Scott’s Species – sooty grunter, a small yet tough foe

While Scott Coghlan has not spent much time fishing for sooty grunter, they’re a hard-fighting fish which definitely has him hooked! In this week’s edition of Scott’s Species, published exclusively on the Recfishwest website, the Western Angler editor discusses the brute freshwater fish.

Fish: Sooty grunter, Hepheastus fuliginosus

Eating: 2 stars

A freshwater species that is often called bream in the northern parts of the country, sooty grunter are found from the Kimberley across to Queensland, in a wide range of environments, and grow to around 50cm and 4kg.

This sooty grunter hit hard when Scott Coghlan was fishing light tackle. Picture: Western Angler

They offer a similar angling challenge to the southern black bream and a 30cm-plus fish would be considered a great catch as they fight hard for their size.

Some of the best sooty grunter fishing in Australia is in man-made impoundments and that includes Lake Kununurra in the East Kimberley.

In the lake, they can be found around structure as the waterway narrows upstream of Kununurra.

In the lake or other Kimberley locations such as freshwater rivers, casting around snags and cover is a good way to find them.

Their diet includes insects, small fish, worms and freshwater prawns, and sometimes even algae.

For a relatively small species, sooty grunter really do pack a punch!

Sooty grunter love underwater cover, from which they will dart out to grab food. They also like areas well-shaded by overhanging trees.

Baits such as cherabin, shrimp and worms will work, but they are a fun species to chase on lures.

They will readily hit soft plastics, minnow lures 7cm to 10cm long and flies.

A 3kg-5kg spinning outfit will usually be sufficient, but heavier leader is needed.

My sooty experience is limited but I enjoyed chasing them in Lake Kununurra, using a similar approach as for bream on the south coast, by working along the shoreline and casting into the bank.

I have also caught them in the freshwater sections of a few rivers. They don’t have the glamour, or size, of barramundi, but sooties can be a lot of fun on light tackle and have a special place in the heart of many Kimberley anglers.

Lake Kununurra provides a stunning backdrop for chasing sooty grunter. Picture: Western Angler