Leatherjacket Fish (Meuschenia freycineti) Photographs
Also known as the Six-Spined Leatherjacket.
The Reef Leatherjacket is light green with light-blue lines and blotches all over.
The ventral flap has thin blue and yellow lines. It has a dorsal spine above
the eye with four rows of barbs. The skin is rough without scales. The caudal
fin is dark green with a crescent-shaped blue area. Dorsal and anal fins are yellow.
There are at least 60
types of leatherjacket, "leather" or "jacket" present in
Australian waters, 20 or more of which are sometimes taken by
anglers. The more frequently captured species include: the rough
leatherjacket (Scobinichthys granulatus), six-spined
leatherjacket (Meuschenia freycineti), yellow-finned
leatherjacket (M. trachylepis), Chinaman leatherjacket (Nelusetta
ayraudi), mosaic leatherjacket (Eubalichthys mosaicus), and the
estuary-dwelling fan-bellied leatherjacket (Monacanthus
This diverse and extensive
group of relatively small, scaleless, rough-skinned fish have
tiny mouths, beak-like teeth and a stout, serrated dorsal spine
behind the head. Colouration varies enormously; from the
brightly-hued and attractive six-spined leatherjacket to the
drab and well-camouflaged rough and fan-bellied leatherjackets.
Identifying the different species can be a difficult task, and
is not overly important to the average angler.
Most of the leatherjackets
are quite small. For example, the estuarine fan-bellied
leatherjackets rarely tops 0.5 kg. At the other end of the
scale, the six spined and horseshoe varieties occasionally reach
2 kg, while the giants of the family are the mosaic
leatherjacket and the Chinaman; both of which may occasionally
exceed 3 kg.
Leatherjackets of one type
or another are found right around the coastline, although they
tend to be replaced by the closely allied trigger fishes (Balistidae)
in tropical latitudes.
Caught in shallow to deep coastal waters
Did you Know? There are more than 60
species of leatherjacket in Australian waters.
All year round
Australian Species Code
Fine table qualities.
For every 100 grams raw product
Leatherjacket Fish fillet.
36% of total
15% of total
49% of total
Angling for Leatherjacket:
Leatherjackets can be taken on almost any type of tackle. Most
are caught on light handlines or the same rod and reel outfits
used to catch bream, flathead, inshore snapper and the like.
When present in good numbers, leatherjackets are quite easy to
catch, especially if a relatively small hook is used in
conjunction with soft baits such as peeled prawn, worms,
yabbies, cunjevoi, mussels, abalone gut or strips of fish flesh.
Pieces of squid also make an excellent bait. Long-shanked hooks
should be used to prevent leatherjackets biting through the
It is most often found on close offshore reefs and reaches a total length of about
All of the leatherjacket species mentioned have white, sweet and slightly moist
flesh and make very good to excellent food fish. However, there have been
occasional reports of mild poisoning after eating leatherjackets, particularly
the Chinaman leatherjacket.
Colour of raw
White to cream.
Firm and dense, chunky.
Mild to sweet.
The flesh is white and firm and very good eating.
their name from their skin, which should be removed before
serving. This can be done after cooking, for easier and cleaner
removal. Under their tough skin these fishes have a white flesh
with a pleasing light flavour. The flavour is best when the
leatherjacket is fresh.
Because of their firm
texture, leatherjackets are very good for Thai-style curry or a
stir-fry. They are also excellent for fish balls as the flesh
holds together very well.
Smoking leatherjacket is
an excellent method of preparation try the tea-smoked
leatherjacket with avocado and frisee lettuce salad .
When baking or grilling it
is advisable to prepare leatherjacket whole. Remember to
incorporate lashings of lemon and cracked black pepper for
better flavour and texture.
Recovery rate, fillets:
30% from whole fish
Leatherjackets are sold mainly as trunks (headed, gutted and
skinned) and occasionally in fillet form (always skinned).
In whole fish and trunks look for intact skin (if present),
firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell. In fillets,
look for white to off-white (or pinkish in reef
leatherjackets), firm, lustrous, moist flesh without any
brown markings or oozing water and with a pleasant fresh sea
Make sure trunks are gutted and cleaned thoroughly. Wrap
trunks and fillets in plastic wrap or place in an airtight
container. Refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for up to 3
months below -18ºC.
Cooking & Serving
Inexpensive leatherjackets are always a bargain. The average
yield from whole fish is 30% due to the large, heavy head,
but from trunks its 65%. Fillets are usually boneless,
trunks usually have the backbone left in and can be cooked
this way or, if large enough, cut into cutlets; the meat
flakes easily away from the large bones. They are related to
the highly-prized fugu fish of Japan (without any of the
risk of poisoning) and the firm flesh has a mild flavour,
low oiliness and is moderately moist. A versatile fish, they
are good steamed, poached, pan-fried, stir-fried,
deep-fried, baked, braised, grilled, barbecued or smoked.
They are a good plate-sized fish cooked whole (head off) and
this is the best way to bake or grill them; wrapping in foil
or banana leaves helps prevent them drying out. The firm
flesh works well in mousseline or minced for fish cakes and
fish balls and holds together well in soups, curries and
Times for Fish
- Fish fillets 5 minutes per 500g on medium-high, +50
seconds more for thicker fillets, or until flesh flakes
- Whole fish - Large 6 minutes/750g on medium
- Whole fish Small 3-4 minutes on medium
How to prepare Ocean
Jackets Sydney Fish Market explains in detail how to prepare an
Ocean Jacket or what was once known as a Leather Jacket for
cooking. Quick, simple tips.
Commercial Fishing for Leatherjacket Fish:
Reef Leatherjackets (Meuschenia species) are a
group indigenous to Australia. These brightly coloured and patterned fish with
large spikes are caught from southern Queensland south-west to the mid-coast of
Western Australia, including around Tasmania, by a small specialist inshore
fishery. Four species are commonly marketed under the name reef leatherjacket:
Yellowstripe Leatherjacket (Meuschenia flavolineata); Sixspine Leatherjacket (Meuschenia
freycineti); Horseshoe Leatherjacket (Meuschenia hippocrepis) and Yellowfin
Leatherjacket (Meuschenia trachylepis). They are smaller than ocean jackets,
averaging about 600g.