Coral Trout

Coral Trout

Coral Trout
Plectropomus leopardus

The Coral Trout is, of course, not a trout at all but a fierce reef dwelling predator. Its table qualities are matched only by its power over short bursts.


Also known as a Leopard Fish, these often large fish are found inhabiting coral reefs from Dongara north and around to NSW. They have been known to exceed 1 metre but most often only reach 75cm and weigh in at about 6 to 8kg.

While usually seen as bright orange with vivid blue spots they can vary in colour to a muddy brown/green and, although the blue spots remain, they may be muted and not as vivid.

Fishers that target them regard coral trout as one of the top ten eating fish in the ocean.

Scientific Information

The coral trout is a protogynous hermaphrodite. This means that they are initially females but change sex to male over time. This is opposite to fish such as the barramundi which mature as females.

Coral trout reach maturity at 22cm when they are aged about 2 years old. Young females can lay just under 100,000 eggs in one year but more mature fish can lay up to half a million.

Most coral trout are caught on the bottom but they will, quite frequently, come to the surface to take a lure or bait.

How To Catch Them

Not a true coral trout but the
Polka Dot Cod is closely related

Look at that gob!

Most often thought of as a standard reef feeder, it is often forgotten that they are a savage predator and lay in wait at the edge of reef drop offs. As the tide falls and the smaller fish move to the sanctuary of the deeper water, the trout, with a tremendous burst of speed, launch themselves from their hiding places and engulf their prey with large and well teethed mouths.

Usually caught on bait over deeper reefs they are often taken using jigs and false baits. Live baits are known to take a few trout but are not a method used much due to the often large numbers of sharks in the same habitats.

One of the most exciting ways to hook onto these fish is casting or trolling surface lures or poppers along the reef drop off and waiting for them to pounce. One thing coral trout have in common with all reef fish is their power over short runs and the unerring ability to bury the unwary and sometimes experienced anglers into the razor sharp edges of underwater coral reefs.

The best example of this is the Rowley Shoals, an atoll system some 350km off the coast of Broome, where trout to 15kg savagely attack poppers and swimming lures that are trolled past their bommie. Once hooked, you have about a 20% chance of ever stopping them.

Another exciting method of lure fishing involves white maribou or, even better, Javelin Lazer slices. We have repeatedly caught trout by jigging lures RIGHT NEAR THE REEF FLOOR. Why capital letters? Because it’s important. They cannot resist a tantalising lure jigged right above their reefy home and if there’s one you can bet there’s more. We have caught many fish right after getting our lure free from a snag when a trout will attack right away. It makes you think you’re snagged again at first! Our greatest success has come with the Javelin Lazer 50g in Blue.

Coral trout are rated as one of the best fish of all to eat and are very highly prized by anglers who are out to land a good feed. As a table fish, the white fine flesh is open to a variety of cooking methods but as with all true good eating fish simple, subtle methods do it the most justice so that the flavour can be truly appreciated.

One word of warning! Whilst we have never heard of a proven case of Ciguatera poisoning in WA, large specimens of this species have been associated with this sometimes fatal form of food poisoning mainly in Northern Queensland.

How To Rig Your Line To Catch Them

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