Reef Species Reign Supreme
  |  First Published: December 2011

We can only hope that better things are in store for Gladstone in 2012. Hopefully some positive news about the harbour makes the paper. We will find out either way, after all the state and national wealth is greatly affected by what comes in and out of our harbour.

Fishing may be the poor cousin, but our voice is being heard loud and clear with the fishing public demanding a say in the health of our water ways. Keep up the protests and demand that we crushed by the mining might of our community.

We are ever so lucky to have such a wonderful reef system not far from our shores and fishing on the reef is going fairly well. The summer heat and humidity will send several of our species into overdrive, in particular red-throat sweetlip, red emperor and coral trout. Red-throat are usually caught from the bottom but during the summer months they will also attack floating or trolled bait. They are pretty aggressive at the moment so be prepared for a bit of a fight.

The red throat is a prized table fish and is one of the easiest to fillet. They live to around 20 years of age and change sex from females to males when they are around six years of age. However not much is known about juvenile habitat of the species.

It’s unclear whether adult red-throat move between reefs, however they are often caught in rubble areas between reefs, suggesting that such movement is possible. So don’t always pull your line up when you move from your structure as red-throat are often caught off structure.

The spawning season for sweetlip occurs at the end of winter and early spring. However populations of red-throat sweetlip in distinct regions of the reef exhibit different age and growth characteristics.

The reefs will also provide the prized red emperor but generally you have to fish the deeper reefs to get the bigger species. Red emperor live in a variety of habitats including coral reef lagoons, reefs, sand flats and gravel patches. While red emperor are occasionally found in shallow water they move to deeper water as they grow larger. The 55cm size limit on red emperor means that any keeper is going to put up a battle for you.

You can pick the occasional keeper on the inner reefs but generally only in the winter months. You really need to get to 30m or more to pick up the bigger models so this limits you to the wider Gladstone reefs.

Red emperor often form schools of similar-sized individuals so if you catch one of the bigger models, clean your lines and get amongst them because there could be a few more down there. There’s nothing more satisfying than a double hook-up!

Then of course there is the coral trout. The term coral trout actually covers many different trout species so while a good catch will earn you plenty of pats on the back, it may also generate a discussion about what you actually caught. And if winning that argument is important for you then you can always pick up a coral trout brochure from the Coral Reef research centre.

Generally coral trout stay within the same reef and rarely move. This month is generally the spawning season for coral trout. The common coral trout species generally form a dense cluster around reef slopes to spawn around the time of the new moon.

There is little doubt that these three species are the prized reef fish of the reef system and are the cause of many a brag within fishing circles!

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