Sydney Harbour Jewies

  Jewies Al Catching jews in Sydney Harbour might sound like a tough ask but it’s not as hard as you think as Kaydo contributor Al McGlashan explains in his latest article. With chrome plated sides it is easy to see why this estuary predator is so popular with anglers in Sydney. With commercial fishing banned the jewfish have made a a comeback although a majority are still small in the 2 to 5-kg range, with the odd larger fish in the 8 to 12-kg range turning up.
A quality jew caught in the nation's busiest harbour!

A quality jew caught in the nation’s busiest harbour!

Jewfish are found year round in the Harbour. As a general rule the smaller fish are more frequent during the warmer months while autumn, winter and spring sees less but bigger fish. My favourite time is autumn and spring where you can catch fish of all sizes.

Creatures of habit

Many considered jewfish as elusive and hard to catch, however they are in fact really a creature of habit that tend to congregate around specific structure. So in effect the species is much predictable than most anglers think. The trick is to know when and where to fish for them, get this right and you are well on your way to catching jews regularly. Jewies are extremely structure oriented and as a result spend a majority of their time around distinct features be it a hole, ledge, wreck or reefs and the Harbour is loaded with all these. If you are a newcomer to jewie fishing then the first step is to get your hands on a detailed nautical chart and identify all the prime jewie spots. Deep holes, bridge pylons (especially those illuminated at night), reefs and the edge of the main channel are all easily identifiable and prime locations to start.

Top Spots

To give you a head start in the Harbour I would be looking at places like the deep hole at Balls Head, the ledge at Clifton Gardens, the reef at Middle Head, the hole or around the bridge pylons at the Spit Bridge, as well as up along Seaforth. If you are really serious then don’t limit yourself to these spots, instead branch out and start looking for your own honey hole. In other words don’t follow the crowds make your path! It’s not just structure that needs to be taken into consideration, current and most importantly bait. Find the bait and you find the jewfish especially yakkas in the lower reaches. Use your fish finder and get really specific looking for spots where the current eddies over a ledge or around a bommie this is where the jews will lie in wait. Another hint I can offer is to focus on the deeper areas, jews definitely prefer the deeper water.

Daylight delights

Another top-quality fish caught in Sydney Harbour.

Another top-quality fish caught in Sydney Harbour.

The first jew I caught in the Harbour during the day was more fluke than skill. I was actually chasing kings around one of the islands with live squid when I spotted some solid marks down deep on the sounder. Immediately I free-spooled the bait down and instantly found myself connected to a nice jew. This capture taught me three essential tricks that are paramount to catching jews during the day. Firstly, that the fish are always in tight against the structure. Secondly that you can use the sounder to not only find bait concentrations but actual schools of jews as well. Finally that there is no room for error, you had to drop the bait right on there nose otherwise you were in the running. While they will feed they wont travel far to do it. It is a common fact that jews are structure orientated but to get a better insight for exactly where to look I spoke with a number of divers who all told me the exact same thing – jews shady areas. So with this information under my belt I started to pay closer attention to my ever-faithful Furuno and really zoom in on the bottom. What I was looking for were areas like overhanging ledges, wrecks or caves anywhere that a jewie can hide in the shadows. In fact I even went as far as diving on a number of spots myself to get a better idea of exactly where the fish would be!

Save your waypoints!

Quality jewies like this could be right under your boat so use a quality GPS and sounder to help maximise results.

Quality jewies like this could be right under your boat so use a quality GPS and sounder to help maximise results.

Once I found these spots I locked them in on the GPS and over the years have built up a series of waypoints pinpointing jewie lairs. Unlike at night when I anchor, during the day I prefer to drift over the spots. The reason for this is, not only does it allow me the freedom to cover more ground, but also because the chances of getting wiped out by a passing cruise ship are all too real. Believe me, the Harbour is getting busier and busier, and no one seems to want to change course not even for Strikezone. Don’t worry about being quiet when it comes to jewie fishing in the Harbour. Having a constant stream of boats going over their heads day after day even shy fish like jewies have quickly adapt to the noise and now ignore all the commotion above. Evidence of this is the fact that some of my best jewie sessions have occurred during peak hour with boats everywhere. Having said that I have to admit that I do catch more fish using a four stroke, even my 250hp Yamaha.

Live baits the key

Sydney Harbour.

Sydney Harbour.

Employing live baits is my final trick to successful daylight jewie captures. Dead baits certainly work and I know a lot of exceptional anglers do really well with them, but for me I reckon nothing beats a livie. In the Harbour the number one bait by a long shot is without doubt squid, jews just love them. Other baits like slimiest and yakkas work but never quite as consistently as the good old cephalopod. Yakkas are quick to respond to berley and it normally takes little time to fill the bait tank with them. Apart from being easy to catch the big advantage of yakkas is that they are species specific that is they don’t attract nitpickers. Squid, which take a bit more persistence to catch or lot longer in my case. The problem with squid is that unfortunately everything else loves eating them and at times pests like leatherjackets and bream can demolish a perfect squid bait in seconds. The trick is to never leave the rod in the rod holder instead hold it and the moment you fill the pickers get the bait up. If the jews are there they will eat it first anyway.

A final tip to ponder

One last hint I can offer is to always fish the tide change. Jew behaviour is heavily influenced by the tide and almost all the jews I have caught during the day, have been within an hour of the tide change. They bite like clockwork so make sure your trip coincides with a tide change. Some places it is the top of the tide while others it is the last of the run out. ‘Now every spot is different so it really is a matter of putting the hours in on the water and what better excuse to simply go fishing, well thats my story anyway!’
Al McGlashan

About Al McGlashan

Al McGlashan is one of Australia’s best-known fishos and has built a reputation on catching some of the nation’s biggest fish. A father of two, Al spends more than 200 days a year on the water. He doesn’t take the easy route on charter boats, instead getting out there and doing it all himself on a trailer boat just like 5-million other Aussie anglers.

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