RECORD: Plectropomus laevis
, 24.9kg, Querejeta, French Polynesia, 2010
, 5.8kg, Imlah, Japan, 2009
, 11.8kg, Nielson, Fiji, 1972
Tonga, Fiji, Japan, French Polynesia, Australia
The coral trouts belong to the grouper family and make for fantastic eating. They are a relative large and robust fish and are generally red in colour with some form of spots or pattern varying between species. Like all grouper and cod they have a large mouth lined with more than one row of teeth.
Here are the main species found by spearos. While technically not a trout we've included the coronation trout and peacock trouts here as most people think of them as so.
FEEDING HABITS AND HABITAT:
|BLUE SPOT TROUT
The blue spot is the biggest of the trout and can grow up to 25kg. It is usually a dark red brown with distinctive blue spots. There is another colour phase of the blue spot trout that is radically different and a mixture of black, yellow and white. This phase is often referred to as the footballer trout but it is the same species.
The blue spot trout always has dark non-transparent fins.
|COMMON CORAL TROUT
The common trout doesn't grow as large as the blue spot trout only reaching about 6-7kg.
While it often shares the same colour scheme as the blue spot it is most easily distinguished by its transparent pectoral fins.
The coastal trout is commonly found on inshore reefs and islands. It grows to about the same size as the common trout. Its easily distinguished from the common and blue spot trouts by its much lighter colouration and its brilliant blue spots that may be stretched into bars.
The coronation trout is actually more of a cod than a trout. It is most easily recognised by its unique and brilliant colour scheme and lyre shaped tail.
They are published as growing up to 12kg but the record is still open as there's never been one over 10lbs speared (the one pictured went just under) and are most commonly shot at around 2 or 3 kilograms.
They're much flightier than the other trout making them a prized catch.
The peacock cod is one of the easier targets on the reef and makes for fantastic eating. Their smaller size makes them perfect for cooking whole.
They're a very attractive purple colour and their scientific name Argus comes from the Greek monster with 'one hundred staring eyes'.
The coral trouts live in the coral reef. They're piscivorous with smaller fish living on crustaceans while the larger fish prey on a variety of small reef fish. They will live on a relatively small section of reef and as a large, resident predator they will definitely be carrying ciguatera if it's present in the area with the risk of poisoning relative to the size of the fish. Make sure you know if ciguatera is present in the area you're diving before eating any trout.
While still a real challenge to hunt by New Zealand standards the coral trouts are one of the more accessible, high quality targets to spearos. They're not exceptionally flighty and if you're relatively careful will let you get very close before bolting. One of the easiest ways to target trout is to simply swim along the surface following the reef edge and trying to spot trout out over the sand. From there you can usually bomb straight down on them. Make sure you stop finning altogether and drift the last 10 meters or so down on them. Big trout will often roll on the side and give a little shudder just before they bolt. If they just drift out deeper over the sand away from you they're usually not badly spooked and will come back and give you another go. If they go into their cave in the reef though they're probably gone.
Big trout fight extremely hard and will beat you up if you're not ready. The initial few moments are the worst as they try and power into their cave and it's in these first few moments where the battle is usually won or lost. If you're silly enough to be using a breakaway or double wrap of shooting line around the reef you're likely to come off second best. As soon as you take your shot you need to pull your line up tight immediately and hold the fish off the reef. Once that first pull starts to slow down you can start to head for the surface.
If you see your buddy shoot a coral trout make sure you keep a very close eye on them. The exertion needed to hold a rampaging trout out of the reef right at the end of the dive is very taxing and a real blackout risk. It is often helpful to swim down and take over the fight for them so that they can swim straight to the surface without having to drag the fish up.