Here are some clues to shorten your learning curve on the fish everyone loves to catch
If there’s one fish most east coast anglers want to catch, it’s the mighty mulloway or jewfish.
From the rocks, beaches, rivers and offshore, a good-sized jewfish is always a prize for the lucky angler and the envy of those who want to catch one.
The good news for those who want a jewie is that in reality they aren’t that hard to catch. If you fish the right spots at the right time using reliable techniques, it shouldn’t take too long before you hook one. Bear in mind that in jewfish terms, that could mean much longer than it would take to catch most other common species.
So in this feature we’re going to take a look at likely jewfish spots and how to go about catching these magnificent fish. If we cut through all the crap and get down to basics, you’ll only need to get out there and spend the time chasing them rather than sitting around thinking up wondrous strategies and pondering doggy theories.
After all, the best way to catch any fish is to spend time with a line in the water!
The first step is to find a few good spots worth trying for jewfish. I prefer to target jewies in estuaries, followed by the beaches, and the rocks are a bit of a last resort. However, most of my better fish have come from the beach and that’s mainly because I’ve lived much closer to beaches than suitable deep-water estuary locations.
So the spot or spots that you choose to target jewies may depend on exactly where you live.
Most beaches along the NSW coastline would accommodate a few jewies from time to time, although the better beaches are generally quite exposed to deep ocean water and there should be some form of reef or headland nearby. Beaches adjacent to the mouth of an estuary system are also reliable spots to look for jewfish.
After dark, jewies will venture right up over the shallow sand bars and behind the shore dump, but they aren’t likely to move into shallow water unless there is a deep gutter nearby to allow them access to the open sea as the tide falls.
Plenty of jewies are caught from the rocks along our coastline, but again there are a few factors to consider. Jewies tend to hang over sand rather than rock, gravel or kelp beds, so clear sand that fronts deep ledges with adjacent patches of reef are a good starting point.
Areas where waves consistently spill over the rocks or wrap around a point also assist the situation as the resulting whitewater provides some extra shelter which jewfish certainly like.
Jewfish are quite unlikely to hang around if they haven’t got anything to eat, so it helps if there are plenty of garfish, mullet, yellowtail, tailor or squid in the area.
The same theories apply to estuary hot spots. The better estuary systems are those with plenty of deep water towards the mouth. Big rivers like the Hawkesbury and the Clarence are prime examples but you certainly don’t need to fish in deep estuary water to catch jewies – they just need a clear path out of the shallows when the tide drops or the food supply dries up.
Again, that all-important food supply can come in the form of tailor, mullet, herring, yakkas, garfish or squid. No tucker, no jewies – remember that.
Top estuary hot spots include big river rock walls, sharp bends with steep banks, current-diverting points and road or rail bridges.
So the basics of a good jewfish spot are access to deep water, some form of shelter and a good food supply.
Obviously you’ll need tackle that’s up to the task of dealing with big fish. Sure, not all jewies are big and fish up to about 6kg can be dealt with on quite average bream gear. But when a 15kg or 20kg thumper comes along, you don’t want to be the one with the tall tales, rather than the fish.
A standard beach fishing outfit consists of a sturdy 3.6-metre rod coupled with a decent-sized threadline, overhead or sidecast reel. Brand names to look out for include Pacific Composites, Wilson and Killwell for the rods and Penn, ABU and Alvey for the reels.
In most cases 8kg to 12 kg mono line such as Schneider or Maxima is the best bet for beach fishing.
The same sort of outfit can be used for rock fishing but there are plenty of situations that demand the use of heavier tackle. A slightly shorter rod and maybe even a lever-drag overhead like a Shimano TLD 15 spooled up with 20kg or 26kg line could be more on the mark.
This sort of outfit could also be used for some estuary work, especially from big breakwalls or bridges where a decent fish may dive for cover.
From a boat you could use the same overhead reel matched to a shorter rod, although many anglers favour big Baitrunner-style threadline reels for estuary or inshore work.
From a boat I prefer a heavier baitcaster such as an ABU 6000 or similar spooled up with 8kg Schneider or 20lb Fireline.
