New Zealand Sea Fishes

Porare – Girella tricuspidata

Porare – Girella tricuspidata – How and Where to Catch Porare

By Allan Burgess

Although Parore are plentiful in the warmer coastal waters of New Zealand’s upper North Island it is not usually targeted by most anglers. It is an herbiferous species although not exclusively so. 

Parore is the common name of this fish in New Zealand. It is also known as blackfish, black bream, black perch and black snapper. Other Maori names are Ngāoheohe and Parakoka.  

It is a popular and sought-after species in Australia by shore-based anglers fishing with light rods and lines. Known as luderick or blackfish it occurs from southern Queensland down to Tasmania, South Australia and south Western Australia. 

According to Arthur W. Parrott in Sea Anglers’ Fishes of New Zealand, ludrick (pronounced loodrick, with the accent on the first syllable), was a name by which the fish was known to the Australian aborigines of Gippsland.

Porare Description

The body is elongated and compressed. Its solid body shape makes it a strong fighter on light lines.

The first dorsal fin has 13-15 spines and 12 soft dorsal rays. 

The snout is short and blunt. The mouth and teeth are small. An unusual feature is that the teeth differ slightly in shape between males and females. The scientific name tricuspidata refers to the male’s teeth, each with three small points, with the middle cusp longer. 

The fish is covered with moderately large scales.

Parore is easily recognisable by the 9 – 12 vertical dark bars running the length of the body. The bars fade towards the bottom.

Colouration

According to the excellent Australian book Grant’s Guide to Fishes, there are two distinct stocks of this species – estuarine and coastal – each with different colouration. 

Smaller fish remain in freshwater estuaries, and mangrove swamps where growth is rapid in their first year. Older mature fish are found at sea. However, sea-going Parore do not stay permanently in bluewater but migrate back and forth between the sea and estuaries. 

Scale ring counts have shown Parore to reach an age of at least 10 years. Large specimens may be much older. 

Growth is rapid in their first year reaching 100mm in length. They measure 300mm by age five. Occasionally large specimens measuring 600mm are caught in harbour setnets as bycatch.

Parore found in estuaries and rivers are dark olive-brown with vertical bars. Freshly caught estuarine and river fish often have a purplish tinge that soon fades after death.

Parore caught at sea around rocky headlands and bays are a pale brown, silvery underneath, and the back and sides have a clear bronze sheen. The dark vertical bars on ocean-caught fish are more pronounced.

Parore Size

Length: Averages 30-45cm, with a maximum size of 60cm. Parore is known to reach 5kg (11 lb), but most of the fish encountered by anglers will be much smaller, less than 40cm, and weigh less than a kilogram. 

Habitat and Distribution

Parore is common in the warmer waters of New Zealand’s upper North Island, particularly north of Auckland and is prevalent along the northeastern coast between East Cape and Cape Reinga. They are seen in northern harbours in huge schools numbering many hundreds. 

They have been reported occasionally at the Three Kings Islands. Occurs in smaller numbers as far south as Cook Strait.

Parore are not recorded around the Chatham Islands or the South Island. They may occur occasionally in the Marlborough Sounds. If you have caught Parore in the Marlborough Sounds please let us know in the comments section below. 

The known depth range for Parore is from 0 to 30 meters.

This species can be found in estuaries, marinas, over mudflats, tidal mangrove areas, brackish streams and rivers, wharf piles, mussel farms, rocky shores, breakwaters, and offshore islands. 

Research in Australia has shown that Parore ranges up to several hundred kilometres along the coast.

What Does Parore Eat?

Being herbivorous they feed mostly on green and red seaweed like sea lettuce and eel-grass. 

This species is often seen in Northern New Zealand grazing algae from rocks in marinas and along rocky breakwaters. 

Mostly they are herbivores but will also consume a wide range of small shrimps, crabs and worms.  

Spawning?

In New Zealand, spawning occurs in late spring and summer, in estuaries and the surf zone. In Australia’s more southern waters spawning also occurs in late summer or autumn. In the warmer waters of south Queensland, spawning occurs earlier during July and August.

Is Parore Edible?

Opinions differ on the answer to this question. According to Gary Kemsley and the late Steve Sneddon in their excellent book New Zealand’s Favourite Fish, as a weed eater, Iodine can build up in their gut cavity. After death, the iodine can spread right through the fish. This taints the flesh and gives it an unpleasant taste.

