When snorkelling or fishing in the Whitsundays, coral trout are one of the most abundant and impressive species you will see. Dotted all over the reefs, these large fish are both beautiful and elusive, hiding out in underwater caverns and caves. Going by the names of coral trout, leopard coral grouper, or leopard coral trout, they are pink, red or brown with blue spots covering their bodies.
Coral trout start their lives as females and change sex to become males later in life, and so are considered to be protogynous hermaphrodites... It is not known what triggers this sex change, but it usually occurs when the fish reach a length of 23 - 62cm. At full maturity, a coral trout can reach up to 120cm and weigh in at 20kg.
Coral trout are fish eating predators. They eat during daylight hours and most often dusk or dawn. They will eat usually between every 1-3 days, focusing their hunting efforts on damselfish or other smaller, coral trout. Juvenile trout will eat crustaceans like prawns, which live close to the reef bottom... Male coral trouts are known to change colour around their fins when enticing female trouts to mate, they will also perform an elaborate courtship display. The colour change is instant and is amazing to watch while scuba diving, when you can see the ritual close up.
There are many different species of Coral Trout, they include:
Common Coral Trout (also known as leopard trout and strawberry trout) like the name they are the most common trout found around the Whitsundays, they can grow to a maximum of 70cm. They can be seen in colours of orange, red, brown, pink and green. They have distinctive blue spots on head body and fins and a blue ring around the eyes.
Bar Cheeked Coral Trout (also known as inshore trout and island trout) the distinctive blue spots are more elongated on the body which look more like bars. This type of trout can grow up to 80cm.
Blue Spot Trout can be mistaken for the common coral trout the difference being the blue spot has larger spots than the common. Another way to tell them apart is the blue spot trout does not have transparent pectoral fins whereas all other trouts do. This type of trout can grow up to 120cm.
Passion Fruit Trout or Square Tail Trout can be confused to the common coral trout however this type of trout has blue spots on its abdomen. This type of trout can grow up to 70cm.
Highfin Coral Trout This fish has blue lines and short bars cover the body and fins except for the rear and base of the tail where there are spots.