Commonly referred to as Sambo’s!
Samson fish are the steam trains of the ocean and like all seriola species are an incredibly powerful fish that deserve the respect of all who chase them. They are an aggressive fish that will readily take most offerings and can be generally found around most deep water Australian wrecks and reef systems. Unfortunately most anglers confuse the Amberjack species with the Samson fish, its closely related cousin. Hopefully the information below will not only assist anglers in their pursuit to land a big sambo but also educate on how to determine the difference between the two once and for all.
Samson fish are regularly encountered in W.A. waters from as far south as Albany right up to the Shark Bay in the north. They are generally found in much shallower waters than their closely related cousins the amberjack and can also be found throughout N.S.W. and southern Queensland.
Samson fish can grow to over sixty kilos in weight but are generally encountered around the 15 – 20kg mark here in Australia and anything over 40kg is considered to be outstanding. The Western Australian state, Australian and world record is 39kg at present, it was landed by Rhyss Whittred on 8kg line out from Perth.
Samson fish prefer a mixture of shallow and deeper water which offers some form of natural or man made structure such as oil rigs, gas platforms and underwater wrecks and reef systems. It is not uncommon to find sambo’s in depths as extreme as 100 meters plus during spawning!
Samson fish are very similar in appearance to their closely related cousins the Amberjack and yellow tail king fish. The most efficient way of determining the difference between all three is to conduct a dorsal ray count on the second or rear dorsal fin of each species with Amberjack having 29 – 35, Samson fish 23 – 25 and Yellow tail kings 31 – 34. Dorsal rays are the soft, vertical lines which run through a fish’s dorsal fin. Amberjack also have a distinctive gold band running horizontally across the body of the fish and larger scales than Samson fish. The head shape of an Amberjack is also slightly different to that of a Samson fish.
The samson fish is considered more of a sport/game fish than a table species and has been known to carry a parasite that turns flesh to mush once cooked. This generally occurs in larger specimens and is impossible to determine the difference between fish that have the parasite and those that don’t until cooking is attempted.
The samson fish is one of the hardest pulling fish around and is famous for fighting dirty!
Due to the nature and power of sambo’s and the environment in which anglers are generally given to chase them in, medium to heavy tackle is required to subdue these very worthy adversaries. Spin and overhead reels capable of handling line classes of 30 – 80lb are more common than not with rods in the same category to match. Braided lines are a must for fishing deeper waters and not only allow an angler to feel more but also stop fish quicker due to their low stretch factors. Multi coloured braids that change colour every ten meters or so are ideal for determining exactly where your jig or baits are situated in the water column. Low stretch nylon lines are ideal for game fishing purposes. Leader materials of 80 – 150lb are required to help prevent chafe offs on rough underwater and subsurface structures.
Live blue, yellow tail or scaly mackerel, herring, whiting or squid make excellent baits for big sambo’s as do knife jigs from 115 – 400 grams in weight. Soft plastic and sub surface lures from 5 – 10 inches in length are also great when smaller fish school up and begin to crash bait on or near the surface. Deep water, live bait rigs are great for targeting Samson fish.
Firstly find some serious deep water structure that shows good solid signs of larger fish on the echo sounder. Drop live baits or knife jigs down to the depth the fish are showing and hang on! Occasionally smaller sambo’s will follow hooked specimens to the surface dragging all friends with. This is the perfect opportunity to try new techniques such as soft plastics and sub surface lures and generally occurs around the sunken barges and shallow reef systems surrounding Perth. Lighter spin combos spooled with braided and gel spun lines rated to around 20 – 30lb are best suited for this technique.
Sambo’s prefer tide changes early or later in the day or evening especially around a new moon phase but will generally feed in most circumstances.