Targeting estuary trevally throughout our spectacular country is not only a real privilege, but offers some incredible line burning enjoyment. Whether it is the hard fighting silvers of the south or the popper crunching giant trevally further north all our trevally species are remarkable sportfish.
The list of trevally species encountered in our river and estuary systems is large and quite unique. Dependent largely on geographic location the species on offer include silver, giant, big eye, golden, diamond, tea –leaf, cale cale, long nose and even the odd bluefin trevally making an appearance. Although all share similar characteristics such as power and sheer stubbornness once hooked, certain species clearly differ with feeding habits and behaviour.
Silver trevally (pseudocaranx dentex) are a favourite around the southern half of our continent and offer plenty for anglers living in our big cities. Silver trevally are predominantly a coastal fish that prefer, bays, inshore reefs, entrances to estuaries and like all trevally, enjoy structure around strong flowing current. They are fast and dirty fighters that provide great sport on light line with fish up around the 2kg mark putting on a real performance. Silvers encountered in estuaries and bays can be anywhere between 500 gram lightweights to the run of the mill 1-2kg fish. Although the current Australian record for a silver trevally is a staggering 10kg, silvers usually attain a maximum length of 80cm and come in at around 5-6kg in weight. To be realistic a silver trevally anywhere near the 4kg mark encountered within a river or estuary is a serious trophy.
Targeting silvers in our estuaries can be done in quite a wide range of areas such as sand flats, shallow weed beds, deeper holes and snags. The bite will largely depend on tidal movement and current. Bait fishing can be a highly successful method for targeting silvers, with baits such as peeled prawns,nippers, worms, half pieces of pilchard, strips of squid and slimy mackerel all working well. Silvers are one species of trevally that respond extremely well to burley and this can be a simple bread or chook pellet mix. Silvers are also a superb target for lure fishermen and these fish are aggressive takers of small metals, jigs, vibes, stick baits, soft plastics and flies. Soft plastics are hard to beat when the fish are slightly more finicky and worm/grub style plastics are just deadly.
The giant trevally (caranx Ignobilis) are the true heavyweights of the family and once outside on our offshore reefs have the growth potential to reach upwards of 70 kilos. Throughout our rivers however, the vast majority of giant trevally encountered are juvenile fish. Fish in the 1-3 kilo range are the most common with larger fish around 4-5kilos making spasmodic appearances. Giant trevally are fast growing fish and mature around the age of 3-4 years where at this time they will be around 60cm in length. There are of course anomalies, which occur, and the possibility of fish over 10kilos does exist within our estuary systems. Encounters with these larger fish however are very rare. Juvenile fish however, thrive in our estuaries and very quickly establish themselves as top line predators. They are fast, robust and aggressive fish that become an addictive target for many anglers. Fish around the 3-5 kilo mark are amazingly powerful and have no problems emptying small reels. A fish around the 4-5kg mark is a seriously impressive looking fish and a real trophy within our estuaries.
Finding GT’s in our estuaries and rivers becomes easier if you think about what the big oceanic GT’s really love. The key ingredients remain the same, with fast flowing water, strong current flow and bait schools all triggers for feeding. These factors are also largely governed by our moon phases. The stronger and larger tides around the full and new moon phase are excellent times to target these fish. Trevally will actively hunt in these strong flowing areas where they can use their power to ambush bait schools and prawns with ease. Just about anything will be annihilated by these brutal fish and I have witnessed estuarine GT’s smashing mullet schools that most would consider simply too big for fish around the 2.5kg mark.
With their intense aggressive nature there is an enormous list of artificials that will successfully catch giant trevally throughout our estuary systems. Harbodied lures, plastics and flies will all be annihilated when presented in the correct manner. Surface fishing for these destructive feeding machines is by far the most satisfying method of capture and the visual thrills are as good as fishing gets. Surface poppers and small stick baits work with equal effectiveness. To try and list all that will work however would be an exhausting task and your selection can be intelligently based around the bait the fish are feeding on in your chosen estuary.
The big-eye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatu) is best distinguished by its coloration in having blue to green shades above and silver below with white tips on both the dorsal and anal fins. As the name suggests they also feature the characteristic ‘big eye’s’ which are certainly put to good use during night time hunting sessions.
Throughout south east Queensland in particular, big-eye trevally are certainly one of the most predominant species. They are powerfully built killing machines that continually hunt both day and night. At times the fish school in what can be enormous numbers. Big eye’s approaching the 60cm mark provide sensational sport on light tackle with long powerful runs and an absolute determination to never give up. These fish do have a growth potential of up to 90cm and although unlikely to be encountered at this size in our rivers and estuaries, a 70cm fish is always a slim possibility.
In my opinion big eye trevally are a species best targeted on lures and I have enjoyed some furious sessions with these fish returning home with one very hot little reel. Soft plastics, metals, vibes, divers, surface lures and flies all work extremely well on these fish as they are constantly on the move hunting for bait. By far the most exciting way to tangle with these fish is with surface lures and they just cannot resist a popper or stick bait walking the surface. Given the fact these fish are extremely active of a night time, popping sessions under the moon can be incredibly entertaining. The periods of low light are also prime feeding times where you will be able to clearly spot feeding fish. Big-eye trevally would rate as one of the lousiest of table fish and in my opinion are all better off released.
