How to Fish for Coral Trout

April 06, 2017

Learn the secrets of tournament angler Dane Radosevic on how to catch coral trout. He shares the type of terrain to look for, what fishing style to master, and what types of lures to use.

Offshore blue water fishing contributed to my fishing addiction from a very young age. Having targeted a multitude of pelagic and demersal species, the fish that stood out above the rest is the coral trout. They are a magnificent fish to look at, they have great eating qualities, and they hit and pull like freight trains. This is what captured and enticed me into spending countless hours on the water trying to unlock the trout code.

What to sound for – the right terrain:

Spending time to sound out an area to understand what is below played a large part in my success when fishing for coral trout. The main type of terrain that I target is ledge country, a common trout holding structure, ranging from 100ft to 130ft. However, there is more to it than just finding the ledge and drifting around or anchoring aimlessly.

After I have found the ledge, it has paid dividends on more than one occasion to further my search so I continue sounding the perimeter of the area. This gives you key information such as which direction the ledge runs, its high points and the steepness of the ledge. These factors are very important, not only for locating the trout, but also knowing how to set up your drift or where to anchor the boat in order to be able to extract the trout from their lairs.

In the waters where I fish out of, particularly Hervey Bay, the 100ft range is the sweet spot. It is generally the highest point where the ledge tops out and moves out onto what we call flat country. This is the point I like to target, as often the fish will hold right on top of that peak or on the first 10ft of the face of the ledge.

When I have located a likely-looking ledge and sounded out the area, I will make my way back to that key location. In some instances, especially when chasing larger pelagic species, large shows of bait and fish activity is essentially what we are looking for. However, when targeting trout, these scenarios can often work against you. More often than not, these bait schools will attract species like cobia, spanish mackerel and trevally, which in turn will also draw in the sharks, thus making it challenging to get your live bait or lure down to the bottom where the trout are holding. Below is a screenshot of what I'm talking about. 

What I look for on my Simrad sounder is that cloudy patch you get holding relatively tight to the bottom which identifies some form of life. The expectation is that the fish will be holding down there, maximising your chance of putting your presentation in front of a big hungry trout. Although targeting the ledge country has delivered the greatest results for me, often when drift fishing and moving off and away from the ledge, encountering isolated rocks or patches of plate coral can produce some quality trout and in this situation they can be much easier to wrestle away from the bottom, as they don’t have a steep ledge face to brick you in.

Important feature to use:

One very simple yet effective function that Simrad sounders have and which can be used to great advantage is bottom lock. Being able to zoom right in to 4x or 5x zoom allows you to lock onto the bottom, enhancing any smaller less noticeable structure or marine life that would have otherwise gone undetected. Using this feature has paid dividends on many occasions accounting for some memorable catches.

How to fish it:

When I first started targeting trout in the deeper waters, I emphasised the importance of using quality live baits particularly pike or yakka. When fishing baits depend on the conditions and terrain, I would tend to anchor tight to the ledge and feed my livies back onto it or alternatively set up a drift line going straight along it if possible. After experimenting with lures, predominately micro jigs and soft plastics, I have experienced exceptional success and as such have stowed the live baiting gear in the corner of the shed.

When lure fishing, I like to drift as this enables me to cover fresh ground each time I reposition and I can cover far more ground in a day. With wind and tide in our favour, I mostly prefer to position myself just forward of the ledge in 100ft of water and plan my drift straight along the top of the ledge or out over it, thus giving us an advantage when trying to pull them out of their holes. If you give them an inch, that is all they require to brick you. It is critical to get these drift lines as accurate as possible by paying attention to any show of life on the sounder. Also, keep working or ‘tea bagging’ as we refer to it, your lure right on their door step.

The angle at which you work your lure is also very important. Casting up-current and allowing your lure to sink freely to the bottom will ensure it is in the strike zone (aka on the bottom) as it reaches directly under you. This gives you plenty of time to work the lure correctly in the drift. Having the lure directly below you is when you will have the best opportunity of actually pulling a trout up off the bottom, as there is no angle in the line actually working against you.

Gear I use:

Put the finesse gear away. With trout fishing, it is “lock them and stop them” kind of fishing. I generally use two types of outfits. One is a 10000 Stella with 80lb braid on a Grappler PE 5 rod which I fish around the gnarly country, or where I know the really big trout hold and the other is a lighter 4000 outfit with 40lb braid on a PE 3 rod which is great for fishing the flatter country.

Two key lures have always outperformed the rest and that is prawn imitations and large curly tail profiled soft plastics, both of which I like to fish on a heavy TT jighead, usually a 1oz 6/0 or 1.5oz 7/0. The relatively heavy head allows you to keep the lure in direct contact with the bottom where it needs to be. Having the lure directly underneath eliminates as much angle as possible in your retrieve. This is when you have a greater chance of being blown away.

Dane Radosevic