Trevally – have your sport and eat it too!
Terrific Hard fighting, good looking, tasty, and often taking a bit of finesse to catch, Sam Mossman reckons trevally are close to the perfect inshore opponent.
Ilove fishing with lures and sometimes wish we had a wider range of medium-sized sport-fishing species available in New Zealand. But, then again, many overseas anglers rave about the quality of our fishing, so I guess we can’t grumble too much. After all, thanks to modern lure techniques, a great many species that were once considered only able to be caught with bait are now regularly taken on artificial lures of one type or another – snapper is a prime example. As most fish survive by eating other types of marine animals, it is really only a matter of finding the right buttons to press.
Alongside snapper, one of my favourite sport (and table) fish is trevally. White or silver trevally is a slow-growing, long-lived species, with some large specimens being aged at over 45 years via the annual growth rings in their ear bones.
Back in 1995 I photographed and witnessed the weighing of the current national all-tackle record trevally of 11.53kg. That was a gnarly old fish from Great Barrier Island, approaching a metre in length, but it was exceptional. Usually, anything between three and four kilos is thought of as a decent fish, with anything over 5kg considered a trophy.
Because of this slow growth and their surface-schooling behaviour, purse-seiners have had a huge impact on trevally numbers. Starting around 1970 and going through to about 1983, net boats hit trevally hard. Gone now are the shining acres upon acres of trevally surface schools I can remember seeing during visits to the Bay of Plenty as a child, with only smaller, scattered groups of spooky fish encountered nowadays, mostly over areas of heavy foul where the net boats cannot operate.
Rocky headlands and points that concentrate currents also concentrate plankton and krill, and are good places to look for schools of these fish.
Sometimes larger individuals are mixed in with other school fish, including snapper or kahawai, feeding on sedimentary bottoms (unfortunately making them vulnerable to bottom trawling). During the colder months trevally can be found up in harbours and estuaries.
Trevally are a handsome fish. Colour schemes can vary a lot between individual fish in shades of silver, gray, olive, blue, gold and white, sometimes with pale vertical stripes when fresh. Like their cousins the kingfish, trevs are powerful fighters, and will often head straight for cover if any is around (those anglers who have tried to extract a decent trev from near a kelp bed or around oyster-studded wharf piles will know what I mean). They get that broad silver flank side-on and slug down to the obstruction. If you don’t have the fire-power to stop them – and often you must go to light line to achieve a bite in the first place – it’s all over.