Jewfish Basics

Sydney fishing identity Peter LeBlang goes through the basics to successfully target and catch jew fish.

Don't be afraid to use Big Soft Plastics

Don’t be afraid to use Big Soft Plastics

The first important part about catching jewfish is to understand where they like to congregate. Over the many years of fishermen before us we are blessed with areas that are already renowned as prime areas. On Broken Bay we have Flint & Steel reef, Juno Point, Walkers Point and Elanora’s Bluff just to mention a few.

All of these known areas have one thing in common and that is current. They also have an area to get out of the swift moving water and so they can nail anything that washes or swims in front of them.  When targeting Jewies in the faster moving current it is imperative to be anchored accurately over a drop off. When the water is moving fast these fish will gather in the deeper water of a drop off on a reef, in a hole, behind a rock or behind a point so they don’t have to constantly swim to stay in the one area.

When the tide flow backs off the fish will start to move to their feeding grounds and this is when most fish are caught.

With this in mind it is important to have all of your fresh bait caught and be anchored on your chosen “Hot Spot” an hour before the change of tide through to an hour after the tide change. To improve your chances even further, choose a tide change that is close to sunrise or sunset.

Another thing to consider is the moon phases. By choosing moons that are approaching the new moon or full moon you will get chance to find a few active jewfish. Fishing before a new or full moon is better than after them. I am sure this is to do with prawn runs so if you are going to fish after a new or full moon it is better to fish for them at night.

Silver Secrets aren't that much of a secret

Silver Secrets aren’t that much of a secret

One thing that I have noticed over the years as well is that if you have a dropping barometric pressure, when it stops dropping, the Jewies seem to feed hard. It is really noticeable when you have a wind from the west that all of a sudden stops and it changes round to a wind from the south. If you are in an area that has jewfish about they will make their presence known.

Fresh bait is also extremely important if you are going to anchor up. It is always better to catch your own fresh bait as you will normally be catching what they are eating. Along Broken Bay there are times when tailor fillets will out fish just about anything else and that is because of all of the schools of tailor in the bay at the time.

When I go out to target jewfish I do like to have a variety of baits to choose from. We will try to catch yellowtail, slimy mackerel, pike, tailor (please only use tailor of legal length of 35 cm) and my favourite jewfish bait of all is…..squid. Herring can also be a dynamite bait to use but they seem to work their best along the rivers where they are caught.

There are a few baits that can be bought along to try from the freezer and they are mullet that can be butterflied or filleted and big prawns. Both tend to get monstered by pickers but there are times when it is well worth having some with you. Most small fish eat prawns but when I say big prawns I am talking BIG! Banana Prawns or tiger prawns that are 15 – 20 cm are perfect if you can stop your mates from taking them home to eat.

Fresh is best

Fresh is best

The rigs that I use are simple. A running sinker rig with two hooks when anchored and when drifting I may vary it and use a paternoster rig. Hooking up baits properly is just as important as gathering fresh bait. If anchored it is preferable that you make sure your bait doesn’t spin. A spinning bait will do you no favours at all and stopping it from spinning can be done a few different ways. The first is if you are using slab bait, place the hook through the narrowest point. The bait may still spin so by cutting small pieces from the sides of the bait to even them up will certainly slow the spin rate. The next thing to look at is hook placement in dead fish bait. Pilchards or other dead baits if used are better if you cut the tailfins completely off. The tails are cut off for two reasons. The first is to put a scent trail in the water especially if using a dead oily fish such as slimy mackerel. The second reason is that it helps to stop the bait from spinning in the current.

Place the top hook in the bait at the tail and the second hook goes through the eye. Jewfish will prefer to eat the bait head first so make sure there is a hook in the head as this is the hook that catches most fish. The hook must be big enough to have the point of the hook well exposed so you get a positive hook up when it’s smashed by a hungry jewfish. This rig is only used at anchor.

For squid baits I either use large squid heads or full small squid. Being alive is not important but being caught that morning can make all the difference on harder days. On both baits I use a running sinker 2 hook rig. On the full squid the top hook is placed through the tip of the hood and the bottom hook is placed in the head. It is important that the hook point is exposed and not buried in the bait.

When using a big fresh caught squid head I place the top hook through the top exposed section of the head and have the hook come out dead centre at the top of the bait between its eyes. The second hook is placed through the stretched out candles of the squid. Again it is important to make sure that the hook points are exposed. Hooks that have an offset may cause issues in fast running water. If this happens either change your hooks over to hooks with no offset such as Mustard Hoodlum Hooks or use a 2 hook running sinker rig and tie the hooks on opposite sides of the leader.

The right bait presented correctly

The right bait presented correctly

Now anchoring is one way to catch a jewfish but there are a couple of other methods that will also work extremely well.

Rivers such as Pittwater where there is a minimal tidal current until you get to the mouth you can drift for jewfish with baits or lures and target the drop offs and holes. Of course you will also catch other species whilst drifting which is of course part of the fun. The main aim is to cover ground of likely jewfish areas.

Lures are a great way to cover ground whilst drifting and you can not only cover the deep water but you are able to hop the lures along or down the rock walls and point. When choosing a soft plastic for the first time to targe jewfish I find that the mullet patterns work very well as does white. I will choose the paddle tail or worm pattern tail when showing people how to use them. I choose these types of lures because there is no real action needed to be applied to the rod as the tails work on the retrieve and drop. In fact you can hook these lures up to a normal worm hook and attach it to your normal running rig, cast it out and let it sit on the bottom. If you use a ball sinker above your swivel the rig will move around on the bottom in the current and a bean sinker will have it stay where you cast it.

Vibe lures are also another great lure to use and don’t be scared to use a bigger vibe lure to attract a bigger jewfish. Jewfish have a very large lateral line along their body and it is this amazing part of the fish that actually picks up movement and electrical energy in the dirtier water. The vibe lures and micro jigs are both very good lures for jewfish.

Big Flathead are a nice bycatch

Big Flathead are a nice bycatch

Don’t forget that when chasing after jewfish you do get a fair bit of by-catch as well. Big flathead are also caught when targeting jewfish but the most astonishing bream sometime get hooked up on your jewfish bait as well.

The best bit of advice I can give you is to try and keep a diary, be it electronic or like I do, a simple exercise book. There are some great free Apps that can be used to record everything whilst you are on your boat. One I like is “fishfeedr” and it’s free and easy to use.

Information that can be handy to record whether you catch fish or not are: date, time fished, tides, wind speed, wind direction, area fished (GPS co-ordinates are best), light conditions, moon phases, method of fishing, bait used that was successful, bait that was unsuccessful, fish caught, length, time of catching fish and rig used. You don’t have to be as thorough as above but you get the idea.

Recording days that were unsuccessful is as important as the recording those epic outings.

Well I hope that I have given you some tips and ideas for improving your chances when targeting those “silver ghosts”. Remember that you can do everything right but still not see a jewfish on many outings but with persistence and observing the surrounding conditions I am sure you will all get onto a few over the coming summer.

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