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Reef Leatherjacket Fish (Meuschenia freycineti) Photographs and Information

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 chinensis).

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.

Reef Leatherjacket.jpg (5374 bytes)

wpe36.jpg (5017 bytes)

Habitat:  Saltwater

Caught in shallow to deep coastal waters

Did you Know? There are more than 60 species of leatherjacket in Australian waters.

Scientific Name Meuschenia freycineti
Location Australia wide.
Season All year round
Size To 45cm
Australian Species Code 37 465036
Taste, Texture Fine table qualities.


Nutritional Information
For every 100 grams raw product for
Leatherjacket Fish

Kilojoules 350 (85 calories)
Protein 19.8 g
Cholesterol 11 mg
Sodium -
Total fat (oil) 0.5 g
Saturated fat 36% of total fat
Monounsaturated fat 15% of total fat
Polyunsaturated fat 49% of total fat
Omega-3, EPA 31 mg
Omega-3, DHA 113 mg
Omega-6, AA 23 mg


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 line.

It is most often found on close offshore reefs and reaches a total length of about 45cm.

Good bait are prawns, squid and most fish.

Saltwater Fish - What bait to use for fishing - a list of saltwater baits with the main "diners" who will be tempted.


Cooking Leatherjacket Fish:

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 fillet:

White to cream.


Firm and dense, chunky.

Fat Content:



Mild to sweet.

The flesh is white and firm and very good eating.

Cleaned leather jacket fish, Huazhou Aquatic Products Co. LtdLeatherjackets derive 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 smell.

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 it’s 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 casseroles.

Microwave Cooking 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

Easy Fish Recipes - From How To Cook Fish


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.

Exporters of Leather Jacket Fish  |  Importers of Leather Jacket Fish  | 
Processors of Leather Jacket Fish  |
Wholesale Suppliers of Leather Jacket Fish  |  Seafood Agents for Leather Jacket Fish  | 

More links about Leatherjacket Fish

Australian Government - Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (PDF file) - Australian Fisheries Statistics 2010/2011




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