Catching jewfish ain’t easy but PAUL LENNON has worked out a sure-fire formula that produces results for anglers willing to put in the hard yards.
WHEN it comes to jewfish, the breakwalls that front many East Coast rivers are well known as fishing hotspots. Why? Well, it’s got a lot to with the typical breakwall having plentiful supplies of jewfish tucker in the form of luderick, mullet, tailor, pike and squid.
Regardless, many anglers still find it hard to crack a jewie off their local breakwall. Some poor buggers spend literally years for no result, leaving them to wonder just what the hell they’re doing wrong. Often these anglers will come to the conclusion that “lady luck” plays the biggest part in catching breakwall jewies. The reality is, however, that mulloway can be very reliable targets. It’s just a matter of knowing when and how to fish. Not understanding these basics is where many anglers go wrong. They simply repeat ineffective methods or they focus all their efforts during periods that just don’t produce.
The first thing you need to understand about jewies is that they don’t feed at any old time. Secondly, when they do feed it’s often not for long. Rather then being opportunistic feeders like tailor or salmon, mulloway are extremely efficient hunters and generally only need a short feeding period to satisfy their hunger. This makes fishing for them a game of timing rather than patience or luck. Although it sounds almost ridiculously simple, success on breakwall jewies is based on knowing when you should have your bait or lure in the water. The other key element in the equation is knowing how your offering should be presented. This sort of knowledge isn’t something that you’ll learn in five minutes. It only comes to those who persist through the fishless nights and slowly unravel the mulloway mystery piece by piece. Once you do get a fish or two under your belt you begin to understand just how jewfish work. After this, successful mulloway sessions become far more frequent as you have a recipe for repeated success.
This article will hopefully help you to fast-track your jewie success. It won’t automatically guarantee you’ll become a jewie gun but at the very least it should help you on your way.
When to fish
Many factors influence the right time to be targeting mulloway from breakwalls. It’s not just a matter of throwing out a big lump of bait and waiting for something to happen. Certain elements need to align before you should even consider going after jew. The first thing you need to do is assess the tides. You want your mulloway sessions to revolve around an hour each side of a tide change. Too many anglers make the mistake of fishing outside of this period and subsequently are rarely rewarded. It’s amazing just how often you’ll get the bite smack bang on the tide change. While I do have preference for the high tide, the low change can still produce.
Once the tide is sorted, I’ve found the most productive time to fish breakwalls is during the night, followed by dawn and dusk. Daytime fishing is far less productive with the exception being an estuary system experiencing a flood. This occurs when heavy rain flushes species like blackfish and mullet from upstream, creating a constant stream of food flowing past the breakwall. While it may only happen once or twice a year, a full-blown flood can bring on a hot mulloway bite.
The full and new moon phases are also a factor that many believe can trigger a mulloway bite. While there’s no doubt that specific lunar cycles can be good times to chase jewies, I tend to believe it has more to do with the tides than the actual moon. In NSW during the new and full moon cycle, the prime fishing time (high tide) always falls between 7 and 9.30pm, depending on how close to the moon you are. More jew are caught at this time because more anglers fish it than, say, the 3am high tide.
In saying that, I have a preference for fishing the new moon phase. Fishing the new moon means parts of the wall I fish are well lit up by lights that reflect onto the water. This attracts bait and, in turn, mulloway which will often lurk on the edge of the dark zone, picking off bait that strays out of the light. The more moonlight present, the less effective this hunting technique becomes as mulloway tend to become less concentrated.
Gear & tackle
Anyone who’s done any fishing around breakwalls learns very quickly how unforgiving these habitats are on inadequate gear. While mulloway aren’t the dirtiest fighting fish out there, they can still bust you up if given half a chance. This is why when bait fishing I like to run 15kg mono, which I consider to be the minimum when landbased. For lure work I always use 50lb braid. There’s no real benefit of dropping down any lighter than this as 50lb will still give you sufficient casting distance and heaps of stopping power.
Regardless of lure or bait fishing, I use a 1.5m length of 60lb mono trace. This is connected via a Bimini twist to Albright knot for mono line and a PR knot for the braid. The PR knot is a connection I learnt chasing giant trevally. It’s a super streamlined knot that has never let me down. I now use it almost exclusively when joining any braid over 50 pound to a heavier mono leader. While it isn’t difficult to tie, it does require the use of a fly bobbin. Its slim profile will cast through rod guides as if it’s not even there. Check out the Fisho site at fishingworld.com.au for a short video showing how to tie this great knot.
