Targeting Coronation Trout
Choosing a particular species to target is usually a pretty quick and simple choice for fishermen and there’s always a common list that most fisho’s wish to target. These are commonly targeted time over and over and eventually ticked off the wish list.
In this article I thought would cover something a little different that I’m asked pretty regularly about and that’s the beautiful Coronation Trout. Caught as by-catch while chasing other large reef fish such as red emperor, there’s no doubt the Coronation Trout is one of the prettiest fish in the ocean. Although colours vary depending on size and location, the striking purple coloured spots mixed with bright yellow under body fading into a beautiful deep red makes them a favoured fish to catch and photograph. Did I mention good eating? These fish are a highly prized table fish with a beautiful white delicate flesh similar to a coral trout.
The coronation trout (Variola louti ) is part of the “Serranidae” family which is commonly known as coral trout. As most would know coral trout commonly inhabit large reef structure in tropical waters where there is plenty of protection to hide from predators. The coronation trout would be no different, living in cracks, caves, overhangs and basically anything that offers protection.
Although they can be caught among the shallow reef systems in just a few mtrs of water, we tend to find much greater numbers on the deeper reefs between 40 to 80 metres of water and particularly on the wider reefs in the South and Central Queensland regions. The larger reefs or bommies generally hold better numbers of these fish purely because there’s more structure on offer but a small rock the size of car can also produce these fish as long as that rock has the protection it needs.
Coronation Trout are aggressive feeders and will usually smash baits as soon as it hits the bottom. They are commonly the first fish caught on spots and in particular newly found ground. Blue moari cod are very similar in behaviour and I have caught these fish together on regular trips along with red emperor.
In my opinion these fish are territorial and live in the same area for long periods of time on the deeper reefs. Fishing the same smaller reefs time and time again will rarely see coronation trout caught from the same spots. Because of this, the most important advice on targeting these fish consistently is to find new ground that has seen no or very little fishing pressure. On the larger reef systems these fish move around a little and will take up residence in a suitable home where they can breed. These fish will grow and also live on those larger reefs with other coronation trout so larger reefs may continue to produce these fish time and time again.
I have been lucky enough to capture these fish on the underwater cameras numerous times and to my surprise these fish were happy to leave their homes and swim all around the reef in a very casual manner. They look extremely inquisitive and look just as pretty under the water as they do out of the water. Good mate and legend spearfisherman Tim McDonald has spent a considerable amount of time free diving the deeper reefs and experienced first-hand the habitat of these fish. Tim explains that these fish are one of the hardest fish to spear. They’re smart, cunning and very cautious when danger is present. Often hiding behind rocks and cautiously peering over, under or beside the structure to keep an eye on the danger appearing in front of them. Tim explains that if there was ever a fish with a human like expression then the coronation trout is it.
Seeing that coronation trout are bottom feeders, it only makes sense to target them close to the bottom. For this reason paternoster rigs are very effective to ensure baits are positioned close to the bottom where these fish feed. They often roam around the reefs about 1mtr off the bottom so the paternoster rig is ideal as the baits will be situated in a similar position which can be easily seen by roaming fish from some distance away.
The running ball sinker rig comprising of enough lead to hold bottom can also be successful and although this places the bait hard on the bottom these fish will happily take baits in this position. Unfortunately this can allow for these fish to quickly run for cover and possibly bust you off. Being busted off isn’t a common occurrence when chasing these fish and even though they hit hard and put up a good account of themselves they don’t grow particularly big and in most cases they are caught on heavier line classes between 50-100lb while targeting red emperor so they really don’t stand much of a chance in bricking you.
Coronation trout aren’t all that fussy when it comes to bait types. They will take a wide selection of dead and live baits but the humble pilchard works very well as long as smaller fish such as hussar aren’t around in big numbers taking baits before they even reach the bottom. If this is the case use large flesh baits to ensure the Coronation Trout get a chance to eat the bait before the other smaller fish do.
Artificial baits such as soft plastics also work well but the key is to use slightly heavier jig heads to ensure you work the plastic close to the bottom where the Coro’s inhabit. It’s as simple as dropping to the bottom and doing a series of small twitches raising the plastic up only a mtr or two and dropping back down to repeat the process. Alternatively dropping to the bottom and doing one big lift and drop will also work well and entice these fish.
When fishing the shallow reef areas on the Great Barrier Reef, coronation trout will take a huge array of artificial baits. Plastics, hard bodys, stick baits and poppers are all effective over the shallow reef bombie areas.
-Find new ground that gets no or very little fishing pressure
-Target the wider grounds
-Fish reefs that offer good structure such as overhangs and caves where coronation trout inhabit
-Ensure baits are positioned close to the bottom
I hope this information on coronation trout helps fishos either catch their first or improve catch rates on these beautiful fish.