Still time for a big jewie
  |  First Published: September 2008

This is still prime time for big jewfish. In fact, all the jewies over 25kg I have caught have been in water below 18°.

For whatever other reasons they come into the Harbour for, there is no doubt that minimal boat traffic in the cooler months is a contributing factor. They are shy fish and will not tolerate an onslaught from the likes of the Summer kingfish flotilla.

Big fish are looking for big baits. A 60-pounder we caught in mid-July had two whiting in its stomach each measuring a bit over 40cm.

It’s hard to imagine how a seemingly sluggish, short-stamina fish like a big jew could run down a flighty speedster like a whiting. I’m guessing that its dirty water/low light hunting attributes, stealth and at least a short burst of speed contribute.

The other interesting thing about jew stomach contents is that they are almost always made up of things that live on or very close to the bottom. We’ve extracted the likes of eels, flounder, crabs, cuttlefish and even rays.

Old mate Jewie Jim Siriakis found baby Port Jackson sharks in more than one of his fish.

Obviously, baits and lures need to be presented on the bottom. There are times where you will find jew feeding up on top, like around bridges at night, but it is a rare event.

The dramatic increase in the number of jewfish taken on lures around the same time soft plastics took off was no coincidence. A plastic’s ability to keep contact with the bottom all the way back to the boat or shore is one of its greatest attributes and suits the jewfish modus operandi.

The key to successful jewfish luring is maintaining contact with the bottom for the full length of the retrieve.

Once you have cast out, let the lure sink right to the bottom. Start the retrieve with a big upward sweep of the rod and quickly wind up the slack so that your rod tip is pointing straight down the line.

Now wait and watch your line. It will stay tight until the lure hits the bottom again, at which time a slackness commonly refereed to as ‘belly’ will fall into the line.

In calm conditions, the point at which your lure hits the bottom will be quite obvious with a distinct visual ‘tap’ in your line that may even be felt through the rod. As soon as you see this belly, repeat the process all the way back to your feet.


There are plenty of big squid around, which is great because they are also a jewfish’s favourite food. Big squid love clear water and will generally be found around the deeper kelp beds at the moment.

It’s time to pull out the bigger jigs, 4.5-plus, because they work better at attracting the big squids’ attention and sinking to the depths required.

Another good alternative at this time of year is to live-bait for squid, as many john dory fishos will attest, or use the old-fashioned pillie on a squid spike.

It’s rare that you actually hook a squid when live-baiting and inserting a squid spike into a livie sort of defeats the purpose. Best option is to use a dead but fresh pillie, gar or yakka on a spike or use a live bait on a single hook as usual (the upside being that you might score a complementary dory) and use the ‘bait and swap ‘ method.

This involves waiting until the squid has taken the livie and then very slowly and steadily winding it towards the surface.

Have a normal Yammashita-style squid jig next to you on another rod. Once the squid is in sight, lower the squid jig into the water and bring the squid nearer the surface, at which point it will nearly always let go.

Quickly get the live bait right out of the water and watch the squid turn its attention to your jig. I saw a doco on telly once where the scientists were trying to claim that squid and occies were very intelligent!

While the lead-up to Christmas is traditionally known for its blue swimmer crab run, Winter is a top time for big ones. You won’t get a lot but the compensation will be in size and flesh quality.

Witches’ hats are still the best method to take them but you need to set them deeper than you would in Summer. We commonly find them in 13m of water.

North Harbour fishes well, as do some of the boat moorings in Middle Harbour.


Flounder are another fish that, despite common belief, fish better through Winter, especially if you are after the big ones.

They, too, will be sitting deeper than you would find them in the warmer months and are suckers for a plastic jigged on the spot in 6m to 20m.

Small plastics like the Berkley Dropshot or Tsunami Split Tail minnows work well.

They can also be taken on small baits like whitebait or prawns either drifted or set on the bottom but, ultimately, they are suckers for a live nipper or prawn.

In a lot of ways, they are very much like flathead in that they ambush from the cover of sand, and a quick examination of a flounder’s mouth will show they are very much predatory.

The main difference is in their speed of attack, with the flathead winning fins-down.

If you watch a flounder hunt down a bait you will see it is done by stalking, inching closer with a series of short shifts, whereas the flattie attacks in one lightning burst.

This might explain why vertical jigging, on the spot, works well for flounder – it gives them the time they need to stalk your lure and suits their hunting style perfectly. So slow down for flounder.

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