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  • HTC - Trevally

Māori name:


Scientific name:

Pseudocaranx dentex

All-tackle NZ record:


Eating quality:




Trevally are one of NZ’s best light-tackle sportfish species. They are generally schooling fish, most abundant in the warmer waters off the northern North Island. Surface schools of trevally are often seen near headlands, pinnacles and islands where currents concentrate upwellings of plankton.

Trevally have deep bodies, separated dorsal fins, and a row of ridged scutes near their tail base. Smaller specimens have a blue-silver hue with yellow-tinged fins, while bigger models feature similar colour schemes but bear darker, greener shoulders and larger foreheads. They are relatively slow growing and long-lived, with some fish exceeding 45 years of age. Their mouths are designed for hoovering krill from the surface, and they’re also adept at bottom-feeding over sand, sucking up crustaceans, worms and shellfish.

Because of their slow growth and surface-schooling behaviour, purse-seiners have historically had a huge impact on trevally populations. Luckily, numbers appear to be slowly bouncing back.

If you’re keeping a few trevally for the table, they should be bled immediately after capture, particularly if you want to enjoy their fine sashimi qualities.

Where to catch

Trevally are found throughout a wide variety of terrain, from rocky coastlines and reefs, man-made structures, beaches, open sandy areas, and even up right up into shallow estuaries. However, they do have a distinct preference for areas where reef runs onto extensive areas of sand or offshore headlands and islands where they form pelagic schools. Often, trevally are mixed-in with other schooling fish such as snapper, kingfish, tarakihi and kahawai, so they are a likely encounter for many anglers.

Although most plentiful in the upper half of the North Island, they can be caught further south with summer stragglers reaching Banks Peninsula. The Far North, Three Kings Islands and White Island are well-known haunts for big hump-headed trevally.

When to catch

Although trevally are caught year-round, they tend to be more abundant in inshore areas such as the Hauraki Gulf during winter and spring. During these colder months, they enter harbours and frequent shallow reefs. Nevertheless, open-water schools of trevally further offshore can be encountered year-round.

As a line-shy customer, trevally are often easier to fool with low-light dawn or dusk conditions. In a similar fashion, overcast days can also increase your angling chances.

How to catch

Many fishers catch trevally by accident while fishing for snapper, but it’s usually apparent when you’ve hooked one due to the characteristic fast tail beats transmitted up the line. While they are regularly fooled by conventional snapper or bottom fishing methods, there are a few tactics you can employ to specifically target these cool sportfish.

Bait and berley fishing

Simply put, trevally are berley hogs! In certain spots, a good berley trail will draw in large schools of trevally, making for exciting sight-fishing action. Not only does berley bring the fish in, it can also stir them into a competitive feeding frenzy.

And that brings us to the next point: because trevally are naturally a shy fish with good eyesight, light (15-30lb) fluorocarbon leaders and small, strong hooks are advised. Once they’re hooked on light terminal gear, the only problem is trying to stop them from busting you off (which they will try their utmost to do!). With their soft mouths, it’s often tricky applying the right amount of drag to stop the fish while not ripping the hook out.

Bait presentation is also important; try to hide the hook as best as you can to deceive them. Although most cut baits will work, trevally fancy shellfish baits such as mussels or tuatua.


Given their inshore habitat preferences, trevally are a prime target for landbased anglers. They are a regular catch for surfcasters in areas such as Ninety Mile Beach, and berleying off the rocks in more remote areas can draw nice fish right into your feet.

Soft-baiting and micro-jigging

Trevally are suckers for small lures. Given their small prey preferences, it pays to keep lure size at the smaller end of the scale – 3-5” natural-coloured soft-baits with grub tails or 7-25g micro-jigs are ideal. The tiny ‘aji’ soft-baits in pink or white are also deadly when cast into trevally schools feeding on krill.


Foaming schools of krill-gulping fish can often be an exercise in angling frustration because the fish are focused on their tiny food source. But fly fishers have a considerable advantage, being able to more delicately present appropriately-sized krill imitations such as a #12 Crazy Charlie in pink and white.


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