I’ve had disappointing fights from fish as diverse as trout right through to marlin and even fish as universally highly regarded as Spanish mackerel, but I can’t recall a single occasion when I’ve felt short-changed after an encounter with a Trev, be it a member of the Caranx, Gnathanodon or Carangoides clans.
They are universally tough customers. Unlike other tough species like yellowtail kings, they fight hard but fair, rarely appearing to seek out a reef or snag to bring you undone. They don’t jump as a rule and most people don’t rate them highly on the table but they have qualities that endear them to anglers worldwide.
As table fare, I reckon most trevally aren’t so bad, with a firm dryish texture and clean taste, ideally suited for curries and the like, or just thinly sliced and pan fried in egg and breadcrumbs or batter. Skippy Pseudocaranx dentex are the pick of the bunch and make excellent eating in my book, especially when consumed fresh. Sadly, they seem to lose something in the freezing process. I like to shallow fry skippy fillets in egg and breadcrumbs and serve with salt and pepper and a good splash of lemon juice.
When it comes to a favourite among the trevally family, I guess most anglers would opt for giant trevally Caranx ignobilis, the big daddy, capable of reaching sizes in excess of 60kg. Predatory, powerful and explosive, these hulks have attained cult status around the globe and anglers will go to extreme lengths to tangle with really big ones. GTs are one of the few species to generate the production of rods and reels designed specifically for them alone.
Brassy trevally Caranx papuensis are probably more numerous in the North West and just as much fun on a kilo for kilo basis as GTs, but they just don’t grow as big. Up until just a few years ago many of the supposed GTs that were caught up north were probably brassy trevally, but these days, thanks to numerous magazine articles and the like, people have become a lot more educated about identifying fish species generally and trevally in particular.
Other trevally that regularly turn up while fishing in northern parts include gold-spotted Carangoides fulvoguttatus and bludgers Carangoides gymnostethus. The gold-spotted trevally is more elongate than most of the other big trevally and is caught to around 12kg, while the smaller bludger usually turns up in big schools of fish to around 5kg. What the bludger lacks in size it more than makes up for in exuberance and power, but it is the worst of the lot for eating.
My own favourite of the trevallies is the golden (Gnathonodon speciosus), a fascinating fish that seems to have an almost eccentric character. Unlike their cousins, goldens have rubbery lips and a hyper-extendable mouth. The markings can be striking, golden with dark vertical bars in juveniles or with scattered chocolate spots in adults. They can be caught in deep water but most often seem to come from the shallows, to the point where they can be spotted under rafts of weed or tailing on sand flats as they grub along the bottom for their next snack. In that sort of situation they make for exciting fishing and readily snap at small poppers, metal lures and saltwater flies.
Trevally, whatever the type, you’ve gotta love ‘em.