Caranx ignoblis comes from the Latin meaning ignoble; of low birth or common origin. That sums up the giant trevally in a nutshell.
Rarely glorified in the media, GTs must be the meanest fish in the ocean and those that make a career out of chasing them will tell you that they’ve never had one simply give up when hooked. They know every dirty trick in the book and don’t mind pulling them all out after feeling the prick of a well placed lure.
If you’ve never felt the power then it’s hard to explain why 10kg fish can bust 24kg tackle like it’s a spiderweb but, love them or hate them, the mighty GT is a fish that will sort out your technique, gear and patience all in the space of the first 10 seconds so you have to give them respect.
The giant trevally is part of the Carangidae family which also includes samsonfish, yellowtail kingfish, amberjacks and the rarely caught rainbow runner. They can grow in excess of 90kg and have been seen but rarely landed in huge sizes around Exmouth, Broome, The Montebellos and the Rowley Shoals.
Not just powerful, they also have excellent maneuvering speed due to the scutes along the side of their caudal slot which are used to slash their prey. Fishers will often see their lures come back with slashes on them where a GT will have tried to kill it with these scutes rather than risk injury to their mouth.
Like many other non-table species, little research has been done on the less-than-glamorous giant trevally but juveniles are the most common young fish in the north. You find them everywhere from creeks to oil rigs far offshore and they are often mistaken for golden trevally with their bright yellow fins. As they get older the fins change colour and the fish take on a dirty black appearance.
Even more so than other trevally, GTs use their body and are even less inclined to give up (is that possible?).
How To Catch Them
It’s not generally the case that folks find GTs as much as GTs find them. Many a angler who fishes the north west regularly will have tales of how monster fish make a mockery of the 15kg line they were using to cast poppers at a reef.
Never underestimate what a GT can do to your gear. They’ll break your heart not to mention your back.
Most huge fish are found near jetties funnily enough. Two that spring to mind are the Exmouth Naval Jetty which is one of the world’s great dives (some call it the aquarium) and the Broome Jetty.
The Exmouth jetty has an exclusion zone for boats of 400 metres and it’s strictly enforced. Some of the biggest GTs you will ever see live here and they are all but unstoppable on anything other that a 4WD with a mechanical winch. You can, however, fish the jetty from shore which is totally legal.
Night time in summer is the best and casting poppers to the water outlet can get you connected to monster fish like you have never experienced. GTs to 20kg are workable with 24kg line and a careful game plan but anything bigger than that will be wearing your lure as jewellery for a few weeks.
The Broome Jetty is a much more accessible platform and, while the fish aren’t quite so huge, they aren’t far off. High tide is the best time to attack with live or fresh baits. Lures also work but can get very expensive. The locals will certainly look at you very strangely as they don’t bother with such a waste of time.
For those of us that take pleasure in getting our butts kicked by nasty fish, a small dinghy can be launched from the boat ramp not 100 metres from the jetty. You can fish from the jetty itself but you’ll need a flying gaff to land anything.
When fighting huge trevally, it is considered that the best approach is to use a lighter drag which tends to panic them less so they are not inclined to run straight at snaggy areas. You can then guide them into safer water before applying pressure for the landing.
Mid size GTs in the 5-10kg range are normally found either lurking under reefy ledges near islands or around bommies in 15-20m of water offshore.
The island dwellers can almost always be tempted into attacking a popper with gusto. They will attack anything that comes into range, leaving a huge whole in the water as they engulf the lure with that huge bucket mouth. You will need 8-12kg line to stop most of these fish.
Those lurking on the bottom are suckers for jigging. I like to work a heavy buck tail jig or metal slice like a Laser in short jerks and any local trevors will come along and say hello. Most fish will be goldens or gold spot trevally but you will certainly hook into the odd GT which are extremely difficult to lift. Do not attempt this with a cheap rod or a graphite rod with any fractures or it will be a two piece very quickly.
Rather than buckle up and heave, try starting the engine and getting some distance between you and the fish. This can create a plane and aid you in getting it up to the surface where you can get the odds back in your favour.
Shore based anglers can get into fish of this size from Exmouth’s North West Cape. The very end has some deep water which drops off from a reefy shoreline. Some massive fish are taken on poppers from here.
Most fish caught from the shore are juveniles in the 1-2kg range. As we mentioned earlier, these have bright yellow fins which change as they grow. Thousands of the smaller fish live around the many offshore islands north of Carnarvon and you can often find them under queenfish schools.
They also find their way into most creeks from Carnarvon to the Northern Territory and the run up from low tide will normally instigate large numbers to start feeding near the mouth of the creeks, usually at the first bend away from any surf.
As an eating fish they are strong and, if you like skippy (silver trevally) you will most certainly like the taste of GTs. With so many about, it’s one of the few fish that you don’t have to feel guilty about taking some home for dinner.
How To Rig Your Line To Catch Them