Scott’s Species – Red Bass – the mangrove jack look-alike

Red bass

Lutjanus bohar

Eating: 3.5 stars

ID – Forked caudal fin, deep nostril grove forward of eyes. Brown colour to the top of the body with deep red flanks, yellow colouration of the eye.

One of the toughest fish on the reef, red bass are a striking looking species and a powerful predator.

Growing to 90cm and around 15 kilos while boasting a serious set of fangs, they are generally found around structure in shallow water, although they are known to travel in depths of over 100m.

Red bass are a great looking fish and love hitting surface lures.

They look a lot like mangrove jack and have inherited the same aggressive predatory smash-and-grab characteristics, often charging well up from the bottom to annihilate lures before trying to storm back to structure as quickly as they can.

All my encounters with red bass have been while chasing giant trevally along fringing reefs, and they are a regular bycatch when fishing this way. They are usually found around inshore or offshore coral reefs, with locations like Ningaloo, Monte Bellos and Rowley Shoals known for them.

They are usually distributed from Carnarvon up further north. While they don’t have the power and size of a big GT, they are a strong fish in their own right and put up a great fight on suitable tackle.

This Fiji red bass hit a stickbait worked over the edge of a coral reef.

They are happy to come to the surface to hit a popper or stickbait, usually accompanied with a vivid red flash that leaves little doubt as the identity of the fish trying to bullock straight back to the bottom. They will also take trolled lures and jigs and are believed to be very active at night. Because they fight ‘dirty,’ strong tackle is needed to catch red bass, with most taken on GT-type spinning gear.

On a recent trip to the Rowley Shoals we were constantly entertained by them while on the mooring inside the lagoon. Groups of big bass would hang around the boat looking for food scraps, especially at night when small baitfish were attracted to the lights. Every now and then there would be a massive splash as a bass took out an unfortunate baitfish on the edge of the light.

They are certainly a prolific species around the Rowley’s and the lagoon had loads of them. I’ve caught them along the Ningaloo Reef, where a mate Glenn Edwards actually got one on fly. I’ve also caught them in Vanuatu and Fiji.

They are good eating by all reports, but in other parts of the world such as the Pacific nations they are not considered an eating fish due to the danger of ciguatera poisoning. However, this is not believed to be an issue in WA.

Red bass are prolific at the Rowley Shoals, where Ross Italiano picked up this beauty.

Onslow fishing community gets hooked on Fishing for Science

Recfishwest recently had the pleasure to attend the 2022 Munro’s MACK10K competition in Onslow to run our Fishing for Science program – and the mackies came thick and fast for our sampling table!

The annual competition, hosted by the Ashburton Anglers Fishing Club, pulls in hundreds of passionate fishers from across the state, with impressive prizes on offer across more than a dozen challenge categories.

The 2022 Munro’s MACK10K fishing competition had generous prizes on offer! Make sure you check out the Ashburton Anglers Facebook Page for more details on this great annual event.

Working in collaboration with Paul Lewis from DPIRD, our Recfishwest staff were directly involved in gathering data from Spanish mackerel brought into the weigh-in station from 233 competitors across 69 boats.

Thanks to the contribution of the friendly local anglers, our Fishing for Science program collected data from more than 60 mackerel. This included their weight, length, condition, sex and maturity stage.

CHECK OUT OUR FISHING FOR SCIENCE PAGE HERE

Not only did our Recfishwest Operations Officer Sam Russell also take belly samples from each fish for future research, but he was also elected as “resident fish filleter” for the competition! Sam sliced and diced his way through plenty of mackerel for several hours straight each night, before handing fillets out to grateful members of the community from anglers kindly donating their impressive catches.

In addition, Paul from DPIRD  took the otoliths from the 61 sampled fish donated by the competitors to determine their age, with the finalised data to be used in conjunction with commercial catch data to provide clear assessments of the Spanish mackerel stock in the Pilbara Management Area – so a win-win for the local community, DPIRD and the future of these spectacular pelagic powerhouses.

