Grunter, Sooty

(Hephaestus jenkinsi)

Commonly referred to as Sooties!

The sooty grunter is an iconic Australian native species that is generally encountered as a by catch whilst targeting other northern, fresh water species such as the mighty barramundi. They are also referred to as the black bream of the north although the two species share no relation. Sooties are an aggressive predator that will readily take most baits and artificial lures making them one of Australia‘s most popular northern, fresh water species.


Sooty grunter can be located throughout most northern freshwater systems throughout both the Pilbara and Kimberley regions in Western Australia. They can also be found from northern Queensland up through the Northern Territory.


Sooty grunter can grow to a maximum length of around 50cm and weigh as much as 4kg although most sooties encountered throughout northern Australia average around 30 – 40cm in length.


Sooty grunter inhabit freshwater rivers, creeks and water holes throughout the northern tip of Australia from the Pilbara region in the west to the northern part of Queensland in the east.


There are 11 separate species of grunter found throughout northern Australia with interbreeding making true identification of each individual species near on impossible. Most sooty grunter species are chocolate brown to pale green in colouration with most typically possessing bronzed or golden scales with dark markings around the border. Larger specimens have large, rubbery lips called blubber lips.

Taste rating

  • Fifty Taste Rating

Sooty grunter have a slightly weedy taste that often puts most people off.

Sport rating

  • Sixty Sport Rating

Sooty grunter are feisty little battlers when hooked on light tackle close to heavy cover.

Tackle requirements

Light graphite and fibreglass rods that will cope with gel spun and braided lines rated from 4 – 10kg are ideally suited to targeting sooty grunter and when coupled with quality overhead or spin reels in the 4000 – 6500 class make excellent outfits for throwing both baits and lures for most northern creek species. Larger outfits spooled with heavier 15 – 20lb nylon line can also be used when targeting larger fish around heavy cover with baits but will struggle to cast small hard bodied and soft plastic lures. Fluoro carbon leaders with breaking strains of 15 – 40lb should also be joined to mainlines via an improved albrite knot and not only prevent the fish from seeing your brightly coloured main line but also help from being chaffed of on rough underwater structures.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Sooty grunter have incredibly diverse feeding patterns and can eat many prey items from palm roots, fruits and berries to shrimp, small fish and worms. Small soft plastic and hard bodied lures and metal slices are also very effective on sooties as are most small fly’s.

Handy hints and tips

Keep an eye out for salt water crocodiles whilst exploring freshwater environments up north as big salt water crocs also frequent these areas during their long travels!

Preferred fishing times and tides

Most daylight hours are suitable for targeting sooty grunter with the cooler morning and afternoon periods proving slightly gentler on anglers during excessively hot periods.


[What The Fish]