ALSO KNOWN AS EPINEPHELUS MALABARICUS OR, TO SINGAPOREANS, GAO HE, malabar groupers tend to stay close to tropical estuaries, shallow reefs and water breakers. These fish can grow to a fairly large size – up to 1.2m and 150kg – but rarely exceed 20kg around local waters.
Malabar groupers are fairly greedy creatures, taking anything from other fishes, cephalopods (such as squids) and even crustaceans (such as crabs): madai and inchiku lures are recommended when fishing off-shore and crank baits (“diving lures”) when on-shore.
As they usually congregate near rocky structures, they tend to dive straight for the structure when hooked and will try their best to dislodge your hook by rubbing it against the rocks. To prevent that from happening, use heavy tackle – at least 50lb mainline (80lb leader) if off-shore and 20lb mainline (40lb leader) if on-shore – and keep your drag at a relatively high setting. Once hooked, keep “pumping” the rod to prevent the fish from running into the structure and cutting your line.
Malabar groupers are mostly olive green with a number of brown spots randomly scattered all over their body. The younger fishes also sport a number of wide, broken vertical bands of darker shade across their bodies, but this banding seems to disappear upon reaching maturity. Malabar groupers of all ages also have rounded tail fins.