Where you can catch Pearl Perch

Published 5:00am 31 December 2022

Where you can catch Pearl Perch
Words by Dr Dazza

Pearl perch is one of our most renowned table fish sought by offshore recreational anglers, commercial line fishers, and charter vessel operators. It is a very popular fish for high end restaurateurs.

The pearl perch is known scientifically as Glaucosoma scapulare and is one of only four species in its family. Another member of the family is the iconic WA dhufish.

The pearl perch only occur along the Australian east coast and its range extends from the southern sections of the Swains Reefs south to Sydney, but it is most abundant in southern Queensland and northern NSW.

The area offshore of Cape Moreton is a popular and productive area to catch this species. While several species that occur offshore such as snapper and moses perch are also abundant within Moreton Bay itself, particularly as juveniles, the pearl perch is strictly an offshore species.

The pearl perch has a bony shield just behind its gill cover, which is covered by a black membrane, but when this black membrane is removed the shield is pearl like which gives rise to the species common name. The inside of the pearl perch mouth is black and may be luminescent, although the latter is not confirmed.

The pearl perch is found to depths of about 200m but is most common between about 60-90m. Smaller fish can be found much shallower (eg. depths of 30m). It was historically considered very welcome bycatch by offshore anglers targeting snapper but is specifically targeted. It occurs in association with rocky reefs but also feeds extensively in “wire weed” habitat. They can also feed in mid-water at times, particularly at night.

The maximum estimated age of pearl perch is 19 years. Pearl perch grow to approximately 12cm fork length (FL) after one year, 21cm FL after two years and 29cm FL after three years. Fork length is a measure from the tip of a fish’s snout to the middle of the “V” in the tail. Fish from the southern end of the species' distribution grew significantly more slowly than those from the northern part of its range. It is possible that fish move northwards along the coast as they grew, but this is yet to be determined with certainty.

Pearl perch reach maturity between two and four years of age. Pearl perch from Queensland waters spawn during summer and autumn with a likely peak in February.

While pearl perch have been demonstrated to physiologically survive capture and release very well, recreational anglers report released fish are frequently consumed by sharks and dolphins at some locations.

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