Gold Bandits – Dean Smith 2017

Encountering a species that you have not come across before whilst exploring new ground can create a well of emotions. Excitement at the shiny new thing, a sense of wonderment and a large dosing of curiosity (Shhhhhh, it didn’t kill the cat like you have been told). What is it? Is it safe to eat? Was it a fluke catch or can we replicate it? How do we identify it successfully?

One of my favourite past times to do when the weather is terrible is to cast my mind back on my first time (No not that first time Sam Thaiday). I am talking about the first capture of a new species, which contain for me some of my fondest memories and to this day, some of my most confusing ones. We all have those WTF moments, you know the ones, what is this fish doing in this place? On these tides? On that Lure? This is not a WTF Moment, nor is out of the ordinary, this is an experience that has driven my brothers, Luke and Wade, and myself to study and try to understand this species to crack their code, so to speak. If you have not looked at the photos by now (Go on, take a look, you won’t be disappointed) you may be surprised to know that I am speaking of the Gold Band Snapper.

It all began offshore from Roslyn Bay Harbour Yeppoon while we were chasing the mighty red emperor and other usual reef species. Fishing in approximately 60 metres of water we were conducting a drift pattern across an isolated rock that the Skipper had found during our latest search. This was the fourth drift and we had only managed to pull one fish, a rather nice sized large mouth nannygai, off this mark even though the sounder was lit up brighter than that annoying Christmas tree in your neighbours window. It definitely was not for lack of trying as we were getting hook ups that hit harder than a steam train, fought up and down in the water column like a classic reef fish, but busting off about two thirds of the way back to the boat. As we doubled back around and began tying more rigs, we were left scratching our heads trying to figure out what kept getting the best of us.

Luke was the first to crack the code, going away from the snelled 8/0 reefmaster hooks he moved onto a set of gangs in the hope that whatever it was would struggle to get a cleaner shot on his 40lb leader. A muffled grunt was all we heard from Luke mid-drift as he hooked up and his rod bent over showing us a carbon copy of the fight that we had experienced but not succeeded in winning. We watched with bated breath as the fish fought all the way up through the water column, another peculiar trait we have noticed with this species is that unlike most reef fish, barotrauma doesn’t affect their fighting strength and they resist to the very end. The fish surfaced to a neat netting job from the skipper and was brought on board, “Jobfish” was the consensus as we had all seen a green jobfish before and the body shape is remarkably similar. We assumed because it very clearly was not a green jobfish that it had to be a rosy jobfish, with none of us having caught a rosy before either.

We thought, before we throw it in the esky to confirm the identity of the fish, to our surprise we found a slight conflict with our initial ID. The gold bands did not match with the rosy jobfish and neither did the tail shape. So we began looking a little further and with the help of the IDfish App we were able to call it for what it actually was, the gold band snapper. This identification process led to some hot debate from local fishing circles with many people telling us that gold band snapper and rosy jobfish are in fact the same specimen with a different name. This led to me consulting, in my opinion, one of the most respected persons in the fish identification business, Morgan Grant, of Grant’s Guide to Fishes fame. When I posed the question to Morgan in regards to the differentiation between the two species, this was his response,

“The Gold-band Snapper is Pristipomoides multidens while the Rosy Jobfish/Snapper is Pristipomoides filamentosus, so they are different species. The main quick ID feature is that the Gold-band has irregular yellow scribbles across the top of the head and yellow streaks over the cheeks, they reach about the same size. The Rosy Snapper has a shallower body profile and the snout profile is rounded.”

We have since found that the Gold-band is an incredible table fish and we rank it right up there alongside coral trout for its eating qualities. I am always continually amazed at how my experiences in our fishing environments drives me to ascertaining further knowledge and attempting to gain a greater understanding of this sport/recreation/pastime that I am privileged enough to be able to enjoy. Enough reminiscing, now I am going to share with you some of the information that we have accumulated in regards to targeting and tussling with the Gold-band snapper.

Water depth – typically we have found them in larger schools off the Capricorn Coast in the 40-80 metre range. We have had isolated captures around the 30 metre mark, however, we have not managed consistency in this depth yet, so our advice is to hunt the deeper water.

Bottom – This is an interesting topic, as we are still placing a fair effort into targeting these fish, however, we have once again found consistency working isolated rocks. The biggest challenge in this aspect can be found in having to punch through the other reef species that enjoy congregating in these havens. Large mouth nannygai in particular, are common bycatch whilst targeting Gold-band as they often school above or over the top of isolated structure, with the target species sitting down harder and closer to the bottom. The plus side of this is that while you are attempting to nail the Gold-band, you can often bring home a lovely feed of nannygai at the same time.

Tides – We definitely prefer to fish the smaller tides, if not the neap tides when chasing Goldies. This allows us to ensure our baits are spending more time in the strike zone over the isolated rock structures, with some of our more consistent marks being no bigger than a car underwater. The other added benefit to this is that you are fighting less current and gives the fish less time to use their abrasive teeth to snap you off.

Rigs – As mentioned before, we first cracked the code using ganged hooks, 7 and 8/0 sizes are perfect. Since that first instant, we have worked on using larger snelled hook rigs, very similar to our red emperor set up in the 10/0 range. This provides two larger buffers between the hook and your leader and we are really starting to see a more consistent conversion rate between hook ups and landings.

Baits – large flesh baits. That is all. Ensure that your hook points are clean of scales and hang on.

The beauty of fishing is that we are still exploring our great ocean and all the surprises that it can throw up. Our approach to catching this awesome fish could very well change as our knowledge and understanding evolves and I can guarantee you that there is no better feeling in the world, then investigating, exploring and developing your own methods based on your own experience. I certainly hope that what I have shared with you helps to guide you in your fishing journey and that one day you too can revel in the joy and reminisce about your first time. Until next time guys and gals, from the Hell’s Anglers Central Queensland crew, keep on fishing!