LUDERICK: Blackfish
Sci: Girella tricuspidata

Common Names: This fish is rarely called by its official name anywhere outside of Victoria. In New South Wales and southern Queensland, where most luderick are caught, they are more widely known as blackfish, "blackies", "niggers" or "darkies". Big, sea-going luderick are sometimes nicknamed "bronzies" or "square-mouths", while on Queensland's Gold and Sunshine Coasts, the species is erroneously referred to as "black bream".

Description: A small to medium-sized omnivorous fish of the ocean and estuaries, characterised by a small, relatively square mouth and comb-like teeth. The luderick's colouration varies with its habitat. Estuary-dwelling fish are usually dark grey to purplish-brown, overlaid by nine or more darker vertical stripes. The belly is creamy. Ocean fish often take on a brassy or bronze hue over their purple-brown base colour. However, they may also be a light blue-grey or grey with distinct dark stripes. The luderick's fins, especially the tail, are darker than its body.

Size: Most luderick taken by anglers weigh between 0.4 and 1.2 kg. However, an occasional exceptional specimen may approach 3 kg, and the species has the potential to exceed 4 kg.

Distribution: Luderick are found around the south eastern seaboard of Australia; from about Fraser Island or Maryborough in Queensland to western Victoria and north eastern Tasmania. They are also reasonably prolific in New Zealand waters, particularly around the North Island.

Fishing Techniques: Blackfishing or "niggering" is the traditional and time-proven method for taking these fish. A centrepin reel, long, fine rod and stemmed float are used to suspend a bait of green weed or cabbage between 1 and 5 m beneath the surface of the water. The line to the hook should be fine, the hook small and sharp and the float weighted so that the softest bite will sink it. Blackfish are also taken on baits of peeled prawn, sand, squirt or bloodworm, cunjevoi, yabbies (nippers) and hermit crabs. In most areas, luderick take these baits best in late winter and spring. Whatever the chosen fishing method, the gear should be light, and hooks small. Berleying can also be a big help.

Eating Qualities: Luderick are regarded as a fair to good eating fish, but should be bled and cleaned promptly for best results. Those luderick caught around the rocks generally taste better than fish taken inside estuaries and rivers. All luderick intended for the table should be filleted and skinned to help remove the slight taste of weed sometimes present in their flesh.

By Steve Starling