For many WA fishers, coral trout are a sought-after species when wetting a line in the State’s north. Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan takes a look as to why coral trout are considered one of Australia’s best table fish, while also discussing their amazing red colouration and aggressive fighting capabilities.
Species: Coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus and Plectropomus maculatus
Eating: 4.5 stars
ID – Red colouration, blue spots along body.
One of the most striking of reef fish, the coral trout is a prized capture all throughout its range, which is from Jurien Bay in WA across the top of the country to northern Queensland.
They are regarded as one of the very best eating fish in Australian waters and with good reason.
There are two main species of coral trout, the bar-cheeked (maculatus) has blue dashes on its cheek, rather than the spots on the coral trout (leopardus).
Coral trout can grow to more than 20kg, but the Australian record is 15.5kg, which is a serious fish. Any trout over 4kg is a good one in WA.
The biggest trout I have seen in WA have been at the Rowley Shoals, where we got a couple around the 10kg mark.
Stunning fish and fully protected at the Rowleys, which is where it is believed the WA stock originates from.
The Abrolhos Islands is a real trout hot spot and at times they are thick in the shallows around the coral there.
Some nice trout also get caught at the Mackerel Islands, and good ones often are caught on the shoals in Exmouth Gulf.
The shallows around the Montebellos Islands are another prime location.
Coral trout love reefy bottom, where they sit under cover and charge out to nail their prey and For this reason they are a good target for lure anglers.
Running deep-diving minnows close to the structure in shallowish water is a very effective way to go, but trout are also extremely aggressive and will come a long way from their lair to strike when they are in the mood.
As a result, surface lures such as poppers and stickbaits are also well worth trying and can make for some exciting top water action.
When hooked coral trout head straight for cover, so it pays to react quickly and firmly, meaning that appropriate tackle is needed.
A casting rod of 2.1m-2.4m is ideal if throwing lures around reefs, and the rod needs a bit of power to halt the fish’s initial surge.
Line should be 9kg-14kg, and a good abrasion leader is a must. Trout will happily take baits such as mulies and squid, and will also hit soft plastics and metal jigs.