As far as outfits are concerned, for land-based lure work I use a Daiwa Catalina 4500 matched to a custom built Pacific Composites BWS 275-10 rod. My bait fishing outfit is another custom-built stick, the trusty Pacific Composite 5120g teamed with a Shimano Thunnus 16000. Being a rod builder, I’m probably a bit biased towards custom built sticks, however, there are plenty of “off the shelf” rods that do the job just fine. You just need to find something that’s between 9-10ft long and fairly stiff in the tip without being a total broomstick. Reel-wise I prefer threadlines, however an overhead in the 7000 size would also do the trick.
When I’m targeting jewies from the boat I use a Samurai NV8 rod, which is ideal for both bait and lure work.
Baits, Lures & Rigs
Getting quality bait is crucial if you’re to have regular success on breakwall jewies. Freezer-burnt mullet fillets and frozen imported squid just won’t cut it. You’ve got to make the effort if you want the rewards. My afternoons leading up to jewie sessions are spent chasing fresh squid, which are kept in the fridge for a maximum of two days before use. When you freeze squid, the flesh turns a whitish colour, however, if kept refrigerated they retain more of their natural translucent tone. This is the only dead bait I use and is my backup in the scenario where I don’t get livebait.
Livies are without a doubt the most deadly weapon an angler can possess when chasing mulloway. While fresh squid is top bait, it doesn’t send out the vibrations and distress signals of a livebait. I prefer to use yellowtail (yakkas) or mullet. Both are relatively easy to catch and will stay alive easily in a 20-litre bucket with an aerator. Squid also make insanely good livebaits, however, they don’t stay alive long and require frequent water changes.
I rig my livies very simply by pinning them just behind the head with single Hamamatsu Octopus in the 7/0 to 10/0 range, depending on the size of the bait. I then gently crimp a #4 split shot sinker about 40cm up the trace line. This allows the bait to slowly sink through the water column, giving it a chance to get nailed on both the surface and the bottom. For dead baits I use the same rig but with two hooks snelled together rather than just the one.
Jewfish will also have a crack at a wide range of both hard and soft-bodied lures. My personal favourite is the River2Sea Lively Mullet, a hybrid bibbed soft plastic lure with segmented splits through the tail section that give it an incredibly realistic action. Unfortunately, this lure is no longer in River2Sea’s range and finding one on the store shelf is like striking gold. American lure company Mega Bait produces a lure that is almost identical, named an 8” Charlie. The only drama with these is you have to order them from the US.
Other effective lures are big paddle tails like Squidgy Slick Rigs, Storm 6” Shads and Berkley Hollow Bellies. Hard-bodies are also proven winners on jewfish and work especially well in dirty flood water. My two personal top hard-bodies are the Killalure and the Halco Laser Pro 190 in the King Brown pattern.
Landbased or boat?
Breakwalls inside estuary systems can be fished by boat with relative ease, however, those stretching outside the mouths of ports are often best fished from land. Reason being they are often exposed to swells and raging tides which funnel through small areas – not a great place to be in a small boat … When you can get away with it, fishing out of a boat makes life easier as you cover more ground and fight fish by pulling them away from the danger zone instead of into it.
Fishing from a boat also takes the hassle out of the water changes if you’re using livebait and lugging everything you’ve bought up and down the wall if you decide to move.
An important point: jewfish don’t like noise and an electric motor is an essential. While anchoring can be an option it really defeats the advantages of being in a boat as you could do the same thing shore-based. With an electric motor you can work multiple areas along a wall in near total silence. When doing this I position myself a cast out from the wall and work my way up, peppering casts into areas that look of particular interest. This may be the edges of lights shining onto the water, nervous patches of mullet or tidal eddies and current lines.
While boats do make life easier, you still can’t really say you’ve caught a breakwall jewie until you’ve done it with your feet still on land. For me, nothing beats the rush involved with scampering over rocks while connected to a big jew. The satisfaction of landing one off the actual wall is far greater than when done via boat.
Being landbased means you need to be able to pinpoint where jew will be – you don’t have the luxury of covering ground like you can in a boat. That said, with time and dedication, shore-based anglers still catch as many as those in boats. It’s just a matter of persistence and learning what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. Once you’ve done this you have a recipe for repeated success. While consistent success on jewfish is a slow process, the information contained in this article should hopefully speed things up and get you on the right track.
IN this video from NT Fisheries, the effects of barotrauma on golden snapper (fingermark) caught and released in depths of 10m and deeper are clearly visible...