Giant Trevally - Game Fishing Rocks

Giant Trevally

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Giant Trevally, Caranx ignobilis

Also known as the giant kingfish, lowly trevally, barrier trevally, ulua, or GT.

The giant trevally is a powerful apex predator and is known to hunt individually and in schools. The species predominantly takes various fish as prey, although crustaceans, cephalopods and molluscs make up a considerable part of their diets in some regions. The fish grows relatively fast, reaching sexual maturity at a length of around 60 cm at three years of age. The giant trevally is both an important species to commercial fisheries and a recognised as one of the elite game fish species targeted by sports anglers.

Catch statistics in the Asian region show catches of up to 10 000 tonnes each year. The juveniles are considered good eating, although ciguatera poisoning is common in the fish. Dwindling numbers around the world have also led to several proposals to reduce the catch of fish in this certain regions.

How to Catch Giant Trevally

Small to medium sized Giant Trevally, less than 30kg fish, can be caught from the rock and surf or on inshore reefs in most areas throughout their distribution range, they are most abundant in warm, tropical waters where they can be found year round. In the subtropical waters giant trevally tends to be more seasonal, moving further south with the warmer waters in summer. This is with the noticeable exception of the sardine run that occurs in South Africa over winter when the cold waters from the Cape moves up the coast.

Smaller GT’s can be targeted using lures and bait, fishing near estuary mouths, rocky points and ledges and in the working water along beaches. They tend to use the working water in these areas as camouflage so when fishing, particularly with lures and poppers, concentrate in the surf zone, around white water or surging water near gullies and drop offs on reefs and rocks.

When it comes to catching trophy fish, 50kgs and above, there are very few places around the world where an angler can catch monster GT but Southern Oman is has to be one of, if not the best. These huge GT are the true monsters of the reef. They to hangout in the deep, 80m or more, but come to the surface to feed. As a result the best places to find these really big boys is reefs, atolls or islands that drop steeply away to the ocean floor. They’ll most often be found feedlot along the open, ocean side of the drop off.


As with all fishing the tackle you use depends on the size of the fish you’re after and if you’re land based or fishing off a boat. Your biggest challenge when fighting a GT is to keep it away from the rocks. The moment it’s hooked a GT’s natural instinct is head for the protection of the reef and most fish lost are due to being cut off on coral or rocks. Therefore if fishing along the beach you could go slightly lighter than I’ll recommend here.

I’m going start with the top end spinning/popping tackle required to target 40kg plus GT from the boat and then off the side when rocks are involved. Catching these monsters on standup spinning tackle is widely considered the pinnacle of the sport. It’s demands you to be both physically fit and have the best quality tackle out there.

Offshore Fishing

You’ll need a PE 8 - 12 setup with 100lb braid, 220lb monofilament leader and a lure weighing between 150 - 200g.

  • Rod - length should be between 8′ to 8’6″, strength PE 8 - 12 (would generally choose PE 10 and up), must be rated to throw a lure of 200g plus. There are plenty excellent rods on the market, your budget would be the deciding factor. Prices range anywhere from $400-$1000 and up. For example check our RODS page.
  • Reel - Again reel depends on your budget. For spinning reels I prefer Shimano. The Stella 18k or 20k is the perfect weapon but they are just over $1000. If you’re on a budget the Shimano Saragose or Twinpower 20k would work just as well. Guys do use the Diawa Dogfight and it’s a perfectly good reel so the choice is yours.
  • Braid - Here I would recommend buying the best quality braid you can afford. With braids to get what you pay for. 100lb braid is perfect and go for an 8 or 12 strand braid. I really like the Tasline Elite braid but there are many options out there so do your homework.
  • Leader line - 200-300lb (1.5mm or thicker) Fisherman or Varivas have good quality lines. You need approx 2m and must use an FG knot to join it too you braid.
  • Swivel - 400-500lb Shout or Owner.
  • Split rings - 350lb Shout or Owner.
  • Lures - Poppers and stickbaits 150-200g. There a huge variety of makes out there these days but Orion, Labo and Stategic Angler lures are a good place to start.

Land based fishing

From the side your tackle is similar but with a longer rod to allow you to cast further.

  • Rod - 10 -11ft rod with a strength between PE 4 - 8 that can cast a lure up to 150g is idea. The Assassin Spin Master 2X Heavy 11ft is a great rod which can handling anything you throw at it.
  • Reel - A Shimano Stella 10k or 14k pairs well with the Assassin rod.
  • For the rest use the same terminal tackle as above.

