Mulloway school up
  |  First Published: September 2009

October can be a great time for jewfish. When they first move into the estuaries at this time of year they are concentrated in large schools.

As the water warms up they will spread throughout the waterways but right now is your best chance at catching numbers.

You will also find that once you have located the schools, you can often find them at the same spots for weeks on end. This is much less common through the rest of the year.

Jewfish have adapted very well to the type of artificial structures found along our coast and in bays and rivers. They love shade and a break in the current while they are not feeding, so the likes of deep-water jetties, marinas, wrecks and bridges provide ideal holding grounds for them.

The down side is that they are more sensitive to noise and commotion than some of our other common big predators, so keep your approach as quiet as possible.

They are probably the hardest of all fish to crack the code for consistent success. Here are a few tips that should make it a bit easier.


As with any fish, you will fluke one on any tide if they are hungry enough and if you drop the right bait on their noses but on the turn of the tide is when they come out to feed.

The turn of the high and the first 90 minutes following is the prime time. The turn of the low and the first 90 minutes run in is your next-best bet.

These are the times of least tidal flow and this reflects jewie’s lazy nature.

Jew have two areas where you might find them, their holding grounds and their feeding grounds.

As an example, imagine a wreck sitting on a barren sand or mud bottom in the Harbour, where jew hold.

On the turn of the tide they come out from cover and make their way to food-rich kelp beds or a breakwall to feed. The wreck is the holding ground and the kelp bed or break wall is the feeding ground.

Being in the vicinity of holding structure gives you your best shot at these fish: They will pass by your offerings as they make their way out to the feeding grounds and again as they make their way back.

Obviously, they will be hungrier on their way out than when they return after a feed, so therefore right on the turn of the high or low, when they first make their move out, is the ultimate time to be near holding cover.

You will catch good jew during the day if all conditions are right.


Divers tell me jewfish hang in or around wrecks, caves, ledges, pylons and under marinas. Sometimes they can be found under coastal rock shelves in very shallow, sudsy water.

They are different from kings, which hang around structure for reference, food and shade.

Jew actually like to get inside or under the structure for security. This doesn’t mean that they ambush feed from here, though.

Their feeding is done when they move out and onto richer grounds as detailed above

Don’t always assume that the structure needs to be deep, either. I know of at least one patch of washy, gnarly bommies, within casting distance from the shore that produces jew up to 15kg and is in less than 5m of water.

What about when they move well upstream into the mangrove estuaries where there is very little structure?

This makes things a bit easier in regards to all-tide access. They will be found sitting in the bottom of the deepest holes but in generally open water.

This means that you can reach them with a bait or lure through any stage of the tide.

Of course, you will still do better during those tide changes when they are actively feeding.

Bridges are a major source of artificial structure in environments where there would otherwise be none. These are prime spots in the upper reaches, especially for lure chuckers at night – the subject of next month’s column.

One of the most revealing tips that I picked up during the shooting of our recent DVD Local Knowledge related to water quality and depth.

We had scheduled a rock session with South Coast expert Peter Rolf. I had envisaged a high, flat ledge with clear blue water frontage.

Instead, we were taken to a low, exposed platform with a shallow, sudsy façade. It was everything I imagined a jew ledge not to be.

We pulled two jewfish over the half-hour high slack water period, one 10 kg and one 20kg.

What struck home here is that jew didn’t mind shallow water providing it was turbulent. Both fish were taken in less than 3m of water but visibility was down to less than 30cm, leading me to conclude that the fish were not hunting by sight.

We can’t relate everything we know about fish to human perception.

Jewfish love dirty water and they can see things in it that we couldn’t. Clearly, sight is not their primary sense in play in this situation.


The worst week for jewfish is the week after and including the night of the full moon.

The best weeks are the lead-up to the full and new moon.

It’s no coincidence that the perfect tides during these periods fall early morning and late afternoon in low light conditions.


At this time of year, your best bites will occur when the wind is blowing north-west and then swings south-westerly or southerly. In other words, just before a front.

It’s a narrow window of opportunity. It doesn’t seem to matter too much whether its overcast or bright and sunny.

Of course, this is not the only time they feed, it’s just the best.


There are a number of baits you can use for jew but the most important factor for all of them is freshness.

We picked up a 25kg jew the other day and a few minutes later a kingfish of about 60cm and 2.5kg. Out of interest, I wanted to see how the king fitted into the jew’s mouth and was surprised to find that it didn’t even touch the sides.

Don’t be scared to put out really big baits if you are after big jew; they have huge mouths so they can eat big prey

If you want to catch quality jew consistently, you are going to have to master squid fishing.

Squid are the No 1 bait and all the really good jew fishos that I know are also gun squid fishos. Don’t make the mistake of trying to find a way around this.

Sashimi-quality squid go for about $40 a kilo and they are the closest you will get to an alternative.

My formula is that the squid has to be back in the water as bait a maximum six hours after it was caught – not bought.

Even on the beach, where you wouldn’t expect to find squid, they still rate as the top bait.

Other good baits include large live baits like tailor and mullet but you will need to come up with a good method of controlling them or you can end up in an awful tangle, especially at night.

Big fillets of the abovementioned fish (leave the head on one side and the tail on the other ) are also good.

Most of the bigger jewies and kings that I catch have silver biddies in their guts so if you can find a way to catch them, then they are obviously great bait, too.


When the fish takes the bait, hit it immediately.

A lot of people reckon you should let a jewie run before striking but in my experience this loses more fish than it catches.

If a big fish swims off with your bait there is only one place it can be holding it – in its mouth.

If your hook is in the bait then it, too, is in the fish’s mouth.

If the hook is in a fish’s mouth then I can’t imagine why you would want to do anything other than strike.

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