Fishing for Coral Trout, particularly in Queensland and the northern territory, is one of the most popular forms of reef fishing. The common coral trout (plectropomus leopardis) is one of the most sought after reef species in Australia. Its beautiful colors, superior eating qualities and hard fighting abilities are the reasons behind its popularity. The coral trout is also highly sought after by professional fishermen who sell the trout on the live asian market where prices of up to $100 a kilogram can be paid. Motherships with up to 5 or 6 dories in tow head to sea and fish the shallow bommies of the Great Barrier Reef specifically targeting these beautiful fish. They primarily target fish in the 1-2 kg bracket as the larger fish are not as desirable for the live market. In a normal fish co-op expect to pay around $35-45 per kilo so if you manage to boat a fish of around 5kg consider yourself very fortunate.
There are quite a few different types of Coral Trout that can be called one of many different names. The most common is the common or strawberry trout. Other species include Bar Cheek, Footballer or Bluespot, passionfruit or the rare chockleberrys which are a strange mix of maroon and pinkish red. Fishing for coral trout is not really that difficult. They are a top line predator capable of lightening fast bursts of speed and are armed with large sharp teeth for holding onto whatever it is they have caught. The mouth is large for engulfing hole fish as is the square cut tail. Coral trout love the cover of the plate corals and caves and are very reluctant to leave if you hook one.
The best method for catching trout differs as to what sort of water you are fishing in. trout can be found up in 2 feet of water on top of a reef or right down to 80 meters deep. Typically larger fish will be deeper but you can still encounter large fish in shallow water. A good shallow water technique is to fish with your sinker directly on to top of your hook. You will be fishing for coral trout in areas of heavy reef so a monofilament leader of about 100lb test should withstand the abrasion. Braid is not really favored for this type of fishing because of its low abrasion resistance. The best bait for smaller 'reef edge' trout is half a pilchard. A good trick is to move around a lot. If the trout are not on one bommie, move to another then another. The best rocks should have good water movement and the fish will normally sit on the flowing side of the rock.
When fishing the deeper water for Coral Trout, gear up for larger fish and be prepared to wind like mad when you finally get one on. Large trout will dart for cover as soon as they hit so it is critical to get their head up and away from the coral or you will loose them every time. The same rig as mentioned eaalier is just as effective in the deep but use small live fish for bait such as butterfly bream or collared seabream. Coral trout can grow in excess of 30kg but are more commonly captured <10kg. Larger fish can be prone to ciguatera poisoning.
When fishing for coral trout in Australia remember to limit your catch not catch your limit.