Fingermark bream (Lutjanus johnii), called golden snapper or “goldies” in the Northern Territory, are a fish of coastal rocky reefs and rockbars.
They are truly desirable fish, having excellent eating and fighting qualities, and impressive appearance.
Big fish are heavy shouldered, with a golden sheen, so we use the “goldie” name here rather than the rather grubby “fingermark”, lol.
Another reason this species should be called golden snapper is because the name “fingermark” is sometimes used for moses perch, a species with a more obvious dark spot on its flank.
Goldies have been recorded from roughly WA’s Pilbara across the north to the central Queensland coast around Gladstone, but are most common in the far north.
They are essentially an estuary and coastal fish, nonetheless they grow to 10kg on Australia’s East Coast.
Small fish are found in tidal creeks, especially creeks with a lot of rock, and as they grow they move out onto coastal reefs and headlands.
The biggest fish often loiter near the edges of sloping rock shelfs where the rock joins a mud bottom in 25m to 35m of water.
Big fish can be caught in shallower and deeper water. The tops of sloping rocky reefs, about 5m to 15m deep, tend to have a lot of coral growth on them and hold parrot fish, spanish flag, coral trout and the like, but goldies will show up in these places.
Rocky reefs are the go-to spots. Look for rock patches around deep channels.
In creeks, fish the rockbars.
Goldies are also caught over flat rubble grounds and around wrecks and artificial reefs.
These fish will show up around wharves and headlands, and big ones are caught off beaches at Cape York Peninsula as they patrol at night at high tide.
Smaller fish will move over mudflats with a rising tide.
Goldies have good eyesight and can be a tricky fish – in clear water the big ones are best fished at night.
Always use fresh bait for these fish. Live squid will fool the biggest ones in clear water areas.
Dead baits should be as fresh as possible. Thawed packet squid can work when the fish are biting well.
Big tides tend to produce a better bite. They often feed fast and furiously at the turn of the tide.
Goldies will take lures, but bait usually works best.
These are a tasty species but also very slow growing and it is therefore important to stick to bag limits to ensure their fishing future.
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