Solving the black jew riddle!
  |  First Published: November 2004

In the September issue of QFM, I made what turned out to be some prophetic comments on a potentially successful technique for catching big black jewfish on soft plastic lures. The opportunity to test my theories arose when my old mate, the irrepressible Eddie Riddle, lobbed in town chasing some vision for his next Fish N 4 Wheels series, soon to be aired on Channel 7.

There are few TV personalities who express their enjoyment of fishing better than Eddie, and whenever the two of us get together, carrying on like chooks with our heads lopped off is part of the script. Unlike some other fishing shows, Fish N 4 Wheels features minimal voiceover content. Eddie and his crew want commentary and action described as it happens – ‘reality’ TV at its best!

On the first morning, as we hastily rigged our tackle in front of the camera, Eddie asked me to speculate on the species we were most likely to catch in the area we were about to fish. “Coral trout, fingermark, tuna, trevally, maybe cobia, even a jewie if we’re lucky!” was the reply, a species list that was stretching the limits of probability, even in the fish-rich waters of Weipa.

The action started at the third patch of reef we tried! Eddie had his Storm plastic grabbed by a nice cobia that beat a mob of big trevally to the offering, then I had a big hook straightened by a hard fighting heavyweight that seemed to like hugging the bottom.

After rigging another Snapback soft jerkbait with an extra strong hook, I was quickly back in action. The plastic came up tight as I dropped it back to the bottom after the second lift!

As soon as it felt the hook, the fish bored for the reef in typical bottom-dweller fashion, its powerful tail and body bulk effortlessly ripping braid off an almost locked drag. When the run stopped I managed to gain a few metres, and hoped it was enough to keep the fish away from the bauxite rock ledges.

The fish again lunged powerfully, causing the heavy rod to buck and strain as the butt tried to push its way through the top of my left thigh. This fish was BIG and getting it to the surface was going involve good technique combined with a fair sprinkling of luck.

Totally focused, I kept the fish moving to the surface every time the pressure relented and was eventually rewarded with a flash of silver deep down, the shape of which could only mean one species – black jewfish! Eddie was ready with the Environet when 14kg of beautiful jewie hit the surface. I was over the moon!

The cameraman, Jason, had captured the entire fight on screen. What was probably the first ever capture of a large black jewfish on a soft plastic lure, and the thrill of the achievement of a personal fishing milestone, was all there, to be relived many times over.

The ‘Electric Chicken’ coloured Snapback was secured firmly in the corner of the jewie’s mouth, virtually undamaged by the tough encounter. This new generation soft plastic is renowned for its durability, and I was able to reuse it.

Hopes of landing another big jew were dampened by repeated attacks on our plastics by more cobia, tuna, brassy and golden trevally and a 6kg fingermark. Unfortunately, a perfect score on my species prediction did not eventuate due to the non-compliance of a decent coral trout but, after the action we encountered that morning, nobody was complaining.

So the answer is ‘Yes’, large black jewfish will definitely rise to a soft plastic when given the opportunity. The two main requirements are getting the lure to where the fish are sitting and using tackle appropriate to the site being fished.

Rigging Carolina-style (with a lure rigged on a dropper off the main line and a sinker of appropriate weight underneath) is the best option in deep water and/or areas of strong current, while the weight of the outfit used will be determined by the makeup of the bottom structure in the area. Over reef or rock or adjacent to artificial structure, tackle will need to have the ability to redline 15-25kg braid. In the deep river holes, tackle could certainly be lighter but 10kg braid would probably be the minimum.

Hooks should always be as strong as you can find, to minimise straightening.

Landing that jew easily ranks as my most memorable catch taken this season. I look forward with much anticipation to those that will follow!


The usual November weather for Weipa begins with hot mornings followed by cooling afternoon sea breezes, then, later in the month, the first storms start to form accompanied by a sudden build-up in humidity. Stepping off the air-conditioned Q Link Dash 8 from Cairns on a the late November afternoon can be like running into a hot brick wall; the humidity gets very oppressive.

However, the piscatorial inhabitants of Weipa’s waterways think this weather is just perfect. It’s the time of year when love is in the air (water) so many of the area’s inhabitants are at their most active.

Out on the water is definitely the most pleasant place to be at this time of year, but you must be well prepared! Covering up with light purpose-built tropical clothing – long-sleeved shirts, long pants, lightweight hat, sun gloves and footwear impervious to saltwater, is a good start. Complement this with a slop of sunscreen on any exposed skin at regular intervals.

Drinking plenty of water is the other essential, the fluid intake helping to prevent the onset of the nasty symptoms of dehydration. Beer or alcohol is best left until you are back at camp at the end of the day.

Heading out at first light then returning just before the sea breeze gathers strength in early to mid afternoon makes good sense. Up the rivers, the heat in the smaller creeks can become oppressive by late morning.

The water gets very clear at this time of year so sight fishing along the beaches and tidal flats can be productive, particularly when the winds are light. Barramundi can’t be targeted at this time due to the closed season but there are usually plenty of threadfin salmon, queenfish, bream and trevally to be found.

Around the snags, mangrove jacks, fingermark, black- and goldspot cod and the occasional Queensland groper are usually ready to ambush a lure or livebait fished close to structure. Offshore, the bait schools usually move close inshore attracting mackerel, queenfish, giant herring, various trevallies and tuna.

When the storms finally break, the fishing can suddenly go into overdrive with the dirty water running into the estuaries prompting feeding frenzies involving just about every species. The hatching of marine worms on the high tide around the full moon is another phenomenon that can cause a hectic feeding session. Soft plastics are the go if this happens.

Many anglers regard November as ‘too hot’ or too near the start off the ‘wet’ to consider it as a prime fishing time. That means fewer anglers on the water at one of the tropic’s most productive times!


1) This author with his14kg black jew that took a Snapback soft jerkbait.

2) Eddie Riddle, presenter of Channel 7’s Fish N 4 Wheels, with a quality Weipa fingermark.

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