis) The blue spotted coral trout is also found in these remote offshore locations and is one of the largest of the species growing to over one meter in length and weighing as much as 25kg, There are typically two colour variations of this species one which is whitish to yellow in colouration with five black or brown blotches or vertical bars on the upper torso and the other which is darker red, olive or black blue with dark edged blue spots on the upper torso and pectoral fins. The cordal fin is also slightly lunate in shape.
Coral trout are highly sought after for their fine eating qualities.
Coral trout are dirty fighters that do not like to travel too far from their craggy homes especially when connected to an angler. Hold on tight!
Medium to heavy bottom fishing combos spooled with 30 – 50lb braided, nylon or gel spun lines are required for landing large coral trout. Smaller specimens are easily managed on lighter spin and bait cast combos spooled with 20 – 30lb lines and are generally encountered whilst trolling deep diving lures around shallow reef structure. Coral trout can also be targeted using surface and sub surface style lures, soft plastics and metal jigs on this lighter style of tackle with this more modern method beginning to account for many demersal species of late and is soon set to replace the art of bait fishing all together. Leaders are always necessary for abrasion when fishing with braided, gel spun and nylon lines around structure with one to two rod lengths of 60 – 100lb fluoro carbon proving ideal for most coral trout angling situations.
Whole, live and cut pieces of squid and fish make ideal baits for most northern demersal species including coral trout with lures such as deep diving hard bodies, surface and sub surface stick baits, soft plastics and metal jigs also proving to be incredibly effective when targeting coral trout.
Targeting coral trout with surface lures in shallow water is not only one of the most exciting and visual forms of fishing imaginable but also allows an angler to hook the fish as far away from its underwater domain as possible giving the angler at least half a chance of pulling a big fish from the heavy cover below. Fresh strips of tuna or grinner fish make an excellent bait source for most northern demersal species and are a lethal combination when fished on snelled hooks attached to Paternoster style rigs in deeper water. Brain spiking and placing all table fish into an iced slurry will improve the eating qualities of all fish when in warmer, northern environments.
Most northern fish species including coral trout prefer to feed on a rising tide change or at low light periods such as dawn and dusk. Coral trout will also feed in deeper water during slack water periods such as low tide.