Poisonous Fish?

Posted by Rean Du Toit 
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How regularly are poisonous fish such as Red Bass and Chinaman (Symphorus nematophorus) found in waters of Western Australia? and how far south do they occur?

Are there any other poisonous fish that occur regularly (other than North Western Blowfish and the common blowfish) that can be confused as eating quality fish?
I'm pretty confident that the poison ciguatera associated with red bass and chinaman fish although common in QLD is not found in WA. So those fish are OK

For those other questions, I'd suggest the wealth of knowledge shared by Crack Man and Young Sprog would clear them up no worries [winking smiley]
um poisonous you say? chinaman would have to be one of the best eating fish going! i know where your coming from here mate, red bass and chinaman do occur in the northern part of this state and in quite big numbers,we catch both species quite reguarly up here. most guys bottom fishing on hard ground anywhere between 15-50 metres will run into chinaman a lot where as bass are a bit harder to find. i think there is a bit of a misconception in regards to their edibility, i have eaten both species and they are both top class eating fish. ciguatera is found mainly off the great barrier reef and while im not sure what causes i think it has something to do with small fish eating dead coral then big fish eating small fish??? over there big spaniards, coral trout, red emperor, long nose emperor and a whole range of fish get it but your pretty safe in W.A. i don't think they occur to much further south than carnarvon/shark bay, so chances of catching them off perth are slim. besides the obvious blowfishes and pufferfishes, box fishes and trigger fishes(not even sure if their poisonous?) there isn't much to look out for, but if your worried about ciguatera then pick up any fish id book and it will probably highlight the main fish to look out for.
Dan answered the question pretty much spot on.

I've always wondered with fish like mackies - there aint nothing stopping them swimming over here from QLD?[8|]

Really only the tetradotoxin carriers (blowies,boxies) are the only really poisonous fish out there.
Thanks Dick, Dan & Jamie,

That answers it perfectly. Cheers for that.
Thought I might add a Queensland perspective on likely ciguatoxic species. There are quite a few species that may be affected besides the Chinaman Fish and the Red Bass, but irrespective of the species, not every individual of a species is a carrier.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid the large to very large individuals of any species that have been the cause of verified cases of ciguatera poisioning. Since the toxin is cumulative in a susceptible fish, stick to the small individuals. If you are still unsure, find a cat, preferably not your cherished pet, and feed it a few small pieces of raw flesh. If the fish is ciguatoxic, the cat's response will be virtually instantaneous and fatal. You may also need to pry its carcass from the ceiling, so this test is best done outdoors.

Some years ago a gent who supplied seafood for the kitchen of a Brisbane hospital produced a very large Spanish Mackerel bought at the market. It was portioned out to a lot of patients including quite a few outpatients who were very quickly re-admitted with ciguatera poisoning. Yet Spanish Mackerel are sold throughout Queensland with no stigma attached.

Although whole Red Bass and Chinaman Fish aren't put through markets here doesn't mean that none are eaten. I have seen plate-sized fillets from both species added to cartons of similar sized coral trout fillets to make up the desired weight for the carton of "coral trout" fillets. I doubt whether anyone was any the worse for eating these small examples. Both species are relished by Pacific Islanders who avoid eating other species for the same fear of ciguatoxin.

My tip: Make friends with a hungry cat!

A few guy's i know up in Gove keep a cat for that reason - they are used as testers for when they get fish from new ground or large macks/trout. Poisoning isn't usually fatal, with the animals recovering after a day or two. Which is more than can be said for humans if we ingest suspect fish.

You may also need to pry its carcass from the ceiling, so this test is best done outdoors.
They do go a bit mental - a tell tail sign. But then my cats go nuts after eating any fresh meat.


Wow. A legitimate excuse for owning a cat![grinning smiley]
Didn't Barry Hutchins cop a dose fom a rowleys maori wrasse once?

Personally all chinamen go straight back in on my boat.

The risks my be less in wa than on the east coast, but why eat chinamen, red bass, paddletails etc when there are safer fish on the menu. The effects of ciguateria aren't pleasant and can last a long time.

I wouldnt give it a second thought for fish caught south of shark bay tho.

Apparently it can occur in any large predator, tho i've eaten truckloads of reds mackies and trout on the west coast without issues.

Barracuda are apparently notorious for it as well.

One of the saddest things i've seen, was a 12kg red sitting on the dump at CB, turns out someone told the guy who caught it, that it was a chinamen, and thus poisonous. Nuff nuff.[&:]
Barry's article in Wangler said it was a Mangrove Jack didn't it? - bet plenty of them get eaten in the NW.

There's been a couple confirmed cases of it in WA, and a few unconfirmed. You should have heard the Exmouth charter operators squeal when Mike Roennfeldt mentioned in the paper, a suspected case from a fish eaten in Exmouth in the mid 80's.Athol Webb went off.

More chance of getting hurt in a road crash in WA, or beaten up walking through Perth at
night methinks.


Athol Webb went off.

[grinning smiley] I used to work for Athol on the Argosy and I can just imagine his response to that . [grinning smiley]

Barry's article in Wangler said it was a Mangrove Jack didn't it?

Possible nod, was a while back i read about it......

Definately happens tho.

Would it stop me eating most coral reef fish?





More chance of getting hurt in a road crash in WA, or beaten up walking through Perth at
night methinks.

Thems good odds[grinning smiley]
Nearly as bad at Athols' reaction to Mark Hanlons' article that appeared in a 1983 copy of Fishing World that referred to Athols' holiday cottages as 'construction camp style accomodation'. An backhanded classic comment of its' time.

The marlin pics that went with the peice were pretty good tho'.!

I've got it here somewhere. Will scan it if it turns up......

construction camp style accomodation?


sounds like heaven