The Baldchin groper is found along the west coast from Augusta all the way up to Exmouth. It is targeted by anglers and spear fishermen alike for their brilliant eating quality.
Further north around the Abrolhos Islands, Shark bay and Dirk Harthog Island the Baldchin groper is found in very large quantities.
The size limit for all tuskfish (Choerodon sp.) is 40cm in WA waters. Within the westcoast bioregion the daily bag limit is 2 for Baldchin and 2 for other species within the Choerodon genus. However this entire genus is listed in the "Demersal Finfish" category for which a person may only take 2 fish from per day in the west coast bioregion. Outside of the west coast bioregion the bag limit is 3 per day from a total combine "Demersal Finfish" bag limit of 5. Confused yet?!?! Well there's also seasonal closures in the west coast bioregion and at the Abrolhos Islands.
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Characteristics and habitat
The name Baldchin comes from the fish’s unmistakable large white chin. The fishes body is a light to dark brown colour, with the big thumpers being an all white colour, their fins are yellow in colour with blue outlines.
Baldchin have stout canine like teeth, a feature which distinguishes them from parrotfish. Baldchin like to eat crayfish, sea urchins and many types of shell fish, turning over rocks and digging up the sand to find these creatures. Baldchin can grow to around 9kgs but are most common around 4-6kgs
Baldchin groper are found on many different types of ground. They can be found on shallow reefy lumps and ledges in about 20 feet of water or can be found in much deeper water where there is a drop off or weed running off on to sand usually in about 60 to 80 foot of water. This is where much larger Baldchin are found.
The northern specie on tuskfish that is most similar to a Bladchin is a black spot tuskfish or may be known as a blue bone, as when these fish are filleted the spine can be seen which is blue in colour. These fish also have a large chin yet it is more yellow in colour then a Baldchins, their body is a greeny, blue colour and they grow much larger, up to around 16kgs
Baldchin Blackspot Tuskfish
Around the start of the rock lobster season (November, December), when the white rock lobster are soft shelled and vulnerable, Baldchin seem to be at their peak and are so common that schools may even be seen. In these schools, up to 30 fish can be milling around on the bottom at a time. One thing that is always the case with Baldchin schools is that the ground is always flat and weedy. On a sounder this ground may be hard to find so anglers may have trouble finding these schools of fish.
Up north around the Abrolhos Islands, Shark bay and Dirk Harthog Island the Baldchin groper is found in very large quantities, by far the best places to find and fish for Baldchin.
Baldchin are also know to associate, and hang around, with coral trout and spangled emperor, so the chances are that next time you are fishing and you are catching spangled emperor, there are coral trout and Baldchin not too far away.
Baldchin are suckers for burley and a few crushed up sea urchins will normally see them let their guard down. They also have an annoying habit of becoming extremely friendly when a diver is capturing rock lobster and not carrying a gun.
The main areas we go spear fishing for Baldchin are out from Lancelin and Cervantes. The best approach we have found in finding and catching these fish is to find a reasonable depth then jump in the water and swim, trying to cover as much ground as possible, these fish are always on the move and can be found on any ground, so usually the further you swim the more Baldchin you will find. When you find a Baldchin the best way to approach it is to get a good breath, then dive as calmly as possible, trying not to make any sudden movements or noises to spook the fish, as they are very timid. As you are getting closer to the fish, don’t rush your shot make should you spear the fish in a good spot, like the head which keeps the fillet undamaged and doesn’t stress the fish which will give you a better product for eating.
Capturing Baldchin doesn’t require any special equipment, a standard 1.2 to 1.5m gun is suffficent, barring in mind that in more popular locations large baldchin become very wary and a gun with good range combined with a good breath hold will be needed.