After the Gold Coast recently received some much-needed rain (up to 600mm and localised flooding) our attention turned to fishing for the prized mulloway, commonly known as jewfish.
The large volume of fresh water that has flowed down our rivers and creeks has flushed a huge amount of food such as baitfish, prawns, crabs and worms to the mouths of the rivers and creeks. Large predatory fish know this and have been feeding on the disorientated bait. At these times, switched on anglers can make impressive catches by fishing colour changes, where dirty run-off water meets clean ocean water near bottom structure like holes, bommies and drop-offs.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, my good friend Dean and I decided to head out in search of some mulloway. A gentle breeze was rolling in from the northeast as I turned the key to start my outboard and we were both full of confidence as we crossed the seaway and headed for the bait grounds to collect our precious livies.
The plan was to fill the bait tank with yakkas or slimy mackerel, travel the 14 nautical miles to our chosen location and anchor up before nightfall. However, the baitfish had other ideas and were playing hard to get. After half an hour of jigging, we had eight livies in the tank and decided that would do us as light was fading. I pointed the bow at our destination, eased the centre console onto the plane and accelerated to a comfortable 28 knots.
If livebait is hard to come by, fresh is always the best. Fresh fillets of tailor, whole squid or even fresh pilchards are okay, but live yellowtail, slimy mackerel and legal tailor are preferred for mulloway.
The sun was about to set and the breeze was only just noticeable when we arrived at our bump on the ocean floor. Our secret location was only 2km from the coast, near a river mouth and in about 30m of water. The screen on the sounder came to life as we slowly motored over the x on the plotter screen. We were looking for good shows of baitfish hanging around the structure with bigger fish showing up among them, and there were plenty of both on the screen.
The best way to fish a small structure like this is to anchor upcurrent and feed livebaits back to the fish. To position the boat correctly it is best to have several drifts across a structure to determine a drift pattern, then motor upcurrent and anchor.
Deano deployed the anchor and we swung back on the rope perfectly in position. We started a berley trail of pilchard pieces to get the fish in a feeding mood. For jewies, I recommend a small amount of berley dispensed often: you should throw out a piece of pillie just as the previous piece disappears out of sight.
Our rigs consisted of 15kg main line with about 1m double tied with a bimini and connected to a good quality swivel. From there we attached a couple of metres of 45kg mono with a pair of Mustad livebait hooks, one snooded six inches above the other. A suitable bean sinker was used to keep the bait in the strike zone (see diagram).
Two feisty little yakkas were rigged and fed back down the berley trail to the desired depth, while the rods were placed in free spool with the ratchet on and put in rod holders. With the waiting game now started we kept the berley going and waited for our baits to receive some attention.
It didn’t take long for the action to start – Dean’s reel quickly came to life with a short, sharp run. He grabbed his rod from the holder and thumbed the spool to avoid an over-run. After a couple more short runs, line began flowing from the overhead reel at a slow but steady pace: a sure sign to strike the fish. Pushing the drag lever forward he struck hard, creating a healthy bend in the rod.
The fish surged away heading for cover, but Deano wasn’t about to lose the fight and put serious pressure on what was a good fish. The violent headshakes told us that he had hooked what we came for. After another couple of strong runs, a solid jew of about 10kg lay beside the boat, gleaming in the torch light.
Two more fresh livebaits were rigged and sent to the depths. Once again, Dean’s bait was the first to receive some attention, followed only seconds later by my own. Strangely, our reels began losing line at the same rate. We hooked our fish and it soon became apparent we were both connected to the same fish! After a spirited fight it revealed itself as a large shovelnose ray about six feet long and sure enough, both our lines were in its mouth. We removed the hooks and sent it on its way.
After each fish it is a good idea to check your rig. Inspect your line for abrasion or nicks and make sure the hooks are sharp and the knots are still in place so you can fight big fish with confidence.
With only four livies left, two more were rigged and sent to the bottom. Things then went quiet for about an hour and at times like this it’s important to have the hooks placed correctly in your livebaits so they stay alive. The top hook can either be placed through the nostrils or in the mouth and out the nostrils, with the rear hook placed just behind the dorsal or anal fin. Be careful not to damage the fish by burying the hooks too deeply and piercing internal organs or its backbone (see diagram).
Deano was once again back into the action after a bit of fancy foot work when the fish swam around the boat and nearly tangled the anchor rope. Again, significant line was lost and we silently prayed to the fish gods that the build up of lactic acid in the fish would outstrip our own lactic acid-induced pain. Thankfully, the fish gods were feeling generous, and I slipped the gaff into another solid jew of about 12kg.
Over the next hour or so we managed to boat another two good-sized jew of 10kg and 13kg before calling an end to an awesome night’s fishing. Interestingly, the night was devoid of moonlight, which is often touted as being the big attracter for these elusive fish.
The trip was certainly worth three hours in the chilly winter night and we were over the moon after targeting these magnificent fish and coming up trumps!
So next time you get a few days of rain in your neck of the woods, get out there and give it a go. You might surprise yourself with what you catch.Reads: 3544