This season is shaping up to be a hot one for jewfish. Excellent rains and the absence of commercial fishing in the Harbor for a few years have combined to produce some great fishing.
Upstream of Gladesville, anglers are taking unprecedented numbers of school jewfish, including heaps of undersized fish (sub 45cm) among them. This is a great indication of successful recruitment and that the juveniles are not being scooped up as prawn trawl by-catch, as they would have been in previous years.
Downstream, east of the Harbour Bridge, there is some great action on fish from 6kg to 12kg. We kicked off our charter season with an exceptional fish of 145cm, estimated at 30kg. This is the biggest jewfish I have seen taken from the Harbour.
Here is a jewfish refresher to get you primed for the season.
As with any fish, you will fluke one on any tide if it’s hungry enough and you drop the right bait on its nose.
Jew spend most of their time sitting hard up against or in structure doing nothing. They have a slower metabolism than kings, for example, and do not need to feed as much.
If you can locate one of their holding positions and drop a perfectly presented bait right on their noses then you might tempt one on any tide.
This is a very hit-and-miss technique mainly because of the pinpoint accuracy required for your bait positioning. You might only have a window of three square metres.
You would have to know with pinpoint accuracy where the fish are sitting and then be able to position your boat and then your bait perfectly to access them. And they might be right back in a cave or wreck.
On the turn of the tide they come out to feed. The turn of the high and the first 90 minutes of the run out is the prime time. The turn of the low and the first 90 minutes of the run in is your next-best bet.
This is the time of least tidal flow and reflects the jewfish’s lazy nature. On the turn of the tide they come out of cover and feed.
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 out to the feeding grounds and again as they make their way back.
Obviously they will be hungrier on their way out than when they return after a feed so therefore right on the turn of the high or low, when they first make their move out, is the ultimate time to be near holding cover.
You will catch good jew during the day if all conditions are right.
Go and look at the jewfish in Sydney Aquarium: They pick the darkest, quietest, cave-like corner in the tank.
Divers tell me the same thing – that these fish hang in wrecks, caves, under ledges, pylons and under marina pontoons.
Unlike kings, that hang around structure for reference, food and shade, jewfish like to get inside the structure for security. They are hard to access with a bait or lure when they are stacked up like this.
Don’t always assume that the structure needs to be deep; I know of at least one patch of washy bommies in less than 5m of water and within casting distance from the shore that produces jew up to 20kg.
When they move well upstream into the mangrove estuaries, where there is very little structure, things are a bit easier with all-tide access.
Jewfish will be found sitting at the bottom of the deepest holes in generally open water, where you can reach them at any stage of the tide.
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.
There are a number of baits you can use for jew but the most important factor is freshness.
One day we picked up a big jew and a few minutes later caught a king fish of about 60cm. I wanted to see how the king fitted into the jew’s mouth – it didn’t even touch the sides.
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 local bait and all the really good jewie I know are also gun squid fishos.
Sashimi quality squid go for about $40 and are the closest you will get to an alternative. The squid has to be back in the water as bait less than six hours after it was caught.
Even on the beach, where you wouldn’t expect to find squid, they still rate as the top bait. Other good baits include tailor and mullet but you need to come up with a good method of controlling them or you can end up in an awful tangle, especially at night.
Big fillets of the abovementioned fish (leave the head on one side and the tail on the other) are also good.
Most of the bigger Jewies and kings that I catch have silver biddies in their gut so if you can find a way to catch them then they are obviously great bait too.
Soft plastics have had a huge influence in jewfish success in recent years, mainly attribute due to their ability to maintain contact with the bottom.
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 moons.
It’s no coincidence that the perfect tides during these periods fall early morning and late afternoon in low light.Reads: 4140