I might have touched on the subject of Breaksea cod a few years ago, but I have recently had a very good run on catching them and enjoying their great flavored flesh, so I thought a refresh was due.
Breaksea are a south coast staple, and while the vast majority are caught from boats, plenty of good Breaksea get caught by rock fishers as well, so they are available to most fishers.
Breaksea cod are rarely a targeted species for bottom fishing anglers, they are generally a much-appreciated incidental catch.
Breaksea cod provide a tasty meal, especially when prime species like dhufish and snapper are proving elusive.
The bite of a Breaksea frequently suggests a much larger fish because they are ferocious in attacking even the largest of baits.
But having said that, their diminutive size means they come to the boat with very little resistance. They are an inquisitive fish too and will approach divers for a closer look. At times they can be seen resting on a reef ledge or the bottom. Just imagine if these little critters grew to 20kg.
The Breaksea is similar in shape to other rock cods and turns up in a wide range of colour variations, with fish caught in deeper water tending to be yellowish orange while those taken in shallow water are greenish brown, brown or greyish green. They have a distinctive black blotch surrounding the anus.
Reference books show blackarse reaching around 55cm and weighing up to 3kg, fish close to that size are a fairly regular capture on the South Coast, but even a fish half that size will give you a great feed.
Breaksea cod are an endemic temperate water species found around inshore reefs from the Recherche Archipelago at Esperance northwards as far as Shark Bay.
Breeding and migration
Breaksea cod can live up to 21 years, but fish aged two to 13 years are the most common encountered by anglers. They grow rapidly for the first eight years and growth slows at around 13 years. This species breeds from December through to April. As a member of the Ephinephilidae family (along with coral trout), they are considered to be batch spawners, which means they breed once or twice a month throughout their spawning season. All other members of this group are protogynous (female first) hermaphrodites (sex changers) and the size structure of Breaksea, with all the smaller fish being females, suggests this species is the same. Females start spawning from 23cm at three years of age, whereas males start at 27cm at age four.
The little that is known about them indicates that they are not prolific breeders and it could take a long while for stocks to recover from any overfishing. This means that an increasing frequency of smaller specimens being caught is possibly a sign of localised stock depletion. The ratio of old fish to young fish in the population, according to recent research, suggests that fishing pressure is acceptable, so there is no major cause for stock concern at present. It is thought that commercial fishing activities have very little impact on the stocks of Breaksea cod.
Tackle and bait
As Breaksea cod are generally caught when targeting other species, just about any bottom fishing rig or bait is capable of taking them.
When drifting for dhuies and other demersal or bottom dwelling species, it is common practice for some anglers to have one pair or gang of hooks carrying a big bait for the target species and a smaller single hook to pick up fish like Breaksea and even big King George whiting.I hope you get to catch a Breaksea cod soon just so you can enjoy this great and underrated table fish.