West Australian Dhufish are one of the most sought after reef species on WA waters due to their excellent eating qualities, many people regard them as the best eating temperate fish in Australia. They are endemic to WA with the extremity of their range being Esperance to Dirk Hartog Island, although they are more commonly found between Walpole and Kalbarri.
The size minimum limit for Dhufish is 50cm in WA waters with a bag limit of 1 fish per diver per day. There is also a boat limit of 2 dhufish per day (regards less of number of fishers on boat). This species is part of the "Demersal Finfish" group so remember in the West Coast Bioregion you may only take a combination of 2 fish from the entire demersal list per day!. To further confuse the issue Dhufish are also subject to seasonal closures and
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As mentioned they are excellent eating with firm, flaking, white fillets. It pays not to “over do” this fish in terms of complicated recipes.
Characteristics and habitat
Even seasoned divers get excited at the sight of a large Dhu underwater. They are a deep bodied, solid fish, predominately silver in colour with a purple hue over the entire body. They frequently have a black stripe across the eye and males have a long filament off the end of the dorsal fin.
Dhus have an amazing ability to blend into either surroundings, turning ghost white over sand or very dark over weed.
The spearfishing record for WA Dhufish is 24.04kg held by Bob Muir since 1974. The angling record is a shade over 26kg and there are have been a couple of fish speared around 25kg (not claimed as records). The average size for coast waters would be 4 to 8kg with fish to 12kg not unusual. Any fish taken over 15kg is definite bragging material. Average size tends to increase away from Perth (north or south) although big fish can still be taken in the metro area and Barry Paxman’s 21.3kg fish from five fathom bank in 2006 shows.
Dhufish prefer hard bottom, predominately limestone but occasionally granite. Individuals seem to be found in or near caves and overhangs, while small groups are more often seen over relatively flat limestone ledges. They generally are found deeper than 10m and better catches for Freedivers seem to come through the months surrounding winter rather than summer.
Generally the hardest part of spearing Dhufish is finding them. Many divers use a boat with a glass panel to search a lot of ground quickly. The best approach for dhufish seen from the surface seems to be a quiet dive directly down onto them. A well placed shot in the back of the head is relatively simple for this approach. Diving level with the fish for a side shot will normally result in the fish “bolting”.
Another technique that works is hovering just off the bottom in a likely looking areas such as a reef overhang with schools of bullseyes. Dhus will often “appear” behind a diver, staring at them head on. Be aware that they will not always turn side on but rather “flick” tail on and swim away, best to take the shot on a downward angle to avoid “skewering” the fish and damaging the excellent fillets.
Dhufish do respond to burley and flashers although it is more effective to cover lots of ground to find them rather than trying to get them to come to you.
It is worth noting that dhu tend to return to the same areas so if you find a few together chances are you’ll find fish at the same spot in the future. Also its worth investigate any area you see baby dhus as bigger fish are frequently found hiding close by.
A standard single 20mm or dual 16mm rubber gun around 1.2m to 1.5m is ample for dhufish. As always have a reel or floatline attached as these fish are quite a “lump” to drag up from depth, requiring a fair bit of oxygen use.
Having said that, dhufish “hole up” and sit still quickly once shot so if you are unsure of how solid your shot is it can be better to not put any pressure on the line but let the fish go into a ledge where you can use a second gun.