Tags Fish Guide


Tags Fish Guide
Category: High Risk

QUEENFISH are synonymous with the warm waters north of Exmouth. For me they conjure up clear images of shallow reefs and sand flats and some terrific Mackerel Islands popper chucking sessions, with their green slim backs cutting up the surface in hot pursuit of a high speed timber lunch, which they hit in an explosion of spray. Or a delightful hour tantalisingly twitching leadhead jigs and enticing solid hits from fish after fish in the Kimberley's Admiralty Gulf. Fast, slim and feisty, that's the stuff queenfish memories are made of for me.
Queenfish, or queenies as they are more commonly called, are the consummate sportfish. They have a great turn of speed, aerial ability and they just love lures.
Fortunately for them they are nowhere near the top of the piscatorial taste tree, so most go back to thrill again. So far I have only ever had a couple in a fish curry, which suits their firm texture.


Identifying a queenfish is not difficult but there are four separate species in our tropical northern waters. The biggest and probably the most common is the talang queenfish illustrated here. The talang has five to seven large dark blotches along the side above the lateral line and the only other species with a similar number is the needleskin queenfish, which has five to eight blotches. The easiest way to tell them apart is that the needleskin has a black tip to its dorsal fin.
The double spotted queenfish has two rows of six better-defined spots and the barred queenfish carries four to eight vertically elongated spots.
The body of a queenfish is silver with a white belly and green/blue back. Sometimes they carry a tinge of gold/yellow or shiny patches which have a heliographic appearance. Whatever, they are always a joy to behold.
All queenies have a huge mouth which extends well back past the eye and has the capacity to engulf even the largest lure at times. However, their mouthes are fragile and great care should be taken when handling them. I prefer to release queenies without lifting them from the water.

Various books have the talang queenfish as achieving up to 15 kilos but a 10kg fish is a horse. The most common range is 3-5kg and even at this size they give a good account of themselves.

The first part of our northern coastline where queenies are likely to be encountered regularly is from the Ningaloo Reef to the western side of the Exmouth peninsula. Indeed the oyster rocks up at the tip of the peninsula are a prime queenfish location.
The islands that spread north from there up along the Pilbara coast all have good populations of queenies, as do the waters of the Kimberley, which hold some of the biggest fish.

Breeding and migration
Virtually nothing is known about queenfish biology.

Queenies are still quite plentiful even in areas where recreational fishing pressure is relatively high, and this is surely due at least in part to their average eating quality. Increasing recreational pressure is a potential threat, but as of now this species is doing quite well.

Queenies are normally associated with shallow water. Shallow tropical reef, broken reef and sand or just plain sand so long as it's shallow - these are the places where the search for queenies often begins. Their colouration makes them all but invisible to their prey in the shallows.
They also hold up near structure and coral bommies, and deeper offshore reef dropoffs are an attraction.

Tackle and bait
Without doubt a spin stick is the tool of trade for the serious queenfish angler. A medium spinning reel loaded with six to eight-kilo mono and mounted on a 1.8m to 2.4m rod is the ideal outfit. And I can tell you that if you plan to cast lures all day it's more pleasurable to use an outfit that doesn't weigh a tonne.
Baits for queenies include gardies (which they just love), small mullet and scad. A wire trace is generally not needed but because you're sometimes fishing in waters which also hold big spaniards, it may be advisable to use some. Hooks need not be bigger than 7/0, and a single hook does the job as well as allowing for easy release of unwanted fish.

Fishing methods
Casting poppers is without doubt my preferred technique for queenies. These days the first thing I do with all my lures is crush the barbs on the trebles. Very rarely does it cost me a fish, even when a queenie gets all acrobatic, and I'm able to release them in good condition. Sometimes you need to retrieve the popper fast and other times a twitching return is the way to go. It's normally a matter of putting in a few casts to see just how the fish feel on a particular day.
Leadhead jigs have also accounted for quite a few good queenies for me over the years. I like small jigs with bulky trimmings and I prefer to use them rigged with feathers. This allows me to bounce and twitch the jig across the bottom and the pulsating appearance of the feathers must look good to the fish. (And by the way, that's as close as I get to fly fishing folks. I'm no chook chucking chap!)
Over the years some big queenfish have fallen to trolled bibbed lures and cast metal lures but these are not my preferred methods. At time queenies also hit trolled baits or baits drifted out the back when fishing at anchor.
Quite simply they are just so co-operative it's just as well they don't taste like dhufish.

Kailola, Williams, Stewart, Reichelt, McNee and Grieve Australian Fisheries Resources 1993. Hutchins and Swainston Sea Fishes of Southern Australia 1986.
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