butterfish, triggerfish, southern leatherjacket
Scientific name: Meuschenia australis
10 (leatherjacket species combined)
20 (leatherjacket species combined)
Numerous species of leatherjackets with varied colour patterns are found around Tasmania’s coastline. The distinctive long spine above the eyes, rough sandpaper-like skin and small mouth make leatherjackets hard to mistake. The brownstriped leatherjacket (pictured) has a relatively long body and no spines near the tail base. Their colour is brownish overall, males with a yellow head and bluish lines and females with darker stripes and spots on the head and underside.
Up to 30 cm.
Common in Tasmania around coastal reefs in depths from 0-20 metres.
Leatherjackets are taken around inshore reefs and jetties. Use small long-shanked hooks on light line with fresh or prawns for bait. Will also take soft plastics and lures. They are known for nibbling at the bait.
Responsible fishing tips:
Leatherjackets are a robust fish that have good survival rates if handled with care.
Care needs to be taken when handling live leatherjackets, not only due to the spine, which does not carry a poison gland, but also the teeth which can remove skin from an unwary fisher.
The flesh is good eating if fish are cleaned and skinned shortly after capture. It is fine textured, moist and sweet. Delicious simply pan fried in butter, but adapts well to other cooking methods such as baking, barbequing, poaching and grilling. They are good baked or grilled whole with the head removed and wrapped in foil to prevent them drying out. The firm flesh works well minced for fish cakes and fish balls and holds together well in curries and soups.Fish illustration by Peter Gouldthorpe