New regulations explained
  |  First Published: February 2004

THE NEW regulations of the Coral Reef Fin Fish Management Plan have now been in force for almost two months. In their new brochure, Recreational Fishing in Queensland Tidal Waters, the DPI has attempted to make the essentials of the plan clear. However, since its inception, local and visiting anglers in Hervey Bay have been confused by much of the content. I have written the following with Hervey Bay and Fraser Island in mind but there is nothing here that does not apply across the board. When compiling this article I had extensive discussions with DPI Fisheries officers based at Urangan and they have verified its content.

A major factor of the plan has been the declaration of Regulated Coral Reef Fin Fish, which I will refer to as RCRFFs. The brochure doesn’t give the full picture as to what the RCRFFs are. The complete list with scientific genus and species names can be found in Schedule 2 of the document Fisheries (Coral Reef Fin Fish) Management Plan 2003, which can be downloaded from the DPI website. Unless otherwise stated in Schedule 4, there is an in-possession limit of five fish and a minimum legal length of 25cm on all RCRFFs.

Legal sizes and bag limits for tidal species other than RCRFFs remain unchanged. These can also be found in the DPI brochure Recreational Fishing in Queensland Tidal Waters.


SpeciesMin legal length (cm)Max legal length (cm)Bag limit

Greasy rockcod38100Combined total limit of 5 for all cod species

Flowery cod & camouflage rockcod50100Combined total of 5

Maori cod45–Combined total of 5

Other species of rockcods, not including estuary cod38–Combined total of 5

Red throat emperor38–8

Long nose emperor38–5

Spangled emperor45–5

Iodine bream25–5

Lancer (paddy)25–5

Other species of emperors, not including coral bream (grassy sweetlip)25–5

Crimson & lavender jobfish38–Combined limit of 8

Green jobfish38–5


Moses perch25–5

Hussar species25–10 per species

Red emperor55–5

Maori sea perch25–5

Other sea perches25–5

Nannygai (scarlet sea perch), small- and large-mouth40–Combined limit of 9 for both varieties

Chinese footballer5080Combined total limit of 7 for all trout species

Coral trout (common & other species)38–Combined total of 7

Black spot tuskfish (bluey), purple tuskfish (greasy), venus tuskfish, other species of tuskfish30–Combined total limit of 6 for all tuskfish

Other species of wrasse25–5 per species

Blackall (painted sweetip)25–5

Blubberlip (brown sweetlip)255

Sombre sweetlip25–5

Netted sweetlip25–5

Other sweetlips25–5

All other RCRFFs as per the management plan25–5

Protected species: Maori wrasse, barramundi cod, potato cod, Queensland groper, red bass, chinaman fish, paddletail

This is not a complete list of RCRFFs but includes many of the species of RCRFF that may be of particular importance to Hervey Bay anglers.


An angler is allowed to havea total of 20 RCRFFsin possession provided the individual species limits are adhered to. Species that are not RCRFFs are not included in the total of 20. Here are some examples:

• An individual catch of 5 blackall, 3 black-spot tuskfish, 3 purple tuskfish and 5 stripeys in possession – a total of 16 fish, all RCRFFs, all complying with individual limits – a legal catch.

• An individual catch of 4 Moses perch, 5 stripeys, 2 black-spot tuskfish, 3 purple tuskfish, 4 blackall and 4 spangled emperor in possession – a total of 22 fish, all RCRFFs (exceeding 20) even though individual limits are not exceeded – an illegal catch.

• An individual catch of 4 black-spot tuskfish, 4 purple tuskfish, 3 blackall and 2 Moses perch in possession – a total of 13 fish, all RCRFFs but the total of 8 tuskfish exceeding the combined tuskfish limit – an illegal catch.

• An individual catch of 5 blackall, 8 coral bream (grass sweetlip), 2 coral trout, 6 black-spot tuskfish and 3 stripeys – a total of 24 fish but only 16 RCRFFs as the coral bream is not a RCRFF. Individual limits for RCRFFs are not exceeded – a legal catch.


Another major factor in the plan is the declaration of closures. For three nine-day periods of the year, all Queensland waters north of 25 degrees South latitude are closed to the taking of all species of RCRFF. These nine-day periods straddle the new moon in the latter months of the year and in 2004 will be from October 8-16, from November 6-14 and from December 6-14. This line of latitude runs east-west just north of Indian Head on Fraser Island and between Theodolite Creek and Elliot Heads on the mainland, making most of Hervey Bay’s popular northern reefs subject to the closures. These closures do not apply to taking species other than RCRFFs. For example, it’s allowable to take snapper or spotted mackerel at the Wathumba One Mile as these are not designated species (although they do have size and bag limits). On the other hand, taking coral trout or red emperor from reefs off Rooney Point would not be permitted. It should also be noted that closures are relevant to in-possession limits. For example, a 50cm scarlet sea perch, caught by an angler off Arch Cliff (south of 25 deg South), could not be in his possession after travelling north of 25 degrees south during a closure period.

Other important aspects of the plan include the requirements for filleting fish, equipment that can be used and extended charter trips. This information is readily available from DPI offices.


Finally, a few comments about a few species that are important to Hervey Bay.

Blackall (painted sweetlip or slatey bream) is a species of genus Diagramma, and a RCRFF. It now carries a bag limit of 5 and a minimum legal length of 25cm. Closely related sweetlips of the genus Plectorhynchus, the brown sweetlip (blubberlip bream), sombre sweetlip and netted sweetlip (gold-spot blubberlips), now all carry these same limits. The sombre and netted sweetlips are often caught around the coffee rocks of Fraser Island’s ocean beach. Although a common reef dweller and member of the emperor family, the grass sweetlip (coral bream) is not a RCRFF. Its legal minimum size remains 30cm and there is no bag limit.

The lancer (paddy) is a small spiny member of the emperor family that is usually unceremoniously returned to the water or used for cod bait. They can be in plague proportions and anglers usually have to move to another location to get away from them. Quite astoundingly, lancers have been designated a RCRFF with a minimum legal length of 25cm and a bag limit of 5. This incredible piece of legislation won’t going to affect most of us but I know that on occasions, visiting family anglers have been happy to take home a feed of this prolific little fish.

Moses perch won’t be found on the DPI brochure but, with other members of the genus Lutjanus, it’s a RCRFF, carrying a legal minimum length of 25cm and an in-possession limit of 5. The Moses perch is a good example of a species, designated RCRFF, but caught in numbers away from the reefs in local estuaries. This makes no difference; the limit of five applies wherever it is caught in tidal waters.

The legal minimum size of spangled emperor has gone up again, to 45cm. It has been rare enough to capture a 40cm specimen in the inner bay. Spangles are often confused with coral bream but can be distinguished by the presence of bright blue spots across the top half of the body.

Although commonly found on the reefs, the snapperis not RCRFF. They continue to have a size limit of 35cm and a bag limit of 5. In a catch including 5 snapper, the snapper are not included in the limit of 20 for RCRFFs.

Although a member of the cod family, the estuary codis not a designated RCRFF. It continues to carry a minimum size of 35cm, a maximum size of 120cm and a bag limit of 10. The estuary cod is almost identical to the greasy cod, a designated RCRFF. I must confess to not having the faintest idea how these fish can be distinguished!

If you think that all this is confusing and as clear as mud, spare a thought for your correspondent who has tried to find a little clear water. I hope this helps.

1) Often confused with the grass sweetlip, spangled emperor now have a minimum legal length of 45 cm.

2) Stripeys are common on Hervey Bay reefs. Now a limit of five is in place.

3) Sombre sweetlip are common catches around Fraser Island’s headlands and coffee rocks.

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