When going for smaller fish just scale the tackle down accordingly.


The giant trevally is the largest member of the genus Caranx, with a recorded maximum length of 170 cm and a weight of 80 kg. Specimens these sizes are very rare, with the species only occasionally seen at lengths greater than 80 cm. It appears the Hawaiian Islands and Southern Oman contain the largest fish, where individuals over 100 lbs are fairly common.1

It has a steep head profile, deep convex body and strong tail. It is normally a silvery colour with occasional dark spots, but males may be black once they mature.

At less than 50 cm, the giant trevally is a silvery-grey fish, with the head and upper body slightly darker in both sexes. Fish greater than 50 cm show sexual dimorphism in their colouration, with males having dusky to jet-black bodies, while females are a much lighter coloured silvery-grey. Individuals with darker dorsal colouration often also display striking silvery markings on the upper part of their bodies, particularly their backs. Black dots of a few millimetres in diameter may also be found scattered all over the body, although the coverage of these dots varies between widespread to none at all. All the fins are generally light grey to black, although fish taken from turbid waters often have yellowish fins, with the anal fin being the brightest. The leading edges and tips of the anal and dorsal fins are generally lighter in colour than the main part of the fins. Traces of broad cross-bands on the fish’s sides are occasionally seen after death.

The dorsal fin is in two parts, the first consists of eight spines while the second has one spine followed by 18 to 21 soft rays. The anal fin consists of two anteriorly detached spines followed by one spine and 15 to 17 soft rays. The pelvic fins contain 1 spine and 19 to 21 soft rays. The tail or caudal fin is strongly forked. The pectoral fins are falcate, being longer than the length of the head.

There is a pronounced lateral line which has curved section intersecting the straight section below the second dorsal fin. The curved section of the lateral line contains 58-64 scale, while the straight section contains none to four scales and 26 to 38 very strong scutes. The chest has no scales with the exception of a small patch of scales in front of the pelvic fins.

The upper jaw contains a series of strong outer canines with an inner band of smaller teeth, while the lower jaw contains a single row of conical teeth. The eye of the giant trevally has a horizontal streak


The giant trevally is widely distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, ranging along the coasts of three continents and many hundreds of smaller islands and archipelagos. In the Indian Ocean, the species’ westernmost range is the coast of continental Africa, being distributed from the southern tip of South Africa, north along the east African coastline to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Its range extends eastwards along the Asian coastline and into Southeast Asia, the Indonesian Archipelago and northern Australia. The southernmost record from the west coast of Australia comes from Rottnest Island, not far offshore from Perth. Elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, the species has been recorded from hundreds of small island groups, including the Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

The giant trevally is abundant in the central Indo-Pacific region, found throughout all the archipelagos and offshore islands including Indonesia, Philippines and Solomon Islands. Along continental Asia, the species has been recorded from Malaysia to Vietnam, but not China. Despite this, its offshore range does extend north to Hong Kong, Taiwan and southern Japan. In the south, the species reaches as far south as New South Wales in Australia and even to the northern tip of New Zealand in the southern Pacific. Its distribution continues throughout the western Pacific, including Tonga, Western Samoa and Polynesia, with its westernmost limits known to be the Pitcairn and Hawaiian Islands.


The giant trevally inhabits a very wide range of offshore and inshore marine environments, with the species also known to tolerate the low salinity waters of estuaries and rivers. The species is most common in shallow coastal waters in a number of environments, including coral and rocky reefs and shorefaces, lagoons, embayments, tidal flats and channels. They commonly move between reef patches, often over large expanses of deeper sand and mud bottoms between the reefs. Older individuals tend to move to deeper seaward reefs and drop-offs, often to depths greater than 80 m. Large individuals, however, often return to these shallower waters as they patrol their ranges, often to hunt or reproduce.

Juvenile to sub-adult giant trevally are known to enter and inhabit estuaries, the upper reaches of rivers and coastal lakes. The species has a wide salinity tolerance, as evident from the ranges from which juvenile and sub-adult fish in estuaries have been recorded; 0.5 to 38 parts per thousand (ppt). Younger fish apparently actively seek out turbid waters, and when no estuaries are present, they live in the turbid inshore waters of bays and beaches. These young fish eventually move to inshore reefs as they mature, before again moving to deeper outer reefs. In the Philippines, a population of giant trevally inhabit (and were once common in) the landlocked fresh waters of Taal Lake, and are referred to as maliputo.

References and Articles of Interest


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