Sci: Monacanthidae spp.
Common Names: There
are at least 60 types of leatherjacket, "leather" or "jacket" present in Australian
waters, 20 or more of which are sometimes taken by anglers. The more frequently
captured species include: the rough leatherjacket (Scobinichthys granulatus),
six-spined leatherjacket (Meuschenia freycineti), yellow-finned leatherjacket
(M. trachylepis), Chinaman leatherjacket (Nelusetta ayraudi), mosaic leatherjacket
(Eubalichthys mosaicus), and the estuary-dwelling fan-bellied leatherjacket (Monacanthus
diverse and extensive group of relatively small, scaleless, rough-skinned fish
have tiny mouths, beak-like teeth and a stout, serrated dorsal spine behind the
head. Colouration varies enormously; from the brightly-hued and attractive six-spined
leatherjacket to the drab and well-camouflaged rough and fan-bellied leatherjackets.
Identifying the different species can be a difficult task, and is not overly important
to the average angler.
Size: Most of the
leatherjackets are quite small. For example, the estuarine fan-bellied leatherjackets
rarely tops 0.5 kg. At the other end of the scale, the six spined and horseshoe
varieties occasionally reach 2 kg, while the giants of the family are the mosaic
leatherjacket and the Chinaman; both of which may occasionally exceed 3 kg.
Leatherjackets of one type or another are found right around
the coastline, although they tend to be replaced by the
closely allied trigger fishes (Balistidae) in tropical latitudes.
Fishing Techniques: Leatherjackets can be taken
on almost any type of tackle. Most are caught on light handlines or the same rod
and reel outfits used to catch bream, flathead, inshore snapper and the like.
When present in good numbers, leatherjackets are quite easy to catch, especially
if a relatively small hook is used in conjunction with soft baits such as peeled
prawn, worms, yabbies, cunjevoi, mussels, abalone gut or strips of fish flesh.
Pieces of squid also make an excellent bait. Long-shanked hooks should be used
to prevent leatherjackets biting through the line.
All of the leatherjacket species mentioned have white, sweet and slightly moist
flesh and make very good to excellent food fish. However, there have been occasional
reports of mild poisoning after eating leatherjackets, particularly the Chinaman