Emperor, Variegated

(Lethrinus variegatus)

Commonly referred to as Variegated‘s!

Variegated emperor are a beautifully marked species that has gained quite a following over the past few years with the advent of soft plastic and surface lure fishing really taking off for both shore and boat based anglers chasing these powerful, shallow water species. Given the environment one is generally given to tangle with these fish in variegated emperor have proven to be one of the most challenging species to target on light tackle in shallow water and are a must on any serious anglers wish list!

Distribution

Variegated emperor can be located from as far south as Shark Bay right up to the magnificent Kimberley region throughout Western Australia and also from Queensland up into the Northern Territory.

Growth

Variegated emperor grow to around 12kg in weight and reach sexual maturity at around 35cm in length. A typical sized variegated emperor is around 3 – 4kg in most  locations.

Habitat

Variegated emperor are found in shallow reef, sand and mud areas with water depths ranging from 4 – 60 meters with smaller, juvenile fish generally encountered in estuary systems and shallow weed beds.

Identification

Variegated emperor can be easily identified by their mottled brown, grey and white/blue colourations and pointed snouts full of small, powerful teeth designed for both eating small squid and bait fish as well as grinding up shellfish and crustaceans. They have stunning bright blue markings present throughout with the facial markings extending down the cheeks where there are vibrant flashes of orange found in the jaw hinge and mouth.

Taste rating

  • Sixty Taste Rating
    60%

Great fish to eat fresh but does not freeze too well.

Sport rating

  • Eighty Sport Rating
    80%

Variegated emperor can be dirty fighters amongst shallow coral but are typically quite manageable on most light rod and reel combos.

Tackle requirements

Light to medium spin or overhead tackle is well suited to targeting most emperor from shore or from boat with light braided, gel spun or nylon lines with a breaking strain of 20 – 30lb proving ideal. 30 – 60lb 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, teeth and jaws. Medium bottom fishing or jigging outfits in either spin or overhead styles are more typically suited for fishing deeper water to 80 meters.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Most standard bottom fishing baits such as cut fish strips, squid and octopus will suffice for most emperor situations with lures such as soft plastics, metals and sub surface stick baits also proving deadly on this species in shallow waters. Paternoster or drift baiting rigs made from 80 – 120lb nylon are normally used to target emperor in deeper waters to 60 meters.

Handy hints and tips

Areas of shallow sand with surrounding or fringing reef near by are great locations for targeting variegated emperor on lightly weighted squid baits or lures. Just because you cant see the fish does not always mean that they are not there!

Preferred fishing times and tides

Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting variegated emperor around most areas although some deep water locations will also produce good numbers of fish during low and falling tides. New moon phases are also preferable for most fish species including most emperor.

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