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Secrets to Catch Red Emperor in Broome, Western Australia

Secrets to Catch Red Emperor in Broome, Western Australia

Secrets to Catching Red Emperor

by Gino Chambers

Fishing for and catching Red Emperor off the coast of Broome, Western Australia, is an angler's dream, offering both a significant challenge and the promise of a memorable experience. This guide delves deep into the intricacies of catching this esteemed species, revealing the secrets that lie beneath the surface of Broome's waters.

What is a Red Emperor?

The Red Emperor, Lutjanus sebae, is a member of the Lutjanidae family, celebrated for its significance in recreational and commercial fishing. This family is renowned for both the toughness and the culinary delight of its members, which include the mangrove jack and fingermark bream, indicating the formidable nature and delicious taste of the Red Emperor. These fish inhabit the Indo-Pacific region, with a notable presence in Western Australia's waters, especially around Broome. They can live for over 32 years and are known for their striking red coloration and robust build.

Author with a pair of juvenile red emperor showing the coloured bands of youth.

Author with a pair of juvenile red emperor - notice the distinctive banded marking.



How to Identify Red Emperor

Identifying a Red Emperor is typically straightforward, thanks to its distinctive red coloration and body shape. Adults boast a deep red to pink colour, with large scales and a pronounced snout, reaching lengths of up to 100 cm. Juveniles display a paler red background marked by three darker red bars, making their colour pattern distinctly striking.

Red Emperors are schooling fish, preferring the company of their kind around reefs and sandy bottoms. They exhibit territorial tendencies, especially around feeding areas, and are known to be more active at night, seeking prey with vigour.

Superbly coloured adult red emperor caught in Broome, Western Australia

The striking colour and shape of an adult red emperor.




Best Conditions to Catch Red Emperor

While Red Emperor can be caught throughout the day, they are more active during the night, venturing out of their shelters to feed. This nocturnal activity pattern suggests that fishing during dusk, dawn, or night may yield better results.

These fish thrive in warmer waters, between 22°C to 28°C, favouring the tropical climate of Broome. Red Emperor can be caught in Broome at depths starting around 20 metres, these fish are usually smaller and not as common compared to deeper areas. A good place to start looking for ground is between 40 – 60 metres of water. Searching for slight changes in depth or isolated coral bommies in this depth can indicate good ground. Large drop offs and rocky areas may hold fish but are also likely to hold more sharks increasing chances of depredation.

Red Emperor distribution in norther Western Australia

Distribution and Movement

Red Emperor's distribution extends up to the Abrolhos Islands, with Shark Bay marking the southern boundary of their typical range. Their presence below Shark Bay is rare, making the waters off Broome an ideal fishing spot. Despite their widespread presence, little is known about their breeding habits, migration, or movement patterns.

Classic red emperor caught in Broome on a hybrid jig.

Threats to the Red Emperor fishery

The primary threat to Red Emperor is habitat destruction caused by trawling, which can damage the coral environments they inhabit. With some areas reporting remaining biomass as low as 20 percent, Red Emperor are considered vulnerable to overfishing, highlighting the importance of sustainable fishing practices.

Size and Possession Limits for Red Emperor

While the maximum size of Red Emperor in Western Australian waters is considered to be around 16kg, reports from the eastern states suggest they can grow beyond 25kg. However, most large specimens observed, such as those around the Mackerel Islands, seem to align with the 16kg upper limit. The minimum legal size in Western Australia is 41 cm, with a bag limit of 2 per person, underscoring the need to adhere to local regulations to support conservation efforts.

See below for link to up-to-date regulations.

Gear for Red Emperor

Tackle

Successful anglers targeting big Red Emperor typically opt for lines no lighter than 24kg, with many favouring the benefits of braided lines. Standard dropper rigs, like those used for dhufish, are popular, with breaking strains of 50 kilos and above. Hooks should be strong, a 7/0 - 10/0 circle hook has proven effective for this species

Bait and Lures

Red Emperors are not particularly selective when it comes to bait, if it is fresh and of a reasonable size. Whole squid and fresh strip bait are excellent choices. When it comes to lures, slow-pitch jigs, soft plastics and hybrid style jigs are highly effective.

Lures for red emperor include large soft plastics, slow pitch jigs and hybrid jigs that can be fished down deep.

Red Emperor Techniques

Drifting over likely areas while keeping a close eye on the sounder is a proven method for catching Red Emperor. It is essential to keep bait close to the bottom, especially during the day, as Red Emperor tend to stay near their home for meals. The use of a sea anchor can be beneficial, but anglers must be mindful of tidal flows that affect drift direction and speed. Monitoring the sounder for coral ledges and fish markings can significantly increase your chances of a successful catch.

Tackle World Broome preferred rig is:

Bait:
Single or Double Paternoster rig. Our hook of choice would be a Shinto Pro Octopus Circle in 8/0. A 8-12oz snapper sinker may be required depending on depth.

Shinto Pro Octopus Circle Hooks

Jigs:
Jigs ranging in size from 100gm to 200gm depending on depth, current and drift speed. Some of our favourites include the Vexed Dhu Inchiku, Nomad Buffalo and Cast OTD

Hybrid Jigs:
To get the best of both worlds, try the Vexed Bottom meat, a well-presented whole squid or strip bait on a Bottom Meat Jig has caught many larger species while other methods were ineffective.

Tackle World Broome suggested outfits for Emperor:

Jigging:
A light overhead set up is often preferred. Rods in the PE 2-4 Range with a light tip but strong backbone. These match up well with reels such as Daiwa Lexa 300 or Shimano Tranx 300. When choosing line look for something with a lighter PE rating but high breaking strain. A good option is Cast X12 Jigging Braid.


Find out more about Shimano TranX


Bait/General use:
Spin reels are often chosen for versatility and ease of use. Spin reels in the 8000-1000 size loaded with 50- 65lb braid. Rods must be rated to the breaking strain of the line to be used.

Red Emperor can be caught in Broome at depths starting around 20 metres, these fish are usually smaller and not as common compared to deeper areas. A good place to start looking for ground is between 40 – 60 metres of water. Searching for slight changes in depth or isolated coral bommies in this depth can indicate good ground. Large drop offs and rocky areas may hold fish but are also likely to hold more sharks increasing chances of depredation.

Red Emperor, a majestic fish.

Catching Red Emperor in Broome, Western Australia, is a testament to an angler's skill, patience, and respect for marine conservation. Understanding their behaviour, preferred conditions, and the right gear and techniques is crucial for a successful outing. With the added insights into their physical characteristics, threats, and habitat preferences, anglers are better equipped to target these magnificent fish responsibly. As always, adherence to local fishing regulations is paramount to ensure the sustainability of Red Emperor stocks for future generations. Happy fishing, and may your efforts be rewarded with the catch of a lifetime.

Gino

Tackle World Broome for all the right fishing advice.

Tackle World Broome is your one stop shop for fishing gear and advice in Broome. We aim to have all the latest products best suited to our fishing region. We are locally owned and operated with the buying power of over 40 stores so our prices remain competitive with the big online stores. All of our staff love fishing and are always happy to point you in the right direction to chase your dream fish. We've been serving fishermen since 1994. Our founder, Steve Chambers, started the business with the goal of providing high-quality gear and expert advice to outdoor enthusiasts.

Tackle World Broome
33 Carnarvon Street, Broome, WA 6725
Phone: 08 9192 1669


WA Fishing Regulations & Bag Limits