Category: High Risk
GOLDEN Trevally are prolific in our northern waters and, as with most of the trevally family, are dogged fighters. Solid sluggers probably best describes the fighting method of goldens, as they are frequently called these days. I'm not too sure about their reputation as one of the best eating of the trevallies - I just can't bring myself to eat one. Goldens are probably the easiest of all the trevallies to identify and therefore the least likely to be confused with their myriad of cousins. They can often be seen in small schools near the surface in clear conditions, especially if there is any berley in the water. Queensland has developed quite a specialised fishery for golden trevally in recent years. It's based around shallow water sight fishing for goldens when they are "tailing" - that is to say feeding with their tails above their heads, as do buffalo bream in WA waters. Working the flats with saltwater fly gear in pursuit of the blubber-lipped goldens was featured a while back on one of Peter Morse's terrific Wildfish television shows.
Mature golden trevally are generally quite easy to identify with their light golden bellies. In some larger fish this golden colour spreads to just about the entire body after capture, giving them a magnificent appearance. Juveniles tend to be a silvery-yellow, with 10 to 12 vertical gold bars on the flanks which distinguish them from immature giant trevally. A few random black spots are evident on some mature fish is their large rubbery lips and extendable mouths with no teeth.
The West Australian record is a hefty 15 kilos, but a four or five-kilo fish is more the norm. The size of the goldens encountered doesn't seem to be determined by structure or water depth. Big fish can turn up anywhere.
The Marine fishes of North-Western Australia lists the distribution of golden trevally as far south as Denmark, but adds that they are generally rare below Shark Bay.
Golden trevally are easily caught and therefore vulnerable to local population declines around structures readily accessible to recreational anglers. However, they are widely distributed and stocks are thought to be healthy. Commercial trap and trawl fishing has the potential to put pressure on stocks, but so far there has been no significant impact.
Golden trevally turn up just about anywhere. Occasionally they are the predominant catch when bottom fishing for more desirable species, and if this happens it's best to move on. Sometimes big goldens feed in weed lines, probably targeting small fish and baby crabs that seek refuge there.
As with all trevallies, goldens like structure. Offshore, look for them around reefs or coral bommies and ledges, and inshore around jetties and wharves.
Tackle and bait
Golden trevally are strong fighters but kg line will do the job when boat fishing, except in the most difficult terrain. However shore-based anglers are advised to step up to 10 kg to keep sizable fish away from pylons and coral. Goldens with take trolled bibbed and bibless lures, but far more fall to baits. Fish with a single hook because these trevally tend to be decisive and methodical when they feed, and getting a solid hookup is generally not difficult. Avoid sinkers in shallow water - goldens like to suck the bait as it sinks slowly. Just about any fish bait is good, ranging from mulies to fillets and cubes. They are far from fussy eaters. Try a steady stream of berley, but don't overdo it. I prefer a cube trail when fishing for bigger trevally because it helps to keep the hordes of smaller fish away and often allows me to get a look at what I'm going to catch before I cast to it. Fishing this way is visual and exciting.
As with other trevally, cast or drift your bait close to a structure and be prepared for a strike and tough fight. Like their blubber-mouthed relatives, the skippy, golden trevally inhale the bait so setting the hook generally doesn't require you to whip the rod back over your shoulder. Simply raising the tip should do the trick. Trolling minnow style deep diving lures around structure and dropoffs will also provide golden trevally action along with the opportunity to catch a range of other species. Casting chrome slices, or jiggling them near structure, should work if you prefer a more active form of lure fishing.
References: Kailola, Williams, Stewart, Reichelt, McNee and Grieve Australian Fisheries Resources 1993. Hutchins and Swainston Sea Fishes of Southern Australia 1986.