To prevent this from happening anglers are advised to fillet Parore as soon as they are caught, or at the very least gut them and scrape out all of the black iodine lining from the gut cavity.

I have also seen it written that fish caught in the open sea taste better than those caught in estuaries. 

Parore is sold locally in fish shops in the upper North Island. Such fish, taken as bycatch will have been caught in mullet nets and hasn’t been filleted or gutted immediately upon capture. It may have a weedy flavour. 

Notwithstanding the above, the flesh is white and firm and excellent eating by most accounts. 

Best Baits for Parore

The best bait for Parore is weed-like sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) and eelgrass (Zostera capricorni, which grows in the intertidal zone). It can be gathered from shoreline rocks in harbours, tidal creeks, streams and swampy mangrove areas. Be sure to watch the YouTube video at the bottom of this post Fishing NZ Flounder and Parore Fishing in which Adam Clancey and his good fishing buddy John Eichelsheim demonstrate how to gather and bait up with weed for Porare. 

Though in the main herbivorous fish, Porare will also take shellfish flesh cut into small pieces and fished on a size 10 hook.

According to Grant’s Guide to Fishes, though the blackfish is usually taken on baits of marine weed, they will also bite readily on Yabbies. That makes good sense as a wriggling live Yabbie on your hook sends vibrations into the water, quickly detected and homed in on by predatory fish. However, if you are targeting Parore exclusively you are better off using weed for bait because yabbies will attract practically every species in the area – especially mullet!

Rigs and Catch Methods

Parore is a challenging fish to catch on a rod and reel. They are unlikely to bite on a heavy monofilament line. The standard rig for catching them is a size 10 hook, baited with weed and fished under a lightweight pencil float. You will get more bites with a 6 lb breaking strain monofilament fishing line. Some anglers fish even lighter going down to 4 lb mono. 

The reason that a float rig is used is so that your baited hook is suspended up off the bottom. You want it to drift in the current like it isn’t connected to anything.

A stopper knot prevents your bait from sinking deeply into the water column.     

Parore have small mouths so a larger hook will be ineffective and ignored by the fish. You may find your weed being nibbled from the hook without you catching anything.

Use a lead split shot or two to make the hook sink in the water and assist with casting weight. Your over-arching concern is to ensure your rig places your bait in front of the fish in such a way as to make it appear as naturally as possible.

A Parore caught on a light rig like this will fight strongly for its size!

At times Parore will also take small prawns, yabbies or worms. The main disadvantage of these baits is that you are likely to catch yellow-eyed or grey mullet together with juvenile kahawai, rather than your target species.

Another advantage of the float rig described here is that it can be fished in rocky and weedy areas without becoming snagged as you would with a paternoster rig with a sinker at the bottom.

Parore are strong swimmers and will be seen feeding in the whitewater wash close to rocks. By setting your weed bait depth to advantage you will be able to fish in these areas that would be very difficult otherwise. Ideally, you want to be fishing just above the seabed.

Hooks need to be small size 8 or 10.

Parore on the Fly Rod

In Australia there is a subset of blackfish anglers who target this species with an artificial weed fly on genuine fly fishing tackle. They usually make up a berley mixture of chopped up weed which they mix together with sand to hold the blackfish/porare in the area. Now that sounds like a great challenge and a lot of fun.

References

Grant’s Guide to Fishes. Guide to the fishes of Australia. ISBN: 978-0-646-14106-0. Format: Hardback Pages: 880. Weight: 2.5kg. Size: 25cm long, 18cm wide and 5cm deep.

Collins Guide To The Sea Fishes of New Zealand by Tony Ayling, illustrated by Geoffrey J. Cox.

Coastal Fishes of New Zealand – An Identification Guide by Malcolm Francis.

The Fishes of New Zealand – Edited by Clive C Roberts, Andrew L Stewart and Carl D Struthers.

Sea Anglers Fishes of New Zealand – By Arthur W. Parrott.

Handbook of New Zealand Marine Fishers by Larry Paul and John Moreland, Illustrated by Eric Heath.

Above: Australia’s Alex Bellissimo talks about his love of fishing for black fish, known in New Zealand as porare.

Above: Expert Kiwi anglers Adam Clancey and John Eichelsheim share some great tips on how to catch porare from a New Zealand perspective. 

This post was last modified on 03/07/2024 10:00 pm

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