Trumpeter – Latris lineata – Found mostly over rocky foul ground

Trumpeter – Latris lineata

Tony Langdale-Hunt with a brace of massive trumpeter taken off the Canterbury Coast.

by Allan Burgess

The Trumpeter by Dick Marquand (Scroll down this page).

A freshly caught trumpeter has a brightly coloured handsome appearance. This one was caught by Allan Burgess fishing off Stewart Island.

Trumpeter is a welcome catch for recreational anglers. They are a fish of southern New Zealand with the Bay of Plenty being about their northern limit. They are more abundant along the east and southern coasts of the South Island. However, the trumpeter is rarely encountered other than in small numbers. Occasionally trawlers will bring in a good haul of medium-sized fish.

The best fishing grounds for them are off Kaikoura, along with the Pegasus Canyon, Foveaux Strait, around Stewart Island, and Fiordland, mostly over rocky foul ground, seamounts, and sunken reef systems. Like groper, they soon become fished out from the most popular and readily accessible spots. This is because they are such good biters with the bigger fish in particularly the first to be caught. It can take many years for them to re-occupy such an area.

Dave Tucker with a fine brace of big trumpeter taken off the Canterbury Coast – 9.5kg and 11kg.

A few years ago there were many large trumpeters to be found at Bushett Shoal – an isolated reef system south of Claverly on the Kaikoura Coast. Although close to shore this whole area was difficult to access with boat launching ramps at least an hour away by sea. Although Bushett Shoal still yields trumpeter the very big fish are now few and far between. To catch a big one a metre in length you would need to find a new unfished location!

Trumpeters are powerful fighters on rod and line. They will readily take flasher rigs and jigs bounced along the bottom. You can increase your chances of a hook-up still further by sweetening your flashers with bait. Just about any fresh bait will take trumpeter including yellow-eyed mullet, barracouta, squid, tarakihi, sea perch, and so on. Nowadays almost no one fishes with bait only. The flasher rigs are much more productive.

In my experience trumpeter seem to hit the moment your gear invades their territory just as you reach the bottom. Trumpeter prefers clear water and doesn’t usually bite when the sea is rough and dirty. They are found in the same sort of locations as you find sea perch

This specimen taken off the Canterbury Coast is approaching the upper size limit for the trumpeter. Note how the bands have faded on this fish.

and blue cod. So if you are catching these species a trumpeter is always a possibility. Trumpeter info on

I have caught trumpeter several times in good numbers when fishing over foul ground off Stewart Island and in Foveaux Strait. They were taking both jigs and flasher rigs and were great fighters darting from side to side before being lifted aboard.

Trumpeter moves inshore during summer and moves out to deeper water in the wintertime. They are caught in shallow water of 20 metres down to as deep as 250 metres.

The horizontal stripes running along its sides make the trumpeter immediately recognisable. These stripes are a bright olive green colour which quickly fades after capture. The fins and tail are yellow to grey. It can also be quite bronze or brown in colour. It is a very pretty fish to look at.

An excellent brace of big trumpeter fresh from the sea.

The outline of the trumpeter closely resembles that of the blue moki to which it is related. Indeed these two species share much the same habitat and eat much the same prey of shrimp, crabs, octopus, squid, and mussels.

Trumpeter is one of the very best table fish. They can be cooked by all methods.

A trumpeter caught fresh from the sea has bright vivid colours. They are also strong fighters darting from side to side and pulling strongly on the line. Click image to enlarge.
Dave Craze with good eating size trumpeter from Foveaux Strait.
This is a very big trumpeter caught off the Canterbury Coast.

According to David H. Graham, who was a marine biologist at Portobello near Dunedin in the first half of last century, he found a ripe female trumpeter which he estimated to be carrying an astonishing 12 million eggs. A prolific spawner indeed! It is sad when you consider just how few of these young will ever reach full maturity.

