Pestered by pearlies
  |  First Published: September 2004

I DIDN’T think I’d ever say pearl perch are a pest, but over the past month small pearlies have been in plague proportions on the shallower reefs around Point Lookout.

Listening to the chat on the radio, I’ve also heard charter operators working north of Cape Moreton complaining of the same thing. Most of the fish are between 25cm and the new legal limit of 35cm, and only one in every half dozen is a keeper.

I haven’t seen pearlies in numbers like this for years, and hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come. I don’t think it’s the new size limit having an effect so soon; more likely it’s just a good year in the cycle of the species.

On several charters recently, because of wind and/or strong current out wider, I’ve had to work the shallower reefs around Point Lookout. The pearlies were everywhere – the Halfway, the One Mile and Middle reefs – and on one occasion I was anchored up behind Boat Rock, berleying for snapper and sweetlip, and the small pearlies didn’t give any other fish a chance to get a bait.

On the wider grounds off Point Lookout in 80-100m of water, there have also been quality pearlies to 3kg. Mixed in with the pearlies have been some nice rosy jobfish and pigfish.

When targeting pearlies, I prefer to use a paternoster rig with a gang on the top and a single hook on the bottom. For the single hook, I like the circle hook patterns such as the Mustad Demon Hooks because in the deeper water the pearlies often hook themselves before you know they’ve hit the bait. Like most fish, pearlies can be savage feeders when they’re on the chew, and as soon as you hit bottom you’re on. On other days, however, they just lay on the bait. When they are doing this you just feel a little extra weight on the line and I find it better to just lean back on the rod and take a few turns on the reel until you feel the rod load up.

Once you’ve got the weight of the fish, don’t go crazy cranking them to the boat because pearlies have soft mouths. Once they open that big bucket mouth it’s very easy to pull the hooks.

Pillies are the most favoured bait for pearlies. I always use a whole pillie on the top gang but on the bottom hook I use strips of mullet, small whole squid or a small bite-sized livebait. I sometimes soak my mullet fillets in tuna oil and that seems to work on days then the fish are a little shy.

In the shallower water, up to around 70m, floater rigs also work very well. 15kg line is more than enough in shallower water, but if you’re chasing them in depths over 100m – like a lot of anglers do these days when they’re wreck fishing – braided line comes into its own.

When you’ve caught pearlies, remember what they looked like on your sounder, the shape of the school, and (if your sounder is a colour unit) what colour they were on the screen. Pearlies love getting in amongst wireweed and on my Furuno 582 colour sounder they show up as blue dots. This is the sort of thing to put into the memory bank for next time. I don’t need to describe their eating qualities to you – they’re renowned for being one of the best-eating fish in the ocean.

Fishing east of the South Passage bar has been fairly productive all round, with good numbers of squire on most reef structures. Larger snapper have been a little tougher to find. Hopefully late August and September will bring some good snapper if the water temperature drops a degree or two.

Good quality parrot have been in good numbers and fish better than 2kg have been common on the shallower grounds.

Dolphinfish have also been firing around the wave marker but most of them have been small. If there happen to be any larger ones hanging around, a livebait will usually tempt them.

At the time of writing I’m getting the boat ready to head over to the Straddie Classic. Last year my deckie, Ron Tatterstall (in his first Straddie Classic), landed the first and second placed amberjack, so I’m keen to turn the tables this comp!

The Brisbane Boat Show is nearly upon us again. I love having a browse through what’s new in the industry, and this year I’ve been invited to be a presenter at the Yamaha Boating and Fishing Expo, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be talking about targeting mackerel and wahoo in our neck of the woods, so if you’re at the show come over and say g’day.

Until next month, enjoy your fishing. If you’d like to join me on a charter (max. 4 persons) contact me on 0418 738 750 or (07) 3822 9527.


1) There are heaps of pearl perch around at the moment, although most aren’t very big.

2) Over 20kg of amberjack caught jigging in 50 fathoms of water.

3) Bruce Grimmer with a nice Maori cod from the Point Lookout shallows.

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