Sea Donkey Fish - Beasts of the Reef

September 10, 2020
0 Votes

A sea donkey fish or reef donkey is a stubborn and heavy-duty animal that can cause damage to fishing gear. They can be difficult to catch and can be the hardest fighting fish in a given area. The name "sea donkey" comes from their reputation for carrying heavy loads and their tendency to break lines.

Have you ever found yourself perched on the edge of a fishing boat, surrounded by the vast expanse of ocean, trying to reel in a catch that seems determined to have the upper hand? If you have, you've probably encountered what fishermen affectionately refer to as a "sea donkey fish" or a "reef donkey." These elusive creatures are renowned for their sheer power and unwavering tenacity, and they can leave even the most seasoned anglers in awe of their might.

In The Spread is one of the world's premier sport fishing video companies and educational outlets for demonstration, explanation and insight on how to catch fish. Get inside access to our video library by becoming a member.

The Sea Donkey's Tenacity

Picture this: You've cast your bait into the depths, and suddenly, something grabs hold with a ferocity that takes your breath away. It's as if you've hooked a freight train on the other end of your line, and no matter how hard you pull, you can't seem to halt its unstoppable charge. This, my friends, is the essence of the sea donkey fish. In some extreme cases, these formidable adversaries have been known to yank rods and reels right out of anglers' hands, leaving them with no choice but to relinquish their gear to the unforgiving sea. After all, it's better to lose your equipment than be pulled overboard by the relentless power of these underwater behemoths.

Giant Trevally Fishing Rowley Shoals

Unraveling the Name

You might be wondering why these fish are called "sea donkeys." Well, the name likely draws its inspiration from the reputation of their terrestrial counterparts. Donkeys are known for their stubbornness and their ability to carry heavy loads. Somewhere along the line, a fisherman must have had a run-in with a fish so unyielding and powerful that they couldn't help but exclaim, "Holy shit, what a donkey!" The name stuck, and thus, the legend of the sea donkey fish was born.

The Identity of the Sea Donkey

Now, let's delve into the intriguing question of what, precisely, constitutes a sea donkey or reef donkey. The answer depends on where in the world you're fishing, and it's also a somewhat relative term. What might overpower one angler may not faze another. Nonetheless, there are a few fish that are universally recognized as true sea donkeys.

Defining Characteristics

Sea donkeys share several key characteristics that make them stand out in the world of sportfishing. First and foremost, they pull like freight trains, making them a formidable adversary for any angler. Their temperament tends to lean towards the surly side, and they're often considered the hardest-fighting fish in a given region. When you hook one, its sole mission is to dart for the nearest underwater structure, hell-bent on snapping your line and escaping.

The Battle with Reef Donkeys

For those who've faced off against the largest reef donkeys, you'll understand that it's not a feat for the faint of heart. Battling these underwater giants can put even the most experienced anglers to the test. You'll need stout rods and reels equipped with beefy drag systems, along with leaders and hooks that are up to the challenge. I've witnessed many a hook being straightened out by these colossal sea donkeys.

big amberjack or reef donkey caught jigging off South Florida

Atlantic vs. Indo-Pacific

In the Atlantic Ocean, species like the greater amberjack are revered for their bull-like strength. These fish hit your bait like a ton of bricks and descend into the depths, effortlessly spooling your line. However, if you can withstand the initial onslaught, victory is often within reach. On the other hand, fish like the cubera snapper and cobia can also provide formidable challenges for anglers but are less likely to wreck your gear.

Now, shift your attention to the Indo-Pacific, and you'll encounter a whole new level of sea donkey. Here, the likes of Giant Trevally (GTs) and dogtooth tuna reign supreme. These monsters are on an entirely different magnitude. When a big GT or dogtooth tuna strikes, the pressure you feel in your hands, arms, shoulders, back, and legs is nothing short of shocking. It's like casting a lure to a speeding locomotive, hooking it, and hanging on for dear life. Never before have I worried about being pulled overboard until I hooked into a massive GT.

The Enforcers of the Reef

Giant trevally and dogtooth tuna are the undisputed enforcers of the reef. There's no bully more formidable. They crush lures with ease, often bending stout hooks like paperclips. If your lures aren't purpose-built for these titans, leave them at home. You'll need the grit of a reel like a 30000 series Shimano Stella, and even that may not always suffice for these colossal fish.

A Call to Adventure

In my humble opinion, until you've ventured into the realm of GTs and doggies, you can't truly appreciate the concept of a sea donkey. These fish set the standard by which all others are measured. Of course, everything is relative, and you won't find GTs or dogtooth tuna in the Atlantic. So, if you're limited to fishing in the Atlantic basin, the AJ (greater amberjack) reigns supreme. However, if the opportunity ever presents itself, do yourself a favor and head to the South Pacific. There, you can lock horns with the baddest sea donkeys you'll ever encounter, and you'll be forever in awe of their power and tenacity.

Seth Horne In The Spread,
Login to leave a review.

User Reviews

There are no reviews yet.