Zebra or Luderick

Damon Sherriff

Over Ten years ago before I got married I lived at Georgetown with Sarah who is now my wife. I didn't have a boat so most of my fishing was down land-based. One of the closest locations to my home was the Low Head break water.

I mainly fished for calamari of this large man-made structure. It is situated at the mouth of the Tamar River. It is a short walk to the end of the break water which is  where I fished for squid. Every now and then on the walk out I would spot a school of luderick or what I thought was luderick. I never actually bothered chasing these fish, as they never really interested me until recently. Occasionally I would spot a school of luderick which were larger and had fish in the pod up to around 1.5-2 kg.
I ended up moving from the area and lost interest in the break water and I now concentrate on the middle reaches of the Tamar where I now live.
A couple of years ago I meet a keen angler from Bridport who has moved to Tassie from New South Wales. He is an expert Luderick angler and asked if I knew of any good spots to target them in the Tamar area. I gave him a few spots to try and one of them being the Low Head break water.  
A few weeks later he came back into the store that I work in and told me that my Luderick spot was a dud for he caught plenty of stripey fish but they were definitely not Luderick they were in fact the close cousin the Zebra fish. He had caught about 20 of them and some of them were of good size. I said to him that I thought that Zebra fish didn't grow to that big but he disagreed and said that they grow nearly as big as a Luderick. He also mentioned that they fight as hard if not harder than a Luderick of the same size, and are not too bad on the table as long as they have been bled immediately.
So I am know starting to think that the fish that I had seen many years before where in fact Zebra fish not Luderick.

Zebra fish (girella zebra)
The zebra is a small to medium sized member of the girella family. And is closely related to the Luderick. The colour is very similar to the Luderick and can vary immensely from area to area. It is typically purplish brown with 8 to 10 vertical bands of black to brown. The bands are wider at the top tapering towards the belly. The zebra's fins are dusky to yellowish. The tail and petrels are tinged with yellow. Zebra's average weight is around 400g to about 1.5 kg but can occasionally grow to around 3 kg. Some monsters have rarely approached 4 kg. This description really amazed me as I never knew that these fish grew that big.

Luderick (girella tricuspidata)
The Luderick is often confused with the black drummer and zebra fish. A small to medium omnivorous fish of the oceans and estuaries. The Ludericks colour varies with its habits the same as the zebra. Estuary fish are usually a dark to purplish brown, overlayed by 9 or more dark vertical stripes and the belly is a cream colour. Ocean fish take on a brassy or bronze hue, over a purple brown and may also be a light blue grey which shows up the stripes clearly. The Ludericks tail and fins are darker than its body. The Ludericks average weight is the same as the zebra, 500g to 1.5 kg, and can also reach 4 kg on the rare occasion.

Fishing techniques
Zebras and Luderick are so closely related that the same tackle and outfits should be employed for both of these species. Northern anglers prefer a centre pin reel but I use a small thread line reel around the 2000 size, spooled up with 3-4kg line. I have found that gelspun line is very good to detect the small picky bites of the zebra. I use a long 8 ½ foot light nibble tip rod this is most suitable. It will help you to get your line and bait away from the rocks. Most Northern anglers use pencil floats to suspend there baits above the snaggy bottom and I have found that a lighty weighted bait with a small split shot sinker works well. Zebras and Ludericks will not eat fish fleshed baits. Sea cabbage, bread dough and peeled prawns all work well. Berley is a must. Stale bread, prawn heads and shells mixed up work really well. A small long shank gamakatsu hook around size 10-8 is a good place to start.
Although not always easy to recognise zebra and Luderick are both great sport fish. They both fight very hard on a rod. I have only just started fishing for them but have found it very interesting learning from someone who knows what they are talking about. There is much to learn about these two fantastic little fish. I am sure that this type of fishing will take off when people learn a bit more about them. I know that I will.

Damon Sherriff

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