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Many people may not realize it, but there are actually three main types of Coral Trout. These are:
- The Bar Cheek Trout
- The Blue Spotted Trout
- Common Coral Trout
The common is known by many names including ‘ The leopard Coral Grouper, Common Coral Trout, Leoparwith Blue Spotted Coral Trout, Blue-Dotted Coral Grouper or Spotted Coral Grouper.’
Coral trout are one of my favorite fish to catch. Learning how to catch Coral Trout will greatly increase your chances of landing one of these beautiful fish.
There is nothing better than seeing that red color appear as you bring the fish up from the bottom. Not only do they fight hard, but they also look great, and are one of the best-eating fish in the ocean. I don’t think I know anyone that will through one back unless it’s undersized. They can grow up to 100cm and live for 20 years.
They are also a great photo opportunity, as they look great with their vibrant red with blue spots. So when you bring them to the top, you don’t want to damage them. Not only for the photo but if you want to throw them back.
I recommend getting a good set of lip grips and a hook remover so you can release the fish unharmed. Check out my review on the best hook removers on the market at The Best 5 Fish Hook Removers Available. The best lip grip I have found, and use myself, is the Piscifun Fish Lip Gripper with Digital Scale. Check out my review here.
They like to live in rocky or reef areas, hiding in holes weighing to ambush prey. For this reason, they can be a very hard fish to target.
Not only will you need gear that is up to the challenge, but you will need to be prepared for a few bust-offs as you chance that elusive fish. In this post I will go through areas to fish, gear needed, and of course how to catch a coral trout using different techniques.
Before you go out to chace one of these beautiful fish, you want to make sure you have the gear that is up to the challenge. Because of where they live and how they hunt, you’re going to need to get them off the bottom fast, and this means heavy gear.
Professional trout fishermen traditionally use handline, and skull drags them in. This is great if you are just trying to catch as much fish as you can. But most of us don’t go out to catch as much as we can, we go out to enjoy the experience of fishing.
Ideally, you should take out a couple of different set-ups, so not only can you bottom bounce for them, but also one for jigging, and of course the big hand line if the rest isn’t working for you.
You will need a rod and reel combo that can run no less than 30 lb braid and 80 lb leader. I will sometimes run up to 50 lb braid in rough seas. Braid is great as it doesn’t stretch, so you can feel everything happening on the bottom. This is important as you will need to be ready to get them out of that hole.
If you’re jigging, a longer 20-30 lb outfit is ideal, with a 30-50 lb leader depending on the structure. A large hand line 50-80 lb for the stubborn fish if you are on the ball. ( best to wear some sort of protection on your hands as it may hurt a bit)
I like to run my leader down to a paternoster rig. With the sinker below the hook, it reduces snags. I like to hand-tie my rigs with only the one swivel to join the leader to the mainline. Instead of tying on hook and sinker connect them with a loop for easy change out.
Tip, always have a few already made up rirs in case of break-offs. This way you can get back into the water faster. Great if you’re drift fishing or if the current is strong.
If you’re jigging, I would suggest a micro jig, particularly a model that displays a wide, fluttering action. Another great option is octo jigs. They may look strange, but believe me, they work a treat, and can even work when completely stationary to mimic small fish, squid, or octopus.
Soft plastics also work well in the 4-7 inch mark, just be prepared to go through a lot (remember those teeth) Casting and retrieving a deep diving lure into fairly shallow water can also work a treat.
Check out some great rigs, and how to tie them here at The Best Fishing Rigs For Whatever Fish You Want.
If you are in a hurry, and not concerned about the sport of catching a trout, then a 100 lb hand line with a running sinker will work best. This is the technique that the pros use, and for good reason.
As long as you are on the ball, these can work great. With a rod and reel, even the bend in the rod could be enough for the fish to get back into his hole.
Finding The Fish
Now that you have all the gear you need A good sturdy rod and reel, good quality line, hooks, lures/jigs, and a big hand line, its time to get out there and find the fish.
While they have been caught from shore in rocky drop-off drop-offs, your best chance is to get out in a boat. You don’t need to go far, the ‘Bar Cheek Coral Trout’ for example will happily live in 5m of water down to 35m.
The first thing you need to do is find yourself some reef with a nice drop-off to sand. They love these areas because they provide more places they can hide in wait to ambush prey.
The next thing you want to do is find the bait fishbaitfish. If there isn’t baitfish, there probably isn’t any trout. A good sounder will help, but simply putting your head over the side with a mask or fish spotter will do the trick too.
The last thing you need to remember is that Coral Trout, like any predator fish, like to face into the current. Position your bait or jig on the side of the bommie that the current is pushing onto.
Fishing behind this will significantly decrease your chances. The current can play a big part in where you fish. You might find the perfect bommie, but if the current isn’t pushing onto it right, you won’t catch a fish.
Keep searching, there are plenty of bommies out there. The best time to fish for trout is at times of low light, on a tide change or dusk and dawn. Like most reef fish, they will hide away at night to avoid reef sharks that tend to hunt more actively after the sun has gone down.
Bait selection is very important. Although a pilchard will work, fresh is always best. The best bait for an area is the fish that are already there. Bring out a bait jig, and spend a few minutes collecting baitfish.
A fillet of one of these will work great, especially if it still has a bit of blood in it. One of my go-to baits over the years has always been the yellowtail fusilier. They are a staple diet of just about any predatory fish on the reef.
Presentation is everything when baiting up. You need to make it look as natural as possible. Bait up so it can move in the current, attacking and trout that may be in the area. Use a single or a snell set up but make sure you leave that tail.
If you can’t get hold of any fresh bait, squid is always good as it stays on the hook longer. one of my favorite tricks is to put half a pilchard inside a squid. This way you have the oil in the water, as well as the bait staying on the hook.
To Sum Up
A wise man once told me “Fish don’t have hands”. Sounds strange I know, but think about it. How else is a fish supposed to know what something is unless they grab it? We use our hands, they use their mouth. This is why jigs and lures can work so well. Just keep your bait, jig, or lure moving and hold on. They will try everything to get back to that hole, so make sure you have that drag set tight (but not so tight to snap off)
My last bit of advice is to know your size limits for your area. At writing this, the Bar and Common Trout minimum is 38cm and the Blue Spot is 55cm with a maximum of 80cm due to the risk of ciguatera.
When you get that fish to the boat, you don’t want to damage it or risk losing the fish. This is when you need a good set of lip grips. A great set I have found at a reasonable price is ‘Pisifun Fish Lip Gripper with Digital scale. Click the link to read my review. If you do want to release the fish, you need to remove that hook without doing too much damage. Check out Best Hook Remover to see some of the best on the market at the moment.
I hope you have enjoyed reading, and maybe learned something you can use next time you go out targeting these beautiful fish. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. As always
Tony Creator of Get Reel Fishin