Common Name: Grey Nurse Shark
Scientific Name: Carcharias taurus
Maximum Size: 400cm
Range: QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, WA.
The Grey Nurse Shark is probably the most commonly seen large shark in NSW. It can be found around headlands, particularly near large cave systems; islands and deepwater bommies. Usually the sharks aggregate in schools, ranging from a few to over a hundred individuals. Juveniles can be found in water as shallow as 1-2m and seem to avoid hanging around large adults.
This species is generally placid, although the use of burley and the vibrations put out by speared fish may result in having to deal with agitated and inquisitive sharks. Divers have been bitten under these circumstances, however the injuries were minor.
Common Name: Blue Groper
Scientific Name: Achoerodus viridis
Maximum Size: 120cm
NSW Record: 19.054kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW, VIC
Note: Linefishers may take still take this species. See NSW Fisheries website for legal lengths and bag limits
The Blue Groper is a commonly seen species on NSW reefs and is easily distinguished by its size and swimming technique. The frantic waving of the pectoral fins is a swimming style common to the Wrasse family, to which this species belongs. The juveniles and females can range in colour from light brown to dark green, the dominant male takes on a bright to dark blue colouration. Should the male die, or be caught by linefishers, the next largest female will change into a male over a period of several days.
Common Name: Queensland Groper
Scientific Name: Epinephelus lanceolatus
Maximum Size: 300cm
NSW Record: 177.81kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW, NT, WA
The Queensland Groper is the largest bony fish found in rocky and coral reef habitat. The distinct markings shown above can fade to a dusky grey in large fish, however the sheer size makes them difficult to confuse with other species. Although in the past the author has confused them with boulders and attempted to hide behind them while stalking other fish.
Common Name: Seahorses, Seadragons and Pipefish
Scientific Name: Syngnathidae
Maximum Size: 40cm
Range: QLD, NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, WA, NT.
Seahorses, Seadragons and Pipefish belong to the family Syngnathidae and are completely protected in NSW. It is illegal to harvest them for any purpose, including for aquariums, unless special permits are granted.
Seahorses can often be found in estuaries, clinging to sponges and seapens.
Pipefish are commonly found in estuaries, particularly in seagrass meadows.
The only species of Seadragon found in NSW is the Weedy Seadragon, which is found in deep kelp stands and seagrass meadows, especially in sheltered bays.
Common Name: Eastern Blue Devilfish
Scientific Name: Paraplesiops bleekeri
Maximum Size: 40cm
NSW Record: 0.624kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW.
The Eastern Blue Devilfish is a rarely sighted species, living deep within cave system, often in family groups of several adults and juvenile fish. It can be found in estuaries, as well as deep offshore waters. Its most often spotted at dawn or dusk, or on heavily overcast days, near the entrance to the cave. A uniquely coloured species, it is difficult to confuse with any targeted fish species. Care should be taken when spearing fish such as Black Drummer in caves, in case this species is also present.
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.