Sea Perch – Helicolenus percoides – the fish with many names
By Allan Burgess
The Maori name for sea perch is Pohuiakaroa. It is also widely known as Jock Stewart, scarpee, flinger, bouraki, and Highlander. I suspect that many of the names are derogatory in the sense that the angler is expressing disappointment at not boating a more desirable species.
The average size of sea perch is 30cm. Big specimens can reach 50cm.
There have been times when sea fishing off Kaikoura that sea perch have been so plentiful it was impossible to catch any other species of fish. They could be very annoying when we were seeking blue cod. This was especially true when the fishing off Goose Bay. It is possible to catch a feed of sea perch with little effort all along the Canterbury coast from Motunau to well north of Kaikoura Peninsula.
You don’t usually catch them straight off the rocks or beach as they are more likely to be in deeper water. Sea perch are the most likely catch along this coastline if you are able to fish from a kayak.
Though not a sort of two species from a sport-fishing perspective the bigger ones are very good eating, with each fish providing too firm white fillets. The smaller specimens we sent back over the side as they were not worth the effort to fillet them – although they are good wrapped in foil and cooked whole in the oven.
Sea perch are often caught over the same foul ground as blue cod, trumpeter and moki, but are also caught over sandy bottoms. They are more numerous around South Island of New Zealand, being found in deep water from about 20 meters to over 500 meters.
Hunting and Fishing Kaikoura is stocked with an enormous range of fishing gear. It’s the place to go as the staff have excellent local knowledge about what you can catch and where.