Salmon, jewies top the list
  |  First Published: October 2011

The salmon run should be in full swing by now and if the numbers massing off the northern beaches in mid-August were anything to go by, it’s going to be a big season.

We have been picking up a few strays on bait while fishing for trevally and there is the occasional random school roaming upstream of the Harbour Bridge and Middle Harbour.

They are notoriously hard to catch when they first come in as they are feeding on really small prey. I’ve also noticed over the past few years that schools have become increasingly fragmented by attacks from seals and dolphins, making them even harder to catch some days.

Go for really small metal lures and tiny unweighted stickbaits. Don’t forget to occasionally let your lures fall deep through the salmon schools; you will often find trevally and even kings sitting under them.

October can also be a great time for jewfish.

When they first move into the estuaries they are concentrated in large schools. As the water warms they spread throughout the waterways but right now is your best chance of catching numbers.

Once you have located the schools, you can often find them at the same spot for weeks on end. This is much less common through the rest of the year.

Jewfish have adapted very well to the type of artificial structure found in the Harbour. They love shade and a break in the current while they are not feeding, so the likes of deepwater jetties, marinas, wrecks and bridges provide ideal holding grounds for them.

The downside is that they are more sensitive to noise and commotion than some of our other common big predators so keep your approach as quiet as possible.

They are probably the hardest of all fish to crack the code for consistent success. Here are a few tips that should make it a bit easier.


The turn of the high and the first hour and a half of ebb is the prime time. The turn of the low and the first hour and a half of the run in is your next best bet. These are the times of least tidal flow and reflect the jew’s lazy nature.

You find jewfish on their holding grounds and their feeding grounds.

Imagine a wreck sitting on barren sand or mud bottom holding jew. On the turn of the tide they come out of cover and make their way to food-rich kelp beds or breakwalls to feed. The wreck is the holding ground and the kelp bed/breakwall is the feeding ground.

Being in the vicinity of holding structure gives you your best shot at these fish. They pass by your offerings as they make their way to and from the feeding grounds. Obviously they will be hungrier on their way out so, right on the turn of the high or low when they first make their move, is the ultimate time to be near holding cover.

You can catch good jew during the day if all conditions are right.


Divers tell me jew hang in wrecks, caves, ledges, pylons and under marinas. Sometimes they can be found under coastal rock shelves in very shallow, sudsy water.

Kings hang around structure for reference, food and shade; jew like to get inside the structure for security.

This doesn’t mean that they ambush feed from there; they feed when they move out to the richer grounds detailed above

What about when they move well upstream into the mangrove estuaries with very little structure? This makes things easier in regards to all-tide access. They will be found sitting in the bottom of the deepest holes but in generally open water, where you can reach them with bait or lure through any stage of the tide.

Of course you will still do better during tide changes when they are actively feeding. Bridges are a major source of artificial structure in an environment where there would otherwise be none. These are prime spots in the upper reaches especially for lure chuckers at night.


The worst week is the week after and including the night of the full moon.

The best weeks are the lead-up to the full and new moon. It’s no coincidence that the perfect tides during these periods fall early morning and late afternoon in low light conditions.

At this time of year best bites occur when the wind is blowing north-west and then swings south-west or south. In other words, just before a front.

It’s a narrow window but it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s overcast or bright and sunny. This is not the only time they feed, it’s just the best.


The most important bait factor is freshness. Don’t be scared to put out really big baits if you are after big jew – they have huge mouths.

If you want to catch quality jew consistently you are going to have to master squid fishing.

Squid are the No 1 bait but don’t make the mistake of trying to buy your way around this. Sashimi quality squid go for about $40 a kilo.

The squid has to be back in the water a maximum of six hours after it was caught, not bought.

Even on the beach, where you wouldn’t expect to find squid, they still rate as top bait.

Other good baits include large live tailor and mullet, and big fillets of either (leave the head on one side and the tail on the other).

Most of the bigger jewies and kings I catch have silver biddies in their guts so if you can find a way to catch them then they are obviously great bait, too.

When the fish takes the bait, strike immediately. If the hook is in the fish’s mouth then I can’t imagine why you would want to do anything other than strike.

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