Eating: 4.5 stars
ID – Dark grey/brown colouration, white spots on flanks.
Rankin cod, are to my eyes, one of the most striking fish in the ocean.
Once you have seen one you’ll never confuse them with anything else. With their greyish/brown colouration and large white spots they are easily identified.
Their colouration does decrease as they get older, but not enough to confuse identification.
Rankin cod are found from the Abrolhos north, but really come into their own from Carnarvon. In recent years they appear to have moved slightly farther south, with the odd fish regularly caught off Perth.
I can recall Darryl Hitchen getting one a few years ago off Fremantle. The interesting thing about Rankin cod is how aggressive a predator they actually are.
While they are generally a demersal fish caught near the bottom, they will often come up a long way to hit a bait or lure.
We’ve caught some rippers when trolling for Spanish mackerel at the Mackerel Islands. From what I have seen Rankin are a species that has actually continued to do well despite increasing fishing pressures, despite being usually found around coral structure in relatively shallow water.
There seem to be more caught each year on our Mackerel Islands Seafaris, and the size also appears to be increasing with time.
They are generally regarded to grow to about a metre and 9 kilos, and we’re seeing more and more towards that size. In recent years we’ve had some of the biggest I have ever seen caught at the Mackerel Islands.
Morris Wilkinson and I caught a battered old fish at the Mackerels a couple of years ago, which bore the scars of a long life. As they are quite an aggressive fish, Rankin aren’t usually hard to catch in areas where they are found.
As mentioned a deep-diving bibbed minnow trolled over decent bottom structure, which they like, is a good way to pick them up.
We’ve also caught them on jigs, soft plastics and soft plastic vibes, usually in 10-20m of water. Occasionally we’ve spotted schools of fish on the sounder that have turned out be groups of Rankin.
They are partial to the usual baits such fresh fish flesh, mulies and squid. A standard paternoster rig is all that is needed.
Rankins appear to respond to berley and a successful approach is to anchor an hour before the change of tide, and set up a berley trail as the current slows, bringing fish to the boat.
The most productive fishing with berley is usually an hour either side of the tide. Drifting over likely ground is also effective.
Big Rankin are tough fighters and will try to head straight back to structure when hooked, so the angler needs to be quick to turn their head.
Rankin cod provide a good return for each fillet, with beautiful white flesh, and taste excellent, making them a popular catch both for looks and edibility.