When it comes to catching fish from surf beaches, big mulloway are the ultimate prize. Fish over the 20kg mark are what surf anglers dream of. They are rarely caught by luck and almost always by those who have spent many hours targeting them for no result. These anglers would have doggedly ground their way through many fishless nights, constantly changing their approach, trying to figure out what works. While many of these guys end up quitting or in some sort of asylum, the ones who stick with it eventually get that monster mulloway. This first catch gives them the knowledge to repeat their success.
Getting someone to cough up this hard-earned information after they've done the hard yards is often like getting blood out of a stone. In fact, don't even bother asking. What you will likely be told is a fanciful story conjured up to throw you off the scent and send you in the complete wrong direction. The reality is that there are no shortcuts to working these fish out, but that's also what makes them so special.
When it comes to mulloway on the mid north coast of NSW, timing is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle to get right. You can catch beach jewies any month of the year but the peak times are around April through to June. Many anglers think that luck plays the biggest role in catching a monster jewie and that it’s just a matter of cramming in stacks of all-night sessions and simply waiting for one to come along.
The reality is that only a very small percentage of people crack a monster beach jewie out of luck alone. These fish are creatures of habit and once worked out you begin to understand that it's almost a waste of time fishing for them outside of certain timeframes. Being exceptional hunters, especially when in excess of 20kg, they don't need to spend a long time in feeding mode to get enough to eat. This is why short sessions around key times are far more practical and productive. These fish are not silly and just like us they know that the period around high tide is most likely to be when a surf gutter is holding the most tucker.
This high-tide window is the best time to focus your efforts. Around and after dark is without a doubt far more productive than daylight hours. This, however, is only the beginning of what makes up ‘prime time’ for jewies on the beach.
Surf conditions are another contributing factor, as too little or too much will greatly decrease your chance of success. The reason fish hang in gutters is not just for shelter but because they create a massive food chain, holding baitfish as well as pipis, worms and crabs. All become dislodged by the waves pounding surrounding shallow edges of gutters, washing these food items into the deeper water. This is heaven for species like whiting, bream and tailor, but it quickly turns into hell once the sun goes down and bigger predators like sharks and mulloway come out to play.
When there is no swell, however, the gutters are no longer defined and all the action is no longer concentrated in one area, making things much more difficult.
Being there at the right time is only one side of the coin. The other thing you need to be on top of is making sure that your bait and rigs are all spot on during the prime time.
Many anglers dedicate a lot of time to catching one of these fish but then use a week old, thawed out strip of mullet that most jewies would swim straight past.
Fresh is definitely best. Jewies are spoilt for food choices on the beach so don't skimp on bait. Sometimes I spend longer chasing bait than I do fishing for the mulloway. I always try to get myself half a dozen or so fresh squid before any planned beach jewie session as I think these are the best dead bait you can possibly use.
However, squid are still only a secondary option for me as I like to get to the beach an hour before dark and try to pick up a tailor or whiting to use for a livebait. Nothing increases your chances more than having a livie in the water. It gives you a great deal of confidence knowing that if there's a jewie in the area, you have your 'A game' out there.
Regardless of whether I'm using live or dead bait I always apply the same rig. This is simply a star sinker connected to an Ezy Rig that runs freely up the line to a swivel attached to an 80cm length of 50lb fluorocarbon leader.
My hook size is determined by bait size, with 2 snelled 7/0-10/0 Gamakatsu in octopus patterns for dead baits and a single 8-10/0 for livebait.
Some gun jewie anglers also swear by a big, whole, live beach worm rigged up on a 5/0 longshank. The problem I have on the beaches I fish when using worms like this is everything else wants to eat them too, like salmon, bream, rays and shovelnose sharks. As far as I’m concerned, the less time I spend dealing with unwanted bycatch during the prime time, the better.
Good mulloway sticks for the surf need plenty of grunt down low but still a soft enough tip to take the shock out of a big head shake and not rip hooks out of baits during a cast. My favourite rod for this is the FSU 5144g blank. It's 12’ long and has a graphite butt that runs into a fibreglass tip at about the last third of the rod, giving it a perfect blend of power and softness. I build these up with heat shrink grips to keep the blank diameter down at the butt end.
Depending on your preference, both spin-overhead and Alvey make great jewie beach reels. If, however, you do choose to go a spinning reel make sure you use a Baitrunner type that can be easily put in and out of freespool. This way you can place your outfit in a rod holder when you're not hanging onto it, and it won't disappear if a fish hits when you're not looking! I spool my reels up with 12kg mono when fishing for jewies in the surf. This gives you a good cast and still allows you to put plenty of hurt on a fish.
Hopefully the above information will help put you on the right track to catching a monster beach mulloway. Just remember these fish don't come easily and the only way you will ever get a grip on understanding them is to dedicate many hours on the beach working them out.
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