Category: High risk
I HADN’T caught a gold-banded jobfish until quite recently, when I started fishing some deeper water off Exmouth chasing table fish, and that’s where we found them. More commonly referred to in Western Australia as gold-banded snapper, or simply gold-bands, they are but one of the many species of jobfish to be found along our northern coastline.
They are not known for their hard fighting characteristics, rather they are warmly greeted by anglers as being very good eating fish.
The species is now quite commonly seen in fish shops as it is caught by commercial wetline, trap and trawl fisheries north of Coral Bay.
The main identifying feature of gold-bands, as you might expect from their name, is that they have 2-3 orange/yellow bands on their snouts and under their eyes, as well as thick yellow stripes between their eyes.
There is a significant variation as to the maximum size that gold-bands achieve ranging up to 5.82 kilos, but the size most frequently encountered would be in the 3-4 kilo range.
Gold-bands have a very wide global distribution from the Red Sea to southern Japan and are to be found in West Australian waters northwards from Carnarvon.
They congregate over rocky bottom in water depths of 60-200m, showing a preference for uneven bottom and dropoffs.
Breeding and migration
There is very little known about the reproductive and migratory activities of gold-bands. It would appear that they are serial spawners from October through to February, when they lay pelagic eggs that drift in the ocean currents. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the Leeuwin Current is a big factor in the distribution of this species.
Approximately 50 per cent of gold-bands mature at 50cm in length, which they attain in about three years. They are opportunistic feeders feeding throughout the water column on fish, crustaceans and cephalopods.
There have been no clearly identified threats to gold-bands, although it is likely that cumulative fishing impact will reduce the stocks as fishing effort increases.
Tackle and bait
Gold-bands are mostly taken by recreational anglers using conventional two hook dropper rigs and a large enough snapper lead to keep terminal tackle close to the bottom when drifting over likely ground. Successful baits include pilchards, fresh fish fillets, squid and octopus.
Practical rod and reel combinations for bait fishing would be short rods with high-speed overhead reels, which prove the least tiring to use when fishing deep water. Braid line in the 15-24kg range is also very useful when fishing deep water, as are circle hooks which don’t require anglers to ‘strike’ in order to hook a fish.
Increasingly gold-bands, and indeed several other very tasty species including pearl perch, are being taken by anglers fishing Japanese metal jigs -– this would be my preferred way to target them.
Gold-bands are schooling fish that will show up well on a good sounder. When bait fishing, once schools of fish are located a couple of drifts over the top normally lets you know whether the fish are in a feeding mood.
When deepwater jigging I fish 24kg and 37kg heavy spin outfits, with two metres of 50kg hard mono leader tied off to a heavy barrel swivel and split ring which connects to a 200 or 300-gram jig. The hook is attached to the eye of the lure via a short Kevlar trace and, although it looks a bit strange to the uninitiated, it provides a very good hook-up rate.
Once located on a sounder gold-bands can be taken by jigs dropped to the bottom and worked up 30-40m using a range of jigging techniques. Some days an occasional short jab is enough to elicit a strike and on others you need to work the jig a lot more energetically. Like many species, gold-bands will sometimes hit the jig on the drop so be prepared for that.
One of the exciting things about chasing fish like gold-bands is the range of other great species that turn up including red emperor, pearl perch, and saddle-tailed and scarlet sea perch. Go to it and enjoy.
Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia by Gerry Allen and Roger Swainston
Australian Fisheries Resources by P J Kailola, M J Williams, P C Stewart, R E Reichelt, A McNee and C Grieve.