As juveniles golden trevally are simply stunning fish to look at with golden/yellow colouration and anywhere between seven to eleven dark vertical bands lining their flanks. The species mouth is one of its defining features and it is highly protractile and fleshy. This mouth is used to form a tube to suck prey out of both reef and algae dominated habitats. Golden trevally are fond predators of sand/mudflats where they forage across the flats filtering organisms out of the sandy substate. Both sand and prey are taken into the mouth and filtered through the gill-rakers with the sand expelled and small organisms trapped and swallowed.
Goldens will take a variety of prey including crustaceans, shrimps, crabs, yabbies and small fish and are therefore best targeted on the bottom. Soft plastics are my personal preference for targeting Noosa’s golden trevally. Berkley’s 3 inch powerbait’s, gulp shrimp and turtleback worm offerings have all accounted for fish. The Gladiator gold fleck prawn soft plastic is another extremely successful lure within the Noosa system. Small blades, vibes and divers also work well when these fish make their spasmodic entrances. Golden trevally are well known for their dogged fighting abilities and can really put on an amazingly stubborn performance even at the smaller sizes.
The spectacular diamond trevally (Alectis Indicus) gains its descriptive name not surprisingly from the way the fish looks. With its unique shape (like that of a diamond), these fish feature amazing colouration which is as shiny as the brightest of chrome. For those who have been lucky enough to catch these fish and see their colours up close, the greens, pinks, silvers and light blue colours have an almost mesmerising feel to them.
The Noosa river and in fact all rivers located in south east Queensland seem reliable systems for those wanting to specifically target or capture their first diamond trevally. I must admit I became somewhat fascinated by these intriguing fish after I caught my first one many years back. It seems juvenile and sub adult fish can turn up almost any time in the river and these fish display very interesting behavioural characteristics. One such example is the fish’s willingness to swim above and behind feeding stingrays and shovelnose sharks. My belief here is that the fish simply wait for the feeding rays and sharks to disturb prawns and yabbies buried in the sand. These then become an easy meal for the lurking diamonds behind the scene.
Places to begin your search for diamonds are sandbanks adjacent to deeper water drop offs. Here the fish have the best of both worlds with flats to feed upon and nice deep water to sink into and seek refuge. Other low tide haunts are deep holes, boat hulls and bridges.
Given the fact diamonds are predominantly a bottom feeding species, my lure selection is identical to that of what I would use on golden trevally. The number one soft plastics however are prawn imitations.
Tea-leaf & cale cale trevally
Both the tea-leaf and cale cale trevally (Caranx papuensis & Ulua mentalis) are two of the more fussy species and can at times, be extremely frustrating to chase. On many occasions these fish demonstrate behaviour mush like that of feeding tuna where they become locked into feeding on near microscopic bait schools. Matching the hatch is critical to success but at times near impossible.
Both species are beautiful fish and can turn on some pretty extreme power when necessary generated by their big forked tails. Tea leafs are best distinguished by their colouration, having small black spots scattered above and below the lateral line. Cale cale trevally are more of a unique looking species with their protruding lower jaw and elongated gill rakers. They are an aggressive looking fish and have the attitude and speed to match. Dependant on the mood of the day both species can respond well to hard bodied lures, plastics and flies. Tea-leaf trevally will also belt a surface lure on occasions with both poppers and small stick baits receiving attention. Cales are best targeted on small plastics or fly.
Long nose & bluefin trevally
To specifically target both the long nose and bluefin trevally (Carangoides chyrysophrys & Caranx melampygus) throughout our river systems would be a difficult task. Both species make occasional appearances throughout our estuaries but most captures occur as bi-catch while targeting other trevally species. The long nose is an interesting species which is silvery to blue-green above and silver below. The fish has quite a blunt snout and is commonly called the club nose trevally.
Bluefin trevally are easily recognised by their electric blue fins, however, in saying this, the juveniles encountered in the estuaries often don’t display these amazing colours. Bluefin consume a high amount of crustaceans but transfer to a more fish based diet as they grow. Both species are best targeted with presentations deeper in the water column or on the bottom. Plastics are again my preferred choice with fish, wriggler and prawn profiles amongst the best. Blades and small soft vibes can also claim plenty of fish.
Gear selection for success on estuary trevally really comes down to how sporting you would like to be as an angler. Over more recent years I have had some amazing fun fishing 4lb braid over my 1-3kg outfit but the fights can be quite long if you are hooking fish around the 3-4kg mark. You also need to apply some logic with the terrain you are fishing and if around heavy structure trevally can make you look pretty silly in rather quick time.
The smarter choice in many instances particularly for newcomers is an outfit in the 3-6kg range capable of fishing 6-10lb braid. This will give you the option of applying more pressure if necessary and also allows you to throw slightly larger poppers and plastics if desired.
The name of the game is to reach a balance where you having fun and at the same time controlling the majority of the fish you hook. There will always be the odd unstoppable when targeting these tough combatants and this simply adds even more appeal to this amazing family of fish.