The trumpeter reaches 1m in length. Found mostly over rocky foul ground down to 100m. I remember members of the Canterbury Sport Fishing Club catching big trumpeter over Bushett Shoal south of Kaikoura. This area was for a long time difficult to reach by trailer boat so the trumpeter there were very big.

Moki are crustaceans feeders. You are much more likely to catch them on crustacean baits like Swimming crabs (also called paddle crabs), cooked prawns and crayfish, than cut fish baits!

Trumpeter – Latris-lineata

The Trumpeter

by Dick Marquand

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To southern anglers, the trumpeter is a highly prized catch.

The trumpeter (Latris lineata) belongs to the trumpeter family (Latridae), which also includes the blue moki, copper moki and telescope fish. This family is closely related to the morwong family (Cheilodactylidae) along with the porae, red moki, painted moki, red morwong, magpie morwong and the well-known tarakihi.

The trumpeter is able to be immediately identified because of its distinctive markings and colouration. The back is yellow-brown or olive green with three longitudinal brown or black bands which run along the length of the body and are continued on the head in a series of dark blotches and bands. The lower sides and belly are silvery and the fins are tinged with yellow. Without a doubt, the trumpeter is one of the most beautiful of fishes found in our southern waters.

This species is an active predator feeding on small reef fish, octopus, squid, crabs and krill. David H. Graham reports in his book “A Treasury of New Zealand Fishes” (1953), that trumpeter feed on pilchards, sprats, pipefish, seahorse, mussels, swimming crabs, whalefeed (krill), as well as octopus and squid. Mention is also made of broken shells and seaweed in the stomachs of the trumpeter.

Trumpeter are often found in schools, associating with blue moki, copper moki and telescope fish. In summer, they are found in shallow water over foul ground at depths of 15 metres to 100 metres. During winter, trumpeter spawn and move into deeper water on the outer continental shelf.

The number of eggs in the roe of a large ripe female trumpeter is astonishing. Graham reports a 33lb (15kg) trumpeter contained over 12 million eggs. While a 20lb (9kg) fish contained around 10 million. Without a doubt, trumpeter are prolific spawners.

Trumpeter are found throughout our southern waters but are particularly common around foul ground in the waters off Stewart Island. 

The trumpeter grows to a respectable size. Graham makes mention of a specimen a little over a metre in length which weighed 60lb (27.2kg) cleaned. However, nowadays, most trumpeter caught weigh only a fraction of this size with a fish of 5kg being considered a good catch.

The vast majority of trumpeter are caught by boat anglers, either bait fishing or jigging. Bait anglers are best to use the ledger rig – sinker on the bottom with hooks on droppers.

Proven baits include molluscs (shellfish, octopus and squid), mullet, kahawai, barracouta, blue cod and even the flesh of their own kind.

Sabiki rigs (such as Snappa Flash) with 3/0 or 4/0 hooks are absolutely deadly, even more so if lightly baited.

Latris lineata (NZ): Common Trumpeter, 1867, by Frank Edward Clarke. Purchased 1921. Te Papa (1992-0035-2278/103)

The flesh of the trumpeter is firm and delicious, especially when smoked. Concern has been expressed by some fisheries experts that the trumpeter is particularly susceptible to overfishing, both by commercial fishing and recreational anglers, we all have an obligation to ensure that we limit our kill.

As a guideline, in the Southern Region (Southland, SubAntarctic and South East Fisheries Management Areas), there is no size limit on trumpeter, but the daily bag limit is 15. In the Central Region (Challenger and Central Fisheries Management Areas) again there is no size limit, and the daily bag limit is 20 trumpeter. As always, check the regulations as these figures may be out of date. Again, this does not mean that you should necessarily kill your limit, instead, you should limit your kill and take only what
you can use immediately, returning unwanted fish quickly to the sea.

This huge trumpeter was taken off the Canterbury coast.

This post was last modified on 13/10/2021 12:57 am

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