Harlequin Fish

(Othos dentex)

Commonly referred to as Harlequin!

Harlequin fish are a bright, vibrantly coloured species that are often referred to as the coral trout of the south. Often encountered as a by catch whilst targeting other reef dwelling species the harlequin is always a welcomed surprise in any anglers book. Harlequin are a species of fish that is iconic to the state of Western Australia.


Harlequin fish can be located from as far south as Albany up to the Abrolhos Island region throughout Western Australia.


Harlequin fish grow to around 4kg in weight and reach sexual maturity at around 20cm in length. A typical sized harlequin is around 50cm in most W.A. locations.


Harlequin fish prefer habitats of mixed reef, weed and sand with water depths ranging from 5 – 35 meters.


Harlequin fish are beautifully marked with a brown, red, yellow or orange back ground and bright blue dots on the head and body. They also possess a bright red spot that is covered by their dorsal fin. They have sharp, dagger like teeth similar to that of a coral trout.

Taste rating

  • Seventy Taste Rating

Great fish to bake, steam, or pan fry whole.

Sport rating

  • Fifty Sport Rating

Harlequin fish can be dirty fighters amongst shallow coral but are typically quite manageable on most rod and reel combos.

Tackle requirements

Light to medium spin or overhead tackle is well suited to targeting Harlequin fish from boat with light braided, gel spun or nylon lines with a breaking strain of 20 – 30lb proving ideal. 40 – 80lb 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 50 meters.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Most standard bottom fishing baits such as cut fish strips, squid and octopus will suffice for most harlequin fish situations with lures such as soft plastics, metal and octopus styled jigs also proving deadly on this species in shallow waters. Paternoster or drift baiting rigs made from 80 – 120lb nylon are normally used to target harlequin in deeper waters to 50 meters.

Handy hints and tips

Using smaller, circle styled hooks will account for a much better hook up rate when targeting tricky species with smaller mouths.  “ You can catch big fish on small hooks but not small fish on big hooks!“

Preferred fishing times and tides

Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting blue lined 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.


[What The Fish]