Most keen beach anglers would like to catch a jewie off the sand – even better, catch them regularly.
This may seem to many like a bit of a dream but the good news is that the formula for catching jewies from the sand is actually very simple. It’s largely a matter of doing the right things and keeping a positive mental attitude. After that, it’s as easy as just spending more time fishing for them.
The formula may be simple but before jumping in at the deep end, do you really have the time and patience required to get into the beach jewfish game?
Family and work commitments restrict our fishing time and when it comes to jewfish, you’ll need to spend a lot more time, often at night, than you would pursuing most other species.
If you reckon time is on your side, read on.
There’s no point trying to chase beach jewfish with inadequate tackle but that doesn’t necessarily mean overly expensive gear.
Rods need to be at least 3m long, although 3.6m to 4m is even better because longer rods help keep line clear of the shore dump should the wave action be strong.
Sidecast, threadline or overhead reels can be used, although most beach jewfish specialists prefer sidecasts or large threadlines.
Whichever the case, the spool will need to hold at least 250m of 10kg to 12kg mono. Yes, braided lines can be used but I recommend nylon mono at first because it is far more forgiving and there’s less chance of losing a good fish as you bring it through the shore dump because nylon mono has much more stretch than braid.
The tackle box is quite basic. A spool of 15kg to 20kg nylon mono or fluorocarbon for your traces, a handful of 6/0 to 10/0 hooks, some swivels and a selection of sinkers. I prefer size 8 to 10 ball sinkers, although pyramid sinkers are also good in heavy surf.
A few of those plastic Ezy Rig sliders can also come in handy so you can rig the sinker on a short length of line as shown in the accompanying rig diagrams.
Other handy items include a sharp knife, small cutting board, pliers, a rag to wipe your hands and a decent torch, preferably a head torch.
Jewfish take a wide variety of baits in the surf, including the ubiquitous blue pilchard, but if you seriously want to catch your first jewie or simply get better at it, you’ll have to also get better at catching squid.
I’m referring to the southern calamari squid, also known as the ‘green eye’ squid, which can be caught along the ocean rocks adjacent to kelp beds or over reefs from a boat.
Buying your squid is not an option because in most cases it’s second rate and too inferior for jewfish.
Apart from squid, other very good baits to consider are fresh tailor or mullet heads, fresh tailor or mullet fillets and large beach worms.
By fresh, I mean no older than 12 hours and it should have been kept on ice or in the fridge.
Of course, any tailor you catch while fishing for jewies should also be considered as bait.
If you don’t mind stuffing around a bit then live mullet, tailor or live yakkas have also proven very successful. This also means that you may have to carry them in and a large bucket of water may weigh up to 20kg. This is why I, and many others, stick with fresh dead baits.
Jewfish have been known to take baits in the surf at any time of the day, month or year.
There are, however, peak times to fish. Along much of the NSW coastline, the better months seem to be from February to the end of June, with the least productive months being August and September.
But this may vary from place to place and each year could be different from the last.
Jewfish are quite tide-responsive so you’ll need to keep your eye on the tide chart. Each month around the new moon and the full moon periods we get a set of high tide changes from just before sunset until a few hours after dark.
These sets of tides certainly seem to be the best overall, but a later tide change around midnight may still produce if there are jewies around.
A lot of jewfish are also hooked just as darkness is setting in, generally about 20 minutes after sunset.
So to make the most of your time, it’s a good idea to fish the nights that have a high tide change within two hours of sunset.
By doing this, you’ll have a bait in the water right on those two peak bite times, without having to wait hours until the high tide change.
Because each night the tide change is around 45 minutes later than the previous night, you’ll have to fish later to catch the tide change.
On some beaches, a low tide change is also good. It just depends on each beach and if there’s enough water in the hole or gutter for a large fish to swim freely back and forth.
An early morning tide change may also be good, although for consistent results I would be concentrating on the evening tides.
Don’t worry too much about the moon. As I say, the good tides fall around the new and full moon but remember, you’re concentrating on the tides, not the moon.
One thing I should point out is that jewfish and most other fish at the beach don’t bite very well if there is a very bright moon in the sky. This is made worse if the swell is calm, with little whitewater around.
So the night of the full moon and the night either side may not be worth fishing unless there is some cloud obscuring the moonlight or there is sufficient whitewash over the gutters to make the jewies feel comfortable.
Some beaches are better than others when it comes to jewfish. Generally, these beaches are well known but if you’re not sure then look for longer, steeper beaches adjacent to inshore reefs, headlands or the mouth of an estuary.
Jewies also prefer a bit of constant wave action, so those more sheltered beaches aren’t as good as the big, exposed beaches.
Jewies don’t need deep water but they do like some sort of depth to access the shallower shore dump area or sandbanks. In other words, some sort of channel that runs out into deeper water is worth looking for.
When choosing a spot to cast, it’s hard to go past the edge of a sandbank right next to a deeper hole or gutter. This gives a jewie that deep-water access and the whitewater spilling over the shallower sandbank provides an ambush point where jewfish like to feed.
Sometimes it’s worth casting onto the sandbank and allowing the wave action to push your bait just over the edge into the deeper gutter.
Smaller, school jewfish tend to be ravenous and bite a bit like salmon or tailor with a series of rattles and taps.
Larger fish are a bit more wary and often pick up the bait, perhaps turning it in their mouths and then they’ll do the bolt. If they suspect anything is wrong then they’ll quickly spit the bait out.
So there are two ways to go about hooking a fish.
You can keep the reel in gear at all times so that when a fish takes off with the bait it just about hooks itself.
The alternative is to keep the reel in free spool and the instant you feel any sort of bite, be ready to let line freely flow from the reel. If the line suddenly takes off, give it about 10m to 15m and then lock up and strike solidly.
The worst way to try to hook them is to leave the reel in free spool with a ratchet on and then leave it in a rod holder. That will give the fish something to feel ‘wrong’ as it mouths or takes off with the bait.
Hold the rod at all times or risk missing the chance to hook the prize of the surf.
Very fresh tailor is another top jewie bait at the beach and the best part of the tailor to cast out is the juicy head.
This solid jewfish was caught on a strip of fresh squid just after sunset.
This fish took a whole fresh tailor head pinned to size 10/0 hook.
Although many beach jewfish specialists may prefer a two-hook snelled rig, for a tailor or mullet head a large single hook is the better way to go.
A smaller school jewfish that took a fresh strip of squid pinned to a set of ganged hooks.Reads: 31337