Dart, Common

(Trachinotus botla)

The common dart is an interesting little species that is often encountered when targeting other species such as spangled emperor, trevally and queen fish in turbulent surf conditions. What they lack in eating qualities they certainly make up for in sporting ability, putting up quite a good account for themselves in shallow, turbulent water on light tackle. There are four dart species commonly encountered  in Australia, the black spotted, common, swallow tail and the highly prized, holy grail of salt water fly fishing the permit or snub nosed dart. All of which are fantastic sport and great fun on light spin and fly tackle!

Distribution

Common dart can be encountered from as far south as Bunbury to as far north as the magnificent Kimberley region throughout Western Australia but are generally encountered from Shark bay and northward. Common dart can also be encountered from northern N.S.W up into Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Growth

Most dart species including the black spotted , common and swallow tail are a relatively small fish averaging around 1kg in weight with an exceptional fish weighing around 3kg.

Habitat

Common dart like most dart species prefer turbulent surf conditions of northern beaches and sand spits where they feed upon prey items such as small crabs, molluscs and worms exposed by the breaking surf.

Identification

Common dart are often mistaken for black spot or swallow tail dart and can be easily identified by the larger dark spots along their sides. One dark spot is directly positioned above the pectoral fin of the common dart. Black spotted dart have two spots above their pectoral fin and swallow tails as their name suggests have much longer tail, anal and dorsal fins. These fins can be dark black to bright blue in colouration on most dart species. All dart are lightly scaled and silver in colouration similar to a trevally or queen fish with larger specimens proving to be typically green to blue in colouration across their upper torso.

Taste rating

  • Fifty Taste Rating
    50%

Common dart are not considered to be good eating and are generally encountered as a bi catch whilst targeting more popular northern surf zone species.

Sport rating

  • Seventy Sport Rating
    70%

Common dart are a very good sporting fish for their size and given the turbulent surf environment most anglers encounter them in make a good account for themselves on most light tackle outfits including fly.

Tackle requirements

Ultra light to light spin and fly tackle is well suited to targeting most dart species from shore or from boat with light braided, gel spun or nylon lines with a breaking strain of 6 – 15lb proving ideal. Nylon or fluoro carbon leaders should be attached to bright braided or gel spun lines to prevent fish from seeing the line and also to help prevent chafe offs on rough structures like reef etc. 6# – 8# fly outfits with tapered 10 – 20lb leaders are best suited for targeting common dart on fly.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

As most dart species feed in northern surf breaks small crabs, molluscs and worms as well as small cut fish pieces will all be productive baits with small 2’’ soft plastic’s, metal slices and fly’s also proving to be not only ideal but also great fun, less hassle and safer for young ones. Standing up to your waist in warm, murky, northern waters covered in the scent of bait is not recommended!

Handy hints and tips

As with most surf situations look for deeper gutters or areas where currents converge and the dart will be there waiting for a feed.  Try not to pull too hard on the fish when the waves wash back out as this will generally result in pulled hooks and no fish.  A small, constant stream of berley will also help to attract fish into your area to feed.

Preferred fishing times and tides

Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting most dart in northern surf zones although some deep water locations will also produce good numbers of larger dart during low tides.

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