Recfishwest’s Sam Russell and DPIRD’s Paul Lewis (pictured) received a great response for the fish sampling activities for the Fishing for Science program, taking samples from more than 60 fish.

“Thanks to the fantastic response and keen interest of the Onslow fishing community who are just as passionate as we are about fish sustainability and research, Fishing for Science is a great way for fishers to learn more about the fish they love to catch while contributing toward the collection of data that will benefit the fishery in the future,” said Recfishwest Operations Officer Sam Russell.

“We need to say a huge thanks to Paul from DPIRD for his tireless sampling efforts and the crew at Ashburton Anglers for their hospitality during this great annual competition. Having a yarn with the locals and participants shows how much they care about the fish being caught.”

Congratulations to all 15 category winners from the Munro’s MACK10K competition and watch this space for future Fishing for Science initiatives.

Point Samson Fishing Frenzy

Recfishwest and the Pilbara community of Point Samson joined forces for the Easter long weekend to assist the Point Samson Community Association (PSCA) with their first and very successful Junior Fishing Competition.

It was a three day “Catch, Click and Release” event, promoting safe and sustainable family fishing. The small event drew fishers in from as far away as Dampier and Port Hedland, swelling the small community from 300 to over an impressive 500!

Recfishwest held free fishing clinics on Good Friday and Easter Saturday at the town beach to encourage interest in the competition and be the source of any information kids and families needed to answer their fishing questions for the weekend. The clinics covered fishing and environment, safety, catch care, gear handling, casting skills and of course the SunSmart principals of Slip, Slop, Slap, Slide and Seek.

Both clinics were very well attended and the majority of participants were registered to fish in the weekend competition. After the all-important introduction, demonstration and safety talk, kids and families headed to the water to try out some of the casting techniques they had just learned and caught a variety of local species including Garfish, Trevally, Flathead and the very toothy Long Tom.

The competition kicked off early Saturday with over 90 junior entrants (6-16 years) collecting their registration packs from The Cove Caravan park. Rego packs included PSCA back sack, bucket hat and water bottle, a Halco lure, current Fisheries ruler sticker and a hook-out; the hook remover tool.

The morning of Easter Sunday, earlier than expected, an influx of keen families descended on the Community Hall and parkland before the official 11am kick-off time. The PSCA had organised food trucks, local groups fundraising with food stalls, bouncing castle and an Easter egg hunt.

The pressure was on for the judges to tally the competition results. Over 50 photos of an amazing variety of fish and shellfish were sorted through, debated on and organised into categories. Finally at half past midday the results were in. Of the 20 awesome prize packs up for grabs, only three categories went unclaimed. Among the notables were “most unusual catch”, a clam – “mystery fish” a dark surgeon and the extremely cheeky April fool’s joke entrant of very large deep sea arrow squid; turned out to be the bait that a young competitor had purchased to catch his quarry, to no avail, so decided to play the April first card on the judges!

The prize pool included fishing rods, tackle packs and junior fishing gear bundles all generously supplied by event supporters Shimano, Halco Lures, local business Tidal Solutions Pty Ltd, NYFL (Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Foundation Ltd) and the PSCA.

As the young winners celebrated and examined their loot, the afternoon activities were set up on the grass. Locals were not particularly phased and

many joined in, but the combination of lots of chocolate and Pilbara heat kept a number of kids away from the casting skills game and the tug-of-war. Many chose to divide their time between swimming at the beach and the bouncing castle or in the shade of the playground or park.

This event was an amazing success for the PSCA and without the support from City of Karratha, local Woolworths, Rio Tinto, not to mention the vast number of volunteer hours put in by PSCA president and committee members, staff at The Cove Caravan Park and all the other community volunteers.

We hope to continue to support this event into the future and look forward to more opportunities like this in the Pilbara.

If you and your community group, would like to see our fishing clinic program visit you, please contact our fishing clinic coordinator Kate, to get the local kids off the couch and into fishing.

The Recfishwest Statewide Family Fishing Clinics are made possible by the funding support of Healthway and Getaway Outdoors, and other contributing partners.