Scott’s Species – bludger trevally, the north coast party gate crashers

Carangoides gymnosthesus

Eating: 2 stars

ID: Elongated body with brown/golden spots. Pointed head.

Bludger trevally aren’t something you generally expect to catch. They are more an occasional capture bobbing up while chasing other species.

However, when they do show up they usually are like the most out-of-control party gate crashers – bringing a heap of enthusiastic friends and causing chaos!

Bludgers often show up in huge schools. I remember veteran Pilbara fisherman Darry Hitchen telling me once that bludgers were the only fish he had seen that would create such water movement the water level seemed to rise around them.

A pack of bludger trevally chasing down a popper

I actually did experience this phenomena at the Mackerel Islands not long after he told me the story. Michael Sammut, Steve Hart and I were at Penguin Bank and it was going off, with surface explosions everywhere. The sharks were bad though, so we decided to take the hooks off poppers and get some video and photos of surface hits. We had been doing this for a while when all of the sudden a huge school of bludgers showed up behind the boat. They just followed us for about 30 minutes and every lure we cast saw dozens of them chasing it down. We got some spectacular footage and shots of the horde and it was great fun as they followed lures right to the rod tip time and again. I could see exactly what Darryl meant, with the pack of fish chasing the lure each time actually pushing up the water above their backs.

An underwater view of a school of bludgers at the Mackerel Islands.

It was incredible to witness. Bludgers are easily mistaken for goldspot trevally, especially with their spots on the flanks, but they have a more elongated body and more pointed nose. Their eye is also closer to the level of their mouth. They are more streamlined than most of their trevally cousins, so don’t have quite the pulling power of the other species, but are certainly a willing lure and bait taker and can be a lot of fun to catch.

We have caught most of ours on stickbaits in the 8-14cm range, but they are also quite partial to metal jigs in slightly deeper water. Most of the bludgers I have caught have been relatively small, in the 2-3kg range, but they do grow to almost a metre in length and 11 kilos.

They are largely an inshore species found near structures such as reefs and island, where they hunt fish, prawns and crabs, and we’ve encountered them generally in water from a couple of metres to around 30m. Bludgers are usually found from Shark Bay north.

Scott’s Species – Bluefin Trevally, the electric blue adrenaline rush

Caranx melampyrgus

Eating: 3 star

ID–Blue fins, blue and black speckles on top half.

This smallish bluefin proved quite a challenge on light tackle at Kiritimati!

As someone who is extremely partial to catching various species of trevally, more for the sport they provide than what they offer on the table, I have a real soft spot for bluefin trevally.

Of the many trevally I encounter while casting lures around WA, bluefin are probably the one I have caught the least, but their stunning electric blue colourations means each one is a fantastic angling experience.

I guess it shows how shallow I am that looks are so important! Although bluefin have been reported south of Perth, they are usually found from Shark Bay north and are much more of a tropical fish. They generally grow to around a metre, although most that are caught in my experience at least, are much smaller than that.

I was lucky enough to catch a big bluefin trevally towards the upper end of their size range at the Rowley Shoals a couple of years ago. We were casting stick baits at a reef edge when I hooked up in a couple of metres of water. I really wasn’t expecting a big bluefin and was absolutely stoked when the unmistakable iridescent blue colours revealed themselves near the boat. The fish hit a Halco Slidog stickbait.

As far as the fight went, it certainly was every bit as strong as its various cousins. Another memorable bluefin capture for me was a 3-4kg fish at Kiritimati in the remote Pacific. I was using light gear and one of my favoured Rolling Baits to catch bonefish, when I hooked up to something much stronger. It was a real battle to subdue the bluefin on that tackle in shallow water. I had to set off after it on foot on several occasions as it simply wouldn’t give in.

Most of the times I have encountered bluefin they are in small groups that can prove frustratingly hard to catch, often buzzing around lures and catching the eye with their lit-up colouration, but failing to hook up. They seem more than willing to chase most lures and flies, it seems to be more about finding them, and then enticing them to commit to the strike.

I’ve never targeted them specifically, they have just been a bycatch when they are encountered, which is usually while casting lures in the shallows. This is because bluefin trevally are largely an inshore fish, found around coral reefs and islands. Bluefin are regarded as reasonable eating, but I’d find it hard to keep one of these great looking trevs.

What an amazing looking fish bluefin trevally are.