Luring for Coral Trout – All you need to know

 

 While sporting, catch and release fishing has become firmly entrenched into the ethos of Aussie recreational fishing in modern times, there are some fish that have a hard time gleaning any ‘second chance’ benefit from this conservational mindset. No matter how moralistic a fisho you are, some fish are just too damned good on the tooth to release anywhere but straight into the esky. Coral trout are one such fish as Ben Knaggs explains in his latest article.

Big coral trout like this are suckers for slowly worked soft plastics. In the author’s opinion, there’s no better way to catch them!

Big coral trout like this are suckers for slowly worked soft plastics. In the author’s opinion, there’s no better way to catch them!

Coral trout easily rate amongst Australia’s very best table fish, but are also a pretty decent sportfish in their own right. Most trout caught throughout their range of tropical northern Australia are still taken on bait, but specifically targeting these fish with lures makes for more fun and can often actually be a more effective approach.

Ever-Deadly Softies

One look at that dog-toothed maw and vicious disposition of a coral trout is all that’s required to understand that this is an aggressive, highly predatory fish that is clearly happy to smack a lure. As a result, trout can be caught on just about any lure type, from surface poppers to diving minnows or even on the fly.
Of course, the ‘coral trout’ family encompasses quite a collection of species. Coronation trout (aka lunar-tailed trout) are without doubt the most spectacular and also extremely partial to soft plastics.

Of course, the ‘coral trout’ family encompasses quite a collection of species. Coronation trout (aka lunar-tailed trout) are without doubt the most spectacular and also extremely partial to soft plastics.

However, if your life depended on catching a coral trout on an artificial, it would be pretty hard to go past a jig of some description. Jigs have the advantage of allowing the angler to fish vertically through the water column while also being very accurate in placement of the lure in relation to the bottom structure being fished. As we’ll discuss shortly, these are factors critical to regular success chasing coral trout with lures. Small metal jigs – the kind that are nowadays fashionably referred to as ‘micro jigs’ – are perfect for coral trout, particularly models that display a wide, fluttering action so can be fished quite slowly. Likewise, octo jigs are another top option, as these bizarre looking creations will even work when fished completely stationary to mimic a small squid or octopus hovering just above the seafloor.
Scented soft plastics like the Berkley Gulp Jerkshad seem to be the pick of soft plastics for coral trout.

Scented soft plastics like the Berkley Gulp Jerkshad seem to be the pick of soft plastics for coral trout.

Big Baits For Greedy Trout

For my money though, soft plastics are THE deadly coral trout lure, to the point where I rate them more effective on these fish than any dead bait. Stickbait or paddletail plastics in the 4-7 inch size range are perfect for trout, and don’t require much effort or expertise from the angler to near perfectly imitate the typical baitfish coral trout prey upon.
Coral trout aren’t all you’ll catch fishing this way. A wide range of other reefies like gold-spot estuary cod will happily slam a slowly hopped soft plastic or jig.

Coral trout aren’t all you’ll catch fishing this way. A wide range of other reefies like gold-spot estuary cod will happily slam a slowly hopped soft plastic or jig.

Scented plastics like the Z-Man or Berkley Gulp range seem to score best on coral trout, so are well worth considering when making your selection from the tackle store shelves. The astoundingly stretchy and incredibly tough nature of the Z-Man soft plastic material is also advantageous on the tropical reefs where everything seems to have powerful jaws and scissor-like teeth that literally chew through standard soft plastics at a rate that can send your wallet into a panic attack.

The Perfect Balance

While there’s no great need to get too specific about the outfit used for this style of fishing, striking a good compromise between a set up that is light in the hand to aid keeping in touch with the lure but also powerful enough to really put some hurt on a good fish will cut down on the instance of fish burying you in the reef. 20-30lb spin outfits are just about ideal, particularly if the rod is designed with jigging in mind. Another option worth considering is to employ a beefed up baitcast outfit. For this type of vertical fishing, the direct contact to the lure a baitcast outfit allows can be really beneficial, allowing the angler to tweak those lures to great effect. It almost goes without saying that hard wearing fluorocarbon leader line is necessary to resist the inevitable brushes with sharp coral that will happen when targeting reef dwelling trout on jigs and plastics. I like 50lb leader line, but as light as 30lb should be fine around more user-friendly country.
Outfits for this type of vertical fishing need to be light but powerful. As we can see here, a 20-30lb spin outfit is a good choice, but sometimes the battle is touch and go for those vital first few seconds straight after hook up!

Outfits for this type of vertical fishing need to be light but powerful. As we can see here, a 20-30lb spin outfit is a good choice, but sometimes the battle is touch and go for those vital first few seconds straight after hook up!

Sounding Out Trout 

So if soft plastics and vertical jigs are killer lures for coral trout, the other major piece to this puzzle is working them right in amongst likely trout holding areas. Trout are a true reef species that prefer to occupy reef edges, overhangs, caves, bommies and any such structure that provides good protection from predators but also makes a perfect ambush point to mow down baitfish, prawns, squid and the like. So these are the kinds of reef habitat to search out when chasing trout. Keep in mind through, reef structure doesn’t have to be massive to hold good coral trout. Small blips of flat reef, tiny isolated coral bommies or even just a bit of rubble is enough to see several nice trout set up shop.

Kings Of Their Domain

Being very territorial fish, coral trout generally won’t stray too far away from their lair to chase down a potential meal. Therefore, accuracy of presentation is key – in truth, probably more important than lure choice. Unless you’re fishing shallow grounds where the structure being fished is clearly visible, linking your lure placement directly and exactingly to what your sounder is telling you is a vital skill for this fishing. The more accurately you can place your lure along reef edges, down caves or against bommies, the more coral trout you’ll catch. It’s as simple as that.
The direct contact baitcast outfits allow can make them a good choice for jigging coral trout.

The direct contact baitcast outfits allow can make them a good choice for jigging coral trout.

Hard Hitters

When a trout – or any other species that might get in on the action for that matter – grabs your lure, don’t be shy in getting stuck into it right from the outset. A decent sized coral trout packs a fair bit of tow, and will brick you quick smart if you let it. So go hard as soon as the hook goes in. The hectic few seconds straight after hook-up may be make or break stuff, but once clear of the reefy bottom, a trout will usually throw in the towel and allow itself to be pulled toward the surface pretty easily. That sudden surrender is a good sign that you’ve found your target and that some fine eating flesh is on its way up!
A real reef predator, coral trout are well suited to slow jigs and soft plastics

A real reef predator, coral trout are well suited to slow jigs and soft plastics

 
Ben Knaggs

About Ben Knaggs

Born and bred in South Australia, Ben’s love of fishing developed from a very early age and evolved to become an obsession which would ultimately shape his life. Actively involved in fishing related journalism from his mid teens, Ben has written articles for most Australian fishing titles and served as editor of Saltwater Fishing magazine for eight years.

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