Exmouth’s King Reef – from barren seafloor to a world-class fishing hotspot

From a featureless seafloor to a flourishing marine oasis where fishing world records are being broken – King Reef in Exmouth has become a fishing haven in less than four years.  

Since six large, repurposed steel structures and almost 50 concrete modules were deployed across two acres of sandy seafloor to the north-east of Exmouth in 2018, the underwater desert has now become a fish city, teeming with large pelagic and demersal species prowling the artificial reef.  

One family that has taken full advantage of the improved fishing action surrounding this artificial reef spanning an area roughly equivalent to five footy ovals is the Grasso’s, who are all King Bay Game Fishing Club members in Dampier.  

Each member of the Grasso family – father Mick, his partner Channy and their two children Max and Mia – boasts impressive fishing accolades in their own rights, with each of them owning Australian or world fishing records, recognised by the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) and Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA).  

The source of many of these world and Australian fishing records is King Reef – just 6.4km northeast of the Exmouth Town Boat Ramp.  

12-year-old Max Grasso’s line-class world record golden trevally weighing over 13kg and measuring 105cm, caught off King Reef. Give the Grasso family’s Instagram page a follow to keep up to date with the amazing fish they catch!

King Reef shows how rapidly an artificial reef can help boost the marine life around the structure, with 100 fish species monitored around it, including prized demersal species such as red emperor and cod patrolling the depths, while pelagic species such as golden trevally and even sailfish have been spotted patrolling the topwater. 

One of the line-class world records taken out on the reef included a 13.06kg whopper of a golden trevally measuring 1.05m, caught by talented young angler Max Grasso @junior_grassy on Platypus Pretest line. This impressive catch broke two world records at once – the 10kg line class male world record and the small fry male world record. 

“Max’s world record line class golden trevally was taken at King Reef, on the maiden voyage of our new boat and only 20 minutes into running in the motor. It is amazing to now have a fishing location like this so close to home and so easily accessible for everyone,” said his father, Mick Grasso.  

These stunning underwater snaps taken by professional photographer Violeta J. Brosig from Blue Media Exmouth show what is happening beneath the surface at King Reef, with the repurposed structures now teeming with fish, marine life, algae and coral.

Both Max, 12 and his younger sister Mia, 8, cleaned up at the recent Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA) awards after numerous trips to King Reef.  

Max set a target to tag 120 game fish for the 2021/22 season. Not only did King Reef play a key role in helping him pass this mark with three months to spare, but Max also had to buy an extra-large cricket bag to fit in all his trophies from the GFAA awards night!  

Max took out the Junior Male Angler Capture, Junior Male Angler Release and Peter Bennett Trophy for most meritorious tag and release achievements by a junior angler, along with the Neil Patrick Trophy for most gamefish tagged in Australian waters.  

Max’s younger sister Mia also sweeped multiple GFAA awards, taking out the WA small fry female capture and release divisions. She then went on to claim the national Small Fry Capture Award, winning the ‘big trophy’ she set her eyes on after her brother had won it previously.

Max Grasso (pictured left) and Mia Grasso (pictured right) both cleaned up at the recent Game Fishing Association Australia (GFAA) Awards, with many of their tagged and record catches from King Reef in Exmouth.

“It is fantastic to see that artificial reef structures such as King Reef boost marine life and create fantastic fishing opportunities, whether it’s by trolling or bottom fishing” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.  

“King Reef is a perfect example of how repurposed structures can create thriving new habitats and support a huge range of species that bring benefits to the local community, economy and environment. 

“It’s why Recfishwest is targeting approvals and funding for new artificial reefs in various locations from Albany to Broome to add to the seven reefs currently flourishing in WA waters.”  

The deployement of the King Reef structures came from a collaboration between Recfishwest and the Exmouth local community, BHP, NERA, DPIRD, Subcon and Curtin University.  

Find out more about the State’s network of artificial reefs here.  

The location of King Reef in Exmouth, make sure you pay this great fishing spot a visit!

Continue Reading

May 22, 2024

The past, present and future of WA’s artificial reefs and Recfishwest’s role!

Ever wanted to know the history of how artificial reefs became so successful around the world and the future reefs set to make a splash off our coastline?   Mark Pagano (DPIRD’s Aquatic Resource Management…

Read More

May 14, 2024

Metro fishers urged to have their say on South Mole vehicle access

Cherished land-based fishing spot South Mole in Fremantle is now open to foot-traffic only after having been closed in mid-March.    Recfishwest has requested Fremantle Ports restore vehicle access to South Mole…

Read More

May 02, 2024

Recfishwest says “NO” to Offshore Wind Energy development in Geographe Bay’s critical fish habitat

Recfishwest has told the Commonwealth Government that important fish habitat and fishing grounds in Geographe Bay are strictly off limits for Offshore Wind Energy developments.  In February, the Commonwealth…

Read More

May 01, 2024

Five new cutting-edge FADs provide great new sportfishing opportunities for Port Hedland fishers!

Pilbara fishers have received a fantastic boost for offshore fishing options following the installation of five Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) off the Port Hedland coast. The new FADs were anchored in position…

Read More

April 23, 2024

How 200 metre setbacks could help protect access to cherished land-based fishing spots on our South Coast

There is nothing quite like standing on a south coast beach, rod in hand, facing the salt spray as the water laps at your feet. Dreams of mulloway, salmon, big tailor and skippy, or maybe a snapper often become a…

Read More

March 21, 2024

Recfishwest game for GAMEX 2024

Gamex is one of Australia’s biggest game fishing tournaments. Recfishwest Operations Officer Levi De Boni, a keen game angler himself, was one of our Fishing for Science team attending this year’s event. Here, he…

Read More