Pearly Pearls of Wisdom
  |  First Published: January 2010

Pearl perch are my favourite fish. Pearlies are abundant in season and are easy to catch in relatively shallow water. All ages can enjoy pearly fishing with only minimal levels of fishing expertise. Pearlies are good looking silvery fish with huge, deep black eyes, pearl earrings and a mouth like a bucket. They are safe to handle and make brilliant table fare.

Think of pearlies as a big, offshore winter whiting and you are getting close to the mark. They range in schools of similar sized fish over the extensive wire weed and gravel rises that make up Wide Caloundra. Pearlies are a fish for all generations and are an especially good target species for whole family groups.

Pearl perch (Glaucosoma scapulare) are widespread throughout Wide Caloundra between November and June. The pearlies were a little late this year, not arriving in good numbers until mid-December, but the best part about their late arrival is it’s pearly season right now!

Here are some tried and true techniques we use on the Incredible. They are basic but as the Incredible lands plenty of pearlies each year I can guarantee they work.


Pearlies are found on the wire weed in depths from 55m out to the 100m line from 26° 40’S down to about 26° 50’S. Better catches are to be had the further north and east you travel. Pearlies are often thick along the 95-100m line from the Barwons south to the Qld/NSW border but are not commonly caught on the rocky reefs of Deep Tempest and similar hard reef country.

Time of year

At Wide Caloundra pearlies can be caught from November through to June.

Winds of 5-10 knots in the morning, with no more than 15 knots in the afternoon are ideal. Because you will probably travel 50km to reach Wide Caloundra, if the weather is good, go. Don’t worry about the moon phase.


Incredible carries very soft tipped rods between 6’6” and 7’ spooled with 50lb braid line. Because pearlies have very soft mouths pumping and winding, stiff rods, and over enthusiasm will see more fish lost than landed, so go easy on them when fighting them to the boat.

I highly recommend Silstar JIG-EM Rigs. They are a pre-rigged paternoster carrying three hooks with plastics attached. My favourite is the JRST07-P, with three pearl, single tailed plastics on very sharp hooks.

Sweeten the jigs by putting some bait on each hook. Flesh baits, pilchards and squid all work fine. A 200g lead is plenty. When I am fishing for pearlies on social trips, the JIG-EM Rigs are all that I use because I am too lazy to tie rigs for myself.

Plastics make a marked difference to catch rates, especially the pale colours. Other charter boats use floater rigs which have a deadly effect on pearl perch as well.

Handling your catch

All table fish, including pearl perch, should be bled and placed in an ice slurry immediately on capture. All fish eat better if handled this way, even white-fleshed species like pearlies, snapper and trag jew.

Pearler By Catch

When fishing for pearl perch you will catch plenty of other species such as black spot wrasse and sergeant baker in the 80m+ zones. Hussar, Maori cod, snapper, Moses perch and parrot will also turn up on your line as you seek pearl perch, but when fishing with the paternosters there is usually little by-catch.

Carry a ruler to measure your catch. Pearlies have a minimum size limit of 35cm, and plenty of fish are landed between 32-33cm, which can get a bit frustrating at times. Given the probable mortality of releasing any fish caught in deep water and the high levels of discarded fish, my view is for strict bag limits (pearlies currently have a bag limit of five) with no size limits to be applied to the Rocky Reef Fishery.

My clients have landed pearl perch up to a monster 14lb and 69cm, with fish in the 35-45cm range more commonly landed.

If you are relatively new to offshore fishing add pearl perch to your list of target species. Maybe marlin have a certain mystique, snapper an iconic status, and longtail tuna exhibit the challenge of the chase coupled with back breaking tenacity, but at this stage of my fishing life, pearl perch are my favourites.

If you would prefer to catch your pearl perch with the experts, please call Incredible Charters on 07 3203 8188 to book your charter, or log onto the Incredible web site at www.incrediblecharters.com.au.


Carine, Andy Phipps’ beautiful wife passed, away on Boxing Day after battling breast cancer for a number of years.

I am sure the whole fishing and marine communities join with me in offering heart-felt condolences to Andy and their two children.

Andy, former television presenter, master chef, author, charter operator, surfer, story teller and top fisherman is a great bloke who I first met when we did our coxswain’s course together at Caloundra TAFE nearly ten years ago. Andy and Carine were both very supportive of me when I entered the charter industry and I valued their friendship and advice immensely.

I am sure all of us who knew Carine will be thinking of Andy and the Phipps family during this very sad and tough time.

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