The Eastern Australian salmon is not actually part of the salmon family at all, but acquired its name due to some similarities with the Atlantic and Pacific true salmon. This species is also known as the Australian salmon, the black backed salmon, the colonial salmon, the bay trout, the cocky salmon, the salmon trout, Australasian salmon and the kahawai.
They actually belong to the family which includes perches, and are more similar in appearance to the perch than to the salmon, although much larger in size. These fish are part of the small family called Arripidae (also spelled Arripididae).
The kahawai, as it is known in New Zealand, is found from western Victoria to the island province of Tasmania. They are a fish which prefers to abide in shallow waters, and can often be found close to the surface in large schools. In appearance, they have a forked tail, a long dorsal fin and small eyes. In color, the Eastern Australian salmon is dark green and blue on top and silvery around the belly. Most also have spots along their sides in rows. These fish are quite large, averaging from 3 to 3.25 feet in length and can weigh up to 16.5 pounds.
These fish also differ from true salmon in their reproductive cycle. While these fish may enter rivers, they do not return to the place they hatched in order to spawn. It is thought that they lay their eggs within coastal bays and estuaries, as this is where juveniles of the species tend to congregate before moving out into the ocean proper.
Once fully grown, Eastern Australian salmon will move into the ocean and can be found in waters around the continental shelf, which also includes bays and estuaries as well as inlets. As mentioned, they can also be found in rivers from time to time.
These fish tend to have a large variety in their diet. They can take food from the seabed in the shallow waters they occupy, and they also eat a lot of fish, and include crustaceans that are not found on the floor of the ocean or the shelf in their diet (these are creatures such as krill and shrimp).
These salmon are fierce fighters when on the hook, and are thus very popular with sports fishermen.
They are also easy to locate, as they tend to congregate in huge schools when feeding on fish. In fact, they can be very easy to lure when in these schools as they will take any bait, including bare hooks.
This occurs in “hot tub” feeding frenzies, where schools of bait fish popping out of the water by the hundreds to avoid the predators make the ocean look like a bubbling cauldron.
In addition to the recreational fishery, Eastern Australian salmon are taken in great numbers by the commercial fisheries. The catch of these salmon is mostly canned, as their flesh does not provide a tasty experience. Authorities around Australia worry about this species due to decreasing catch numbers, and caution anglers that it should be released once landed (they are hardy and likely to survive unless wounded in the belly or head).