I have one simple tackle box reserved for jewie fishing. It carries items suitable for rock, beach or estuary work. The hooks are Gamakatsu octopus in sizes 5/0, 7/0, 9/0 and 10/0. Ball sinkers are mainly around sizes 6, 7 and 8 and I have a range of different size swivels to suit the tackle or environment I’m fishing.
A couple of lures, including some to catch tailor for bait, are in there just in case the need arises and I carry 18kg and 26kg Jinkai trace material.
Another important item, particularly for the rocks or big breakwalls, is a strong gaff with a long handle. I certainly recommend one that you feel is too long rather than too short. I’ve heard a few stories over the years of big jewies lost from the rocks because the gaff wasn’t long enough to reach the fish.
I must also say, though, that beaching a jewie should mean that the fish is in good enough condition to release it back into the surf. Obviously you may want to keep your first fish or some after it, but consider releasing them once you’ve started catching a few – you’ll feel better for it.
Without going through all the details, learn to catch critters like squid and beach worms if you want to have a first-class bait supply at hand. The squid can be frozen and the worms can be preserved by dunking in a mixture of half metho and half water for about 30 seconds before being drained off and frozen.
Become proficient at catching fish like mullet, tailor and pike, all of which make first-class live baits for jewfish. Believe me, in many cases it’s much harder to catch good bait than it is to catch a jewie!
At a pinch, some baits you can buy at the tackle shop may have to do. If pushed to use such baits, try frozen squid, octopus, beach worms or pilchards. If I have to buy bait, I’ll try to buy a couple of reasonably fresh mullet. Really, though, go out and catch some fresh or live bait if you can.
All this hocus-pocus about the moon – stuff that! There’s only one time I won’t bother fishing and that’s right on the full moon and perhaps the nights either side of it. But that’s only from my experience and I do know that plenty of deep-water fish are caught under the full moon, particularly well offshore.
If, however, the bright moonlight is obscured by thick cloud cover I won’t worry too much about it.
The best bet is to focus more on the tides. Nine times out of 10 the change of tide is a likely time for a jewfish to take the bait. In deep water that could mean high or low water but in shallow spots you’re better off concentrating around the top of the tide.
At the mouth of an estuary, particularly after heavy rains, the first of the run out is prime time to cast a bait or lure for jew.
At the beach or on the rocks, make sure you’ve got a bait in the water between sunset and just as true darkness sets in. I’ve hooked many jew from the beach right as the last light fades away.
If you’ve got the good gear and first-class bait and concentrate your efforts at known jewie spots at the right times you will run into a fish. It may take a while and you may not hook one for several trips but eventually luck will run you way and bingo, you’re on.
In other words, be bloody persistent!
There are basically two types of rig that work well for most jewie situations. The first is simply a free-running ball sinker above a hook tied directly to the main line. That’s mainly used for big baits cast from breakwalls and there the hook is usually a 10/0.
The other type of rig I use is for beach or estuary work and consists of a 35cm to 50cm trace with the sinker running freely on the main line above the swivel.
Hooks are generally a size 7/0 Gamakatsu Octopus for baits like live herring, yakkas, small mullet and strips of squid or tailor flesh.
I don’t often use beach worms for bait these days but when I did, a good hook was about a size 2/0 long shank Mustad 9555B. If I were to use worms in the future I would like to try a size 2/0 Mustad Aberdeen which are so popular these days for soft plastic lures.
The author with a ripper of a jewie taken right on sunset, just as the tide was turning. The bait was a fresh mullet. These are typical factors in the capture of many jewies.
Learning to catch first-class baits like beach worms will go a long way towards success when it comes to jewfish from the beach.
A whole dead pike rigged up North Coast style. A size 10/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook through the solid structure of the pike’s head, with a free running size 7 ball sinker above that.
A perfect size live mullet ready to be cast out from a North Coast breakwall.
Squid jigs like these are the tools of the trade for many serious jewie enthusiasts. It’s vital that you learn to catch good quality bait if you’re serious about catching jewfish.
Breakwalls are prime jewfish spots.
When you’re chasing jewies you get to see a fair few sunsets – and sunrises, too, if they coincide with a nice tide change.
In the often harsh environment of the rocks and beaches, Alvey reels are justifiable favourites of jewie anglers. Their ability to cast light baits is also an advantage.