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Sydney Articles: Autumn Jewfish - By Craig McGill

Autumn Jewfish - By Craig McGill

April is usually the start of the tail end run of the jewfish season. We get two peak bites in the harbour, mid October to mid December and again in April to July. The early season run is characterized by school sized fish of 3 to 10kg and lots of them. They congregate in the lower reaches around the hard reef and sand bottom. The late season fish tend to be bigger but not in the same numbers and are found further up stream on the mud bottom. Every now and again, in the really wet years, i.e. 20012/13 they become fairly prolific right through the season. They are dirty and dark water hunting specialists so a big flush of dirty water from the rivers gets them fired up along the coast. We have a great run of fish now on the close reefs, beaches and lower harbours and estuaries. Veteran northern beaches jewfisherman, Pete Johnson, warned me to get ready for a big run this year and he wasn't mistaken.
Jewfish have adapted very well to the type of manmade structures found in the harbour. They love shade and a break in the current while they are not feeding, so the likes of deep water jetties, marinas, wrecks and bridges provide ideal holding grounds for them. The down side is that they are more sensitive to noise and commotion than some of our other common big predators so keep your approach as quiet as possible.
They are probably the hardest of all fish to crack the code for consistent success. Here are a few tips that should make it a bit easier.
Your best bites will occur, at this time of year, when the wind is blowing NW and then swings SW or S. In other words, just before a front. It's a narrow window of opportunity. It doesn't seem to matter too much whether it's overcast or bright and sunny. Of course this is not the only time they feed, it's just the best.

The turn of the high and the first hour and a half is the prime time. The turn of the low and the first hour and a half of the run in is your next best bet. This is the time of least tidal flow and reflects Jews lazy nature.
Jew have two areas where you might find them. Their holding grounds and their feeding grounds. As an example of this imagine a wreck sitting on barren sand or mud bottom in the harbour, where jew are holding. On the turn of the tides they will come out of cover and make their way to food rich kelp beds or break wall to feed. The wreck is the holding ground and the kelp bed / break wall is the feeding ground.
Being in the vicinity of holding structure gives you your best shot at these fish. They will pass by your offerings as they make their way out to the feeding grounds and again as they make their way back. Obviously they will be hungrier on their way out than when they return after a feed so therefore right on the turn of the high or low, when they first make their move out is the ultimate time to be near holding cover. You will catch good jew during the day if all conditions are right.
Divers tell me Jews hang in wrecks, caves, ledges, pylons