Rubbery jewfish
  |  First Published: December 2004

If there’s one form of fishing I just can’t get seem to get enough of, it’s jigging the deep North Coast tidal walls.

Years ago I’d drift the same walls flicking 3” Mr Twisters towards the stones, quite happily pulling out a reasonable number of small to medium-sized lizards. Occasionally I’d nail a GT or estuary cod but for some reason I never actually caught a jewfish.

Thankfully that’s all turned around and now, with the use of 4” to 6” shads, some well-thought-out boat positioning and a better under standing of the species in general, my catch rates on jewfish have soared.

Having fished hard for them with plastics for a year or two, I’m still amazed at the sheer effectiveness of a well-worked rubber lure. Admittedly, most of the fish taken are below 10kg but with the tackle used (usually light baitcast and threadline gear) each fish becomes very memorable indeed.

My personal best in 2003 was a beautifully conditioned 18kg fish and No 40 for the short period I’d been chasing them. Now, at fish number 190, a new personal best has arrived. At 26.5 gleaming kilos (59 good old-fashioned pounds) the big jewfish put up an epic battle on the light threadline gear, taking nearly 40 minutes to land.

This fish came from only 5 metres of water and refused to leave the line-shredding stones until the very end. Most of the fight, I had to look away as the 10lb braid seemed to be running right into the jagged rocks but thankfully everything held and at the very end, the big bruiser decided to swim mid-river – phew!

Needless to say, I was over the moon and the pictures now take pride of place on my wall beside a PB cobia taken earlier last year.

Jewfish are truly special creatures and I’ve been savouring every moment since the battle, as it may be some time until I find one bigger, especially on a lure.

One of the great things about lure fishing in general, and particularly for jewfish from a boat, is that most fish are healthy enough to be released. To early December 2004 I’d kept only one big flathead, which was gut-hooked on a 6” shad, and 11 jewfish that were effectively too far gone to release in good shape. That equates to 179 jewfish to 13kg and around 600 flathead to 7kg still swimming and hopefully spawning.

With fish stocks on the slide, times have certainly changed and those anglers keeping more fish than necessary for their immediate needs are doing us all a huge injustice.

Catch release is certainly the way of the future and something all responsible anglers should undertake. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping a fish or two for the table but in these times of dwindling fish stocks, it’s only logical to let most go to continue replenishing our struggling waterways.


Ok, so what’s happing at The Rocks other than my rambling on about big jewfish? Quite a lot.

Some warm water has hit the coastline, with 24° stuff just a tad wider than the Jail. This equates to some exciting inshore game fishing, with sizable mahi mahi first on the scene.

Most traps and FADs wide of 36 fathoms are housing some nice dollies – no monsters but pretty good numbers of fish from 3kg to 6kg. A few bigger fish have been taken by locals trolling for billfish, with one fellow catching one of 14kg and another of 17kg while running skirted lures for billfish.

At the time of writing there haven’t been any reports of black marlin caught inshore but I suspect any time now that someone putting around the jail grounds will hook one. Last year I was the first boat out looking for them, and on the very first session hooked four to 85kg. I must admit I got flogged big-time (totally out of condition!) and ended up with only one 60kg fish to the boat. That was Mid-December 2003, so if there’s bait and reasonably warm water around, they may well be out there right now.

There have been some long stints lately when kingfish have been few and far between but last trip south, Fish Rock and Black Rock both had pretty good numbers of fish from 3kg to 6kg. I haven’t heard of any monsters yet but there’s always a chance of a serious fish.

It’s usually a matter of putting in the extra effort with bigger baits like bonito, small mack tuna or tailor and fishing heavy tackle close to the bottom.

Snapper fishing up north can be pretty exciting at this time of year, with many believing the best class of fish turn up with the warm blue water. There have been a few nice fish taken, especially in the afternoons on float baits down a berley trail – if you can find an arvo that’s not blowing like mad.

You don’t have to go too wide, just stay in 30 to 40 metres off Grassy or Middle Head, or head a little further north and have a look around Scotts Head. There’s a mile of country to explore and most of it will produce reds if you berley and fish lightly-weighted baits.


Back in the Macleay there have been some terrific jewfish caught, with quite a few over 20kg. Most have fallen to live pike or tailor on the breakwall, with just as many finding freedom on the rugged stones.

Even when the jewfish are pretty active you can’t expect them every trip. Most folks who know what they’re doing still land only one about every second trip live-baiting, usually after losing at least one fish. If you can land 50% of fish hooked you’re doing quite well. Any more than that and you doing exceptionally well.

This also a good time for big lizards in the lower Macleay. These fish are right in spawning mode and pretty well most flathead over 2kg are likely to be females full of roe.

So if you end up snaring a big breeder, think about the future and consider letting her go. If you like a feed of flatties (and who doesn’t?) consider taking a few smaller fish home – they’re far more tasty anyway.

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