Prawns Equal Grunter
  |  First Published: March 2011

A good wet season brings on some excellent fishing. In the middle of the wet the prawns will start moving downstream and here in Weipa, and along most of the North Queensland Coast, the grunter are never too far behind.

Grunter, aka javelin fish, are a top table fish and an awesome sport fish on light tackle.

The main species of grunter targeted around Weipa is the barred grunter, identified by the vertical bars running down the fish’s body. The spotted or silver grunter is a common catch around the southeast and has a blotchy appearance, instead of obvious bars, down its body. Even though it is smaller, it is still a great scraper and excellent eating.

Legal size for the spotted grunter is 30cm while legal barred grunter are 40cm. A good sized barred grunter is around 50cm with the odd fish getting up to 60cm, which make for a real tussle on light gear.

Gunter are not too hard to catch and perhaps I am making hard work out of something that is very simple, however, if you want to be guaranteed a good feed of grunter, live prawns are the number one bait.

Catching a good supply of bait in the wet is as easy as finding a bit of weed or beach with a few mangroves or snags to offer some shelter for the prawns. Early in the season, the prawns are so small that most will slip through the cast net, however, small prawns are just as effective as larger prawns and can be baited up two at a time. In fact, two prawns will ‘click’ a lot more than a single prawn so rigging them together is often more successful.

While nothing beats live prawns, don’t fret if you cant get some as squid and frozen prawns have accounted for their fair share of grunter.

I have had plenty of good sessions on grunter during the day but they tend to feed a lot more aggressively at night, especially on the top of the tide. The flooding tide will give them the opportunity to get into the shallows to chase crustaceans and small baitfish and the cover of darkness will make them a lot more aggressive.

Sandy beaches, gravel patches and mangrove shorelines are all ideal locations for chasing grunter. Spawning fish can also be found in fast running water around gravel and reefs and even in this deeper water, the top of the tide works best. And remember if you find the prawns and you’ll find the grunter.

Big grunter go hard so good tackle is required to hold onto these fish. Cheap heavy tackle is commonly used but I guarantee that good quality light tackle will catch a lot more fish and you’ll have little trouble landing them in open water.

Once these fish get up towards the 60cm mark, grunter will be hard to stop so it’s best to let them run and wear them out. I target a lot of my grunter around bridge pylons and loose very few while using 6lb main line so keep it light and catch more fish.

Grunter have gill rakers similar to those of barramundi, which will make light work of cheap leaders. Fluorocarbon leaders 20lb will hold up well and wont upset the fish. I rig this with a simple running ball sinker, as light as I can get away with and a chemically sharpened 2/0 hook.

Grunter are capable of hitting baits like a snapper but more often then not, they will tap a few times, giving the impression of a smaller fish but soon after all this tapping starts, the fish will get serious and load the rod up. Great sport and a very welcome addition to the dinner table.

Be careful when handling these fish. There are a lot more sharp bits then first appears and those gill rakers will slice straight through your fingers.

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