Topnotch Game Fishing


Whitsundays Red Emperor Fishing


Red Emperor Fishing Whitsundays

In the Whitsundays red emperor fishing is highly sort after, especially in the Great Barrier Reef system. These fish are very popular with anglers from all over the world that want to catch a GBR BIG-RED. This can be attributed to its spectacular fighting ability (a common characteristic of species in the snapper family) and its tasty white flesh, which has led to this fish being considered one of the best-eating reef fish in the Coral Sea.

Where To Find Red Emperors

The red emperor is a tropical species native to the warm waters of the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans from northern Australia to Japan. In Australia, they can be found from the midwest of Western Australia, right around the country’s north to the southeast of Queensland. Their preferred habitat includes both rocky and coral reefs. They will also live in shallow waters at about 10 meters depth, down to deeper offshore waters at 140 meters. In Whitsundays, juveniles prefer the many islands’ shallower nearshore reefs and estuaries. As they mature, they will move out to offshore reefs and deeper waters.

Red Emperor Characteristics

Juveniles and adults of this species can easily distinguish themselves from each other. The juveniles are quite a striking-looking fish due to their colouring. They are pale, whitish, with three wide, deep red bands. As they age, they lose this banding and develop all over reddish/pink colouring. They are also quite large, muscular, deep-bodied fish, and when fully mature, they can reach over 1 meter in length. Some of the larger specimens can weigh in at around 33 kilograms. These guys are also happy to be social and can be found living in schools with individuals of a similar size. They are also just as happy to be alone and some individuals will adopt a more solitary lifestyle. In the wild, these fish can live for over 30 years.


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Big Reds Like The Bottom Water Column

Red emperors are a demersal reef species, this means that they spend most of their time around the seafloor. This is also where they will find the majority of their food, and just like other species in the snapper family, the red emperor is a carnivorous predator. They will forage near the seafloor for crustaceans, such as crabs. They will also feed on smaller fish and squid higher up in the water column. Due to their demersal nature, these fish will rarely be caught on fishing gear like lures as they don’t commonly rise for bait. The best way to catch them is to get your bait to the seafloor where the fish will be feeding.

Around the Whitsundays, during snorkels on the shallow fringing reefs, you are likely to see the stunning juvenile red emperor swimming in schools with other young reds and even in schools with different species of a similar size. If your dream is to catch a few of these big reds, it’s best to book a liveaboard fishing charter to the outer Great Barrier Reef and try your luck bottom bouncing in the deeper offshore waters.



Marlene Hicks Owner operator of Topnotch Game Fishing Airlie Beach & Billfish Babes founder.