Leatherjackets (family Monacanthidae)

Distribution – There are more than 20 species of leatherjackets found throughout NSW waters and, depending on the species, can be caught in estuarine, coastal and offshore waters to depths of 250m or more. In estuarine waters these fish are often found around artificial structures such as pylons and wharfs or are found near seagrass beds e.g. fan-belly, six spine and rough leatherjackets. In coastal and offshore areas they can be found on rocky reefs, sand/mud bottom or in sponge beds e.g. six spine, yellow-finned, black reef, velvet and chinaman leatherjackets.

Size – Are generally found under 1kg in weight but some offshore species can grow to 3kg.

Characteristics – Several features set leatherjackets apart from other fish species, these include: a small mouth with beak-like teeth, rough sometimes sandpaper like skin, small gill openings, and a single serrated spine on the top of the head that fits neatly into a groove. Most leatherjackets are considered opportunistic feeders and readily feed on many different items including algae, crustaceans, molluscs, fish and polychaete worms.

Confusing species - could be confused with Triggerfish, however these fish have a dorsal fin rather than a single, serrated dorsal spine.