Category: Fish ID

There are many species of fish to found in our oceans.  Some of these fish are target species, with great eating qualities, but others are protected and must not be harmed.  As a responsible spearfisher it is critical that we can identify the specie of fish before ever deciding to pull the trigger in an attempt to capture a fish.
On the following pages you will find photos and information that will assist you in improving your fish identification and knowledge.  They are split into two categories:  Protected Species and Target Species.
Remember, if you are not sure what fish it is you are aiming at, DO NOT PULL THE TRIGGER.

Black Cod

Common Name: Black Cod
Scientific Name: Epinephelus daemelii
Maximum Size: 120cm
NSW Record: 81.00kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW, VIC.

The Black Cod is found in rocky and coral reef habitat ranging in depth from inter-tidal rockpools to deep waters well offshore. Its colouring can range from greyish-white to pure black. The colour form pictured above seems to be the most common in shallower areas. The black spot on the caudal fin is a key identifying mark. It can be confused with the Wirrah which has a deeper body and blue spots on the head and body. Other similar Serranid species include the Purple Cod and the Maori Cod, both of which have similar cave dwelling habits, but quite different colouration.

Morwong, Red

Common Name: Red Morwong
Scientific Name: Cheilodactylus fuscus
Maximum Size: 65cm
Range: QLD, NSW, Vic.

A common resident of rocky reefs in NSW, the Red Morwong is the species many beginner Spearfishers first cut their teeth on. Found in shallow fringing reef, right down to the sandline in 20-30m, this species has a relatively small home range occupied by a school ranging in size from small juveniles to large, dominant males. During the day the fish will generally sit amongst boulders and in crevices, and are easily speared once found.

The freshly hatched larvae are paper thin and can drift for weeks before settling on shallow reef and kelp areas. As they grow the males develop a set of “horns” on their forehead. The females either lack the horns, or have a much smaller set.

Red Morwong can live to be over 40 years old, and as they are extremely territorial, they can be locally over-fished. Data from NSW Fisheries suggest Spearfishers are the main group catching this species.

Morwong, Blue

Common Name: Blue Morwong, Rubberlip Morwong
Scientific Name: Nemadactylus douglasii
Maximum Size: 80cm
NSW Record: 5.050kg
Range: QLD, NSW, Vic, TAS.

A generally deeper dwelling species than its cousins, the Red and Banded Morwongs, the Blue Morwong is more often taken by more experienced divers. By far the most common habitat for this fish is the “sand line”. This region is where the rocky reef meets the sand of the deeper areas along the southern coast line. This species can also be found in shallower areas, especially after storms have stirred up the shallower (4-5m) reefs. Any spot that has Snapper, Bastard Trumpeter, Tarwhine or King Wrasse will also be a likely spot for Blue Morwong.

Blue Morwong occur singularly, in pairs and in small schools. Underwater they appear greyish in colour and often blend into the haze at the edge of visibility. The pectoral fins are a darker blue than the body and quite elongated. The Jackass Morwong (Nemadactylus macropterus) occurs in similar habitat, but is more commonly found in Victoria and Tasmania. The Jackass differs from the Blue Morwong by having a dark stripe across its nape (neck) and generally smaller size.

Little is known about the breeding habits of the Blue Morwong, but they are not mature at the minimum legal length of 30cm. The maximum age of this species is estimated to be over 20 years.

Like most Morwongs, the Blue is very inquisitive. The favoured technique is to swim to the bottom, near a likely looking ledge or drop-off and wait. Banging rocks together, throwing up sand and banging the gun handle onto the floor all work well. If spooked, the fish will flee very quickly but often return later for another look. Larger schools form in deep water where they are targeted by commercial fishers. NSW Fisheries estimate that the recreational catch of this species is about three times that of the commercial sector.