Catching a feed of tasty fish from a tropical reef is on a lot of peoples’ bucket list, but for some, they are lucky enough to consider just a weekend activity! Getting yourself set to gather an esky full of demersals can cost a bit, but the effort is more than worth it when you’re eating some of the tastiest fish in the world.
Species such as coral trout, largemouth nannygai and red emperor, as well as a host of others, are prized catches in these areas, and can often have anglers driving for many nautical miles out to sea in search of their own little patch. There’s a few different ways to go about fishing the reefs, but in this post we are going to focus on bait fishing.
Well-known marks can be found online, with some anglers willing to share their marks. The best fishing, however, will come from doing your own research and finding small rises and humps on the bottom, which could be reef, rubble or a wreck. Of course, having a decent sounder and a seaworthy boat is pretty much essential if wanting to fish the reefs.
Using live and dead baits over the reef is by far the most effective way to catch reefies, and baits will generally attract a wider range of species than jigs and soft plastics do.
Shimano Terez Rods in either spin or overhead make great rods for bait fishing over the reefs, and there is a range of weights to suit different areas with different classes of fish. Slightly heavier gear may be useful if your chosen area has a lot of shark activity.
By far the most popular rig is the paternoster rigs, and large bait or ‘J’ style hooks are preferred. Anything from 5/0-8/0 is suitable for larger reefies, with Gamakatsu’s Live Bait Hooks, Big Bait Hooks and Octopus Hooks, as well as the Mustad Hoodlum Live Bait Hooks and VMC Heavy Duty Live Bait Hooks 9260 suitable.
Fishing with dead baits of squid, pilchard and various strip baits is a proven technique over the reefs, while livies such as scad or yakkas work when the dead baits aren’t getting interest from anything other than pickers.
Gathering a feed of reefies from a reef in the tropics is a lot of fun, because often you won’t know what’s coming over the side when you hook up! It’s a lucky dip a lot of the time, but the majority of those fish will make a welcome addition to the table!
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