Maomao seem to take no time at all in arriving and then hoovering up the berley meant for bigger and better target species. They are the perpetrators of the Great Bait Robbery, picking to bits all but the biggest and most substantial offerings cast back down the berley trail. The description ‘maomao’ in general terms refers to three fish species – grey, pink and blue maomao – but in fact not all species are from the same family. The grey ‘maomao’ is also called ‘sweep’, a name used for the same fish in Australia, while its cousin the blue maomao is totally unrelated to the pink version, which belongs to a different family.
From an eating perspective the blue maomao is the pick of the bunch. It does not contain the bones of its grey counterpart and the flesh is fat and oily, making it ideal for the smoker.
Few people specifically target blue maomao for the table, but those who have broken through the ‘pest prejudice’ suggest once you have tried its firm, tasty flesh, you might never throw it back again. Asian anglers in particular like maomao because once scaled, gilled and gutted, and cooked whole it makes a perfect portion for one person.
As an eating fish, pink maomao is not in the same class as blue maomao because the flesh is less firm and there are more bones. They are best put back so the ‘bubble blowers’ can take colourful underwater pictures of them.