How to Catch Tarakihi — A Fishing Guide

Photo of author
Last Updated:

The tarakihi is loved by both commercial and recreational fishermen and belongs to the Cheilodactylidae family.

How to catch tarakihi
A beautiful Tarakihi. Source: John Turnbull

It is quite common off the coast of New Zealand around the south of East Cape, South Island, as well as around southern Australia and South America.

Recommended Fishing Gear:

  • Rod: Penn Carnage II
  • Reel: Penn Fathom
  • Mustad Hooks


Also known as the jackass morwong, the tarakihi fish or nemadactylus macropterus is silvery gray and has a white underbelly. It has a distinctive black band between the head and dorsal fin, a small mouth, and a compressed body.

When it comes to tarakihi vs. snapper, the difference is not obvious at first glance. The former is about the same size as the snapper but is thinner in comparison. The fish rarely grows more than 12 to 24 inches in length.

Tarakihi Facts

Scientific NameNemadactylus macropterus
Common Name(s)Tarakihi, jackass morwong
Identifying CharacteristicsSilvery gray and has a white underbelly
HabitatCommon off the coast of New Zealand, southern Australia, and South America.
LimitsCheck your local regulations

Habitat & Feeding

Tarakihi is a type of schooling fish that can be found in large numbers around the edges of reefs and wed lines and over sandy bottoms. You can find them 100m deep underwater in clear water that is frequented by hapuka, which is their main predator. The fish feeds on a variety of crustaceans as well as smaller fish, worms, shrimp, and shellfish.

How to Catch Tarakihi

YouTube video

Tarakihi Rigs

There are several methods for catching nemadactylus macropterus that you can use to get a large, commercial catch. Here are some things that you should consider:

The most common and firm rig that is used to catch tarakihi is a dropper or paternoster rig that has a few branches off the mainline and a sinker at the bottom. You can also opt for ready-made flasher and dropper rigs that are readily available.

If you’re going for big ones, throw on some 30 lb braid on 3/0 dropper loop rigs with squid as bait and 10oz sinkers.

Tarakihi facts
A drawing of the tarakihi from the 1800s. Source: Rawpixel Ltd


Tarakihi can be spotted in clear patches of water that are right next to polluted reef waters. Since the fish congregates deep underwater, you will have to take a boat out.

Best Times

Tarakihi can be located and caught at any time of the day, but to make the most of your fishing trip, head out on the water during dusk and dawn.

Fishing Tips

  • To trawl for tarakihi, pull a fishing net through the water behind your boat. You will need a special trawl net to do this, or the fish may escape. You can get a large commercial catch this way.
  • Tarakihis have small mouths that can tear easily, so use a net to catch the fish rather than a hook.


  • Lie flat on the bottom and wait for the curious fish to approach. Flick sand up to catch its attention.
  • Hide your eyes from the fish by keeping them down and looking out at the top of your mask lens.

How to Cook Tarakihi

Cooking methods for this fish vary by region, but you can make a splendid dish with it using this recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to about 360F.
  • Cut a piece of foil large enough to wrap around the fish.
  • Place a medium-sized fillet on the foil and add olives, tomatoes, crushed garlic, and some wine.
  • Twist the foil to seal the fish in completely and place it on a baking tray.
  • Pop in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Serve with fresh basil.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do tarakihi look and taste like?

The fish has medium to firm white and moist flesh.

When does tarakihi spawn?

The fish spawns during summer and autumn along the coast.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube

rainbow trout size

How Big Do Rainbow Trout Get?

Are you curious how big do rainbow trout get? Rainbow trout are one of the most popular game fish in the entire world. Trout guide and fly fishing instructor Daniel O’Neill, discusses how big rainbow trout get and how to catch these larger fish.  As a child, one of my earliest fishing memories involved catching
bass jumping out of water

Bass Jumping Out Of Water: What Does it Mean?

Have you ever wondered why bass sometimes jump out of the water? The first time I saw it, I was shocked and made it a point to research why it happened when I got home. In this article, we’ll explore why they jump out of the water and how this knowledge can transform your fishing
how long can you keep fish on ice

How Long Can You Keep Fish on Ice

Are you wondering if the fish you left in your cooler overnight is still safe to eat? I used to think fresh fish was always best, but after talking with chefs, fishmongers, and die-hard fishermen, I changed my perspective on fish storage. This guide examines how long you can store fish before it goes bad.
do bass sleep

Do Bass Sleep? Unraveling the Mystery of Bass Resting Behavior

Curious minds wonder about the secrets hidden beneath the water’s surface. This article will dive deep into the world of bass and uncover the truth about their resting behavior. Along the way, we’ll explore the factors that influence how these popular fish recharge their energy. Whether you’re an angler looking to refine your fishing strategies
northern pike teeth

Northern Pike Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

Northern pikes are natural predators whose teeth are razor-sharp, designed to slice and dice their prey. The teeth multiply as the pike grows. How many teeth a pike has depends on the age and size, but generally, a fully grown pike can have up to 700 teeth. Additionally, the length of their teeth depends on
muskie teeth

Muskie Teeth: All You Need to Know

Muskies are freshwater predators with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth to help them tear their prey. They have dozens of bigger canines and other small teeth arranged in rows. For example, grown-up muskies can have about 500 to 700 teeth in their mouth, and their biggest canine can range up to one inch in length. Muskie’s