Eastern Wirrah, Acanthistius ocellatus (Günther 1859)

Other Names: Boot, Meat Wirrah, Mother-in-law Fish, Peppermint Cod, Wirrah, Wirrah Cod

An Eastern Wirrah, Acanthistius ocellatus, at Fairy Bower, Sydney, New South Wales. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

A dusky greenish- to yellowish-brown rockcod covered in small dark blue-centred spots, sometimes with a faint dark band from the snout tip to the eye, and dusky to blue fins with pale blue margins. Juveniles have a banded pattern.
The Eastern Wirrah is also called the "Old Boot" due to its unpleasant taste.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Acanthistius ocellatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4405

Eastern Wirrah, Acanthistius ocellatus (Günther 1859)

More Info


Southern Queensland to Western Port, Victoria and northern Tasmania; also the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. The Eastern Wirrah is common in New South Wales waters, but is rarely seen on the south coast.

Inhabits shallow estuaries, tidepools, and deeper offshore reefs to a depth of 100 m. Individuals shelter in caves, crevices and holes when approached.


Dorsal fin  XIII, 15–16; Anal fin III, 8–9; Caudal fin 17; Pectoral fin 19–21; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 58–67.

Body depth 33–40% SL; head length 39–42% SL; eye diameter 7–8% HL.


Dusky yellow with many dark, usually blue-centred spots covering head and body, slightly smaller on head; sometimes with faint dark band from tip of snout to eye; fins dusky to blue, with pale blue margins.


Although frequently caught on hook and line, the flesh is of poor eating quality.


Relatively common on deeper reefs in New South Wales, and often taken on hook and line by recreational fishers.


The specific name is from the Latin ocellatus (= with little eyes), in reference to the dark blue-centred spots on the head and body.

Species Citation

Plectropoma ocellatum Günther 1859, Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum Vol. 1: 504. Type locality: Australian Seas.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Eastern Wirrah, Acanthistius ocellatus (Günther 1859)


Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp.

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: The Plants and Animals of Temperate Waters. (Revised ed.) Reed Books, Melbourne.

Francis, M.P. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Scientific 47(2): 136-170.

Francis, M.P. 2019. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. figshare. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4428305.v2

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. 1992. Fishes. pp. 90-93, 193-228 in Hutchings, P. (ed.) Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific. Canberra : Australian National Parks Vol. 3, Kowari 230 pp.

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp.

Günther, A. 1859. Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum. Catalogue of the acanthopterygian fishes in the collection of the British Museum. Gasterosteidae, Berycidae, Percidae, Aphredoderidae, Pristipomatidae, Mullidae, Sparidae. London : British Museum Vol. 1 524 pp. (161, Pl. 12, as Plectropoma cyanostigma, a junior homonym of Plectropoma cyanostigma Bleeker 1845)

Hutchins, J.B. 1981. Description of a new species of serranid fish from Western Australia, with a key to the Australian species of Acanthistius. Records of the Western Australian Museum 8(4): 491-499 figs 1-2

Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. 180 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

Kingsford, M.J., Underwood, A.J. & Kennelly, S.J. 1991. Humans as predators on rocky reefs in New South Wales, Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 72: 1-14.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1994. Families Serranidae, Callanthiidae. pp. 528-548 figs 469-485 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2004. Basslets, Hamlets and their relatives. A comprehensive guide to selected Serranidae and Plesiopidae. Chorleywood, UK : TMC Publishing 1, 216 pp.

Prokop, F. 2002. Australian Fish Guide.Croydon South, Victoria : Australian Fishing Network 256 pp.

Roberts, C.D. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Polyprionidae, Serranidae and Callanthiidae. pp. 534-549 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Sadovy, Y.J. 2010. Acanthistius ocellatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T155326A4775877. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T155326A4775877.en. Downloaded on 08 July 2019.

Steindachner, F. 1866. Über die Fische von Port Jackson in Australien. Anzeiger der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse, Wien 3(7): 50-55 (as Plectropoma myriaster) See ref at BHL

Steindachner, F. 1866. Zur Fischfauna von Port Jackson in Australien. Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Classe. Wien 53(1): 424–480 figs 1–7 (as Plectropoma myriaster) See ref at BHL

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311090

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-100 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:60 cm TL


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