Emperor, Red

(Lutjanus sebae)

Commonly referred to as Red‘s!

Red emperor are one of Australia’s most prized and highly sought after table fish!  Not only do they look amazing Red’s would also have to be one of the tastiest swimming fish in the ocean! Even in their juvenile stages these fish are strikingly beautiful and often quite challenging to find for most anglers making them one of the most highly regarded species available throughout northern Australian waters. As with most Lutjanus species the red emperor also lives up to the reputation of the mangrove jack and golden snapper when it comes to both taste and sporting ability.


Red emperor can be located from as far south as Shark Bay up through the magnificent Kimberley region throughout Western Australia and can also be found in good numbers from northern Queensland up to the Northern Territory.


Red emperor grow to around 18kg in weight and reach sexual maturity at around 40cm in length although a typical sized Red emperor is around 5 – 6kg in most locations.


Red emperor are found in deeper reef, areas with water depths ranging from 15 – 100 meters. Smaller, juvenile fish are generally encountered in shallower areas of solid and broken reef such as Ningaloo out from Exmouth and the Great Barrier Reef in Q.L.D.


Red emperor can be easily recognised by their distinct body shape and bright red colouration. Juveniles have three darker red bands that run vertically down the body and soft white lips lining the mouth. Larger Red’s over 10kg are generally paler in colouration compared to juveniles and can also be slightly orange in colouration depending on location.

Taste rating

  • One hundred Taste Rating

Red emperor are one of the ultimate table species throughout Australia!

Sport rating

  • Eighty Sport Rating

Big Red emperor can be dirty fighters amongst coral structures but are typically quite manageable on most rod and reel combos. Red’s do also release very well upon capture for those of you inclined.

Tackle requirements

Medium to heavy spin or overhead tackle is well suited to targeting red emperor from a boat with medium to heavy strength braided, gel spun or nylon lines with a breaking strain of 30 – 80lb proving ideal. 80 – 150lb nylon 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. Medium to heavy bottom fishing or jigging outfits in either spin or overhead styles are more typically suited for fishing deeper water to 100 meters.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Most standard bottom fishing baits such as cut fish strips, squid and octopus will suffice for most Red emperor situations with lures such as soft plastics and metal jigs also proving deadly on this species in northern waters. Paternoster or drift baiting rigs made from 80 – 120lb nylon are normally used to target Red emperor in deeper waters to 100 meters.

Handy hints and tips

Large 8/0 – 10/0 sized hooks snooded and fished in conjunction with whole, fresh squid or fresh tuna or grinner fish fillets are a deadly method of targeting big red emperor. Longer droppers on Paternoster style rigs seem to account for better numbers of larger red’s.

Preferred fishing times and tides

Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting red 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 red’s.


[What The Fish]