Coral Trout: Everything You Need to Know

The coral trout is a beautiful fish species with bright blue spots on its body and head. Aside from their striking appearance, coral trout have one mind-blowing fact about them — they are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means they are born as females but later turn into males! Find other interesting facts about this popular fish found in open seas and coral reefs.

Fish Profile: Coral Trout Overview 

An angler holding a coral trout
Scientific namePlectropomus leopardus
Other names Common coral trout, Spotted coral grouper, Leopard coral trout 
AppearanceCrimson red to light pink or gray with blue spots  
Ave. weight and length1.1 to 8.8 lbs, 0.9 to 2.3 feet
HabitatWestern Pacific Ocean, Coral-rich areas, lagoon, and mid-shelf reefs
DietPrawns, squid, small reef fish
Spawning seasonAugust to December
BehaviorUsually solitary but gather in aggregations of 60 to 130 fish
Depth range3 to 100 meters
Conservation statusNear threatened 

What Is a Coral Trout?

The coral trout, scientifically known as Plectropomus leopardus, is not a trout. Instead, it belongs to the grouper and cod families. So, don’t let the name fool you!  

Moreover, it is a target fish for most anglers because of its moist, delicate, sweet-flavored, and flaky meat. Anglers also love hunting this fish for its impressive appearance. Unfortunately, it is slow-growing, and most countries have regulations set in place.

For instance, in Queensland, Australia, one of the top destinations for coral trout fishing, you can only catch seven with a minimum of 32cm in size per fish. 

What Does Coral Trout Look Like?

Its appearance depends on the type.

For instance, the blue-spotted coral trout or the Chinese footballer, as its name suggests, have blue spots scattered all over its generally pinkish-red body. On the other hand, the common coral trout have a greenish-red brown color. 

You can also identify this fish by looking at its mouth. The lower jaw projects slightly, displaying multiple rows of sharp teeth. About its size, this fish is typically 0.9 to 2.3 feet. However, the world record coral trout reached 3.9 feet. So, don’t be alarmed if you catch a leopard coral larger than the rest. 

Fun Fact: Juvenile leopard coral trout are prettier because the blue spots are more vivid than on the adult’s body. 

Where Are Coral Trout Found?

You will most likely find this fish in the western tropical Pacific Ocean. The top destinations for coral trout include Japan, Fiji, Australia (Great Barrier Reef), and Tonga. When looking for this fish, check the waters from 3 meters deep. However, you can find red coral trout as far as 100 meters inside the water. 

Fun Fact: You can find this fish in coral reefs, shipwrecks, and submerged structures.  

What Do They Eat?

Juvenile leopard coral trout love to feed on squids and crustaceans, specifically prawns. However, as they grow into adults, these fish becomes piscivores; they feed on reef fish they come across as seasons change. 

Their favorite fish to feed on include:

  • Damselfish 
  • Parrot fish 
  • Banana fish

Moreover, their prey doesn’t see them coming since this fish change their skin color to white. In addition, they hunt at dusk or dawn. Never during the day! 

When Do They Spawn?

They spawn in pairs and small or large aggregations (groups) between August and December. 

When ready to spawn, the males change color to almost white with a black outline. Then, they approach females gathered on the ocean’s sandy bottom. 

To attract a female, the male approaches on its side and dances to entice the female. If the female agrees, they swim to the surface and emit a puff of spawn. 

Fun Fact: The male swims to the bottom to find another willing female. 

How to Catch Coral Trout? 

Coral trout fish are challenging to catch. Your line could break on sharp corals since they dwell in deep coral reefs. If you’re determined to catch this fish, you will need to have the following gear on hand: 

  • Leader: 60 to 70 lbs 
  • Live Bait: Pilchards or banana fish 
  • Artificial Lure: Jigs or poppers 
  • Hook: One or two 5/0s 
  • Rig: Diving minnow lures 
  • Reel: Overhead reel 


Are Coral Trout Good to Eat?

Yes, coral trout is good to eat. Its white meat is moist and flaky, which fish lovers adore. As a matter of fact, it is popular in South-East Asia, where it is served whole due to its striking appearance. If you caught this fish, you could also fillet it. 

Is a Coral Trout a Cod?

These fish are a reef fish species and a member of the Serranidae family alongside the cod and grouper fish. However, you cannot call them codfish because they differ in appearance. Although the name is slightly confusing, this fish is not a trout. 

What Makes Coral Trout Expensive?

The price is high due to the demand in the market. Traders consider the fish species a luxury product, thus the price. In addition, the fish numbers are decreasing due to habitat changes. So, there are fewer fish, yet the demand is still very high. 


The coral trout has a striking appearance, but its meat is more appreciated. Besides, the change to male at 4 to 6 years is intriguing, making it more fascinating to catch. So, grab your heavy gear and head out. However, be ready for a battle since these fish are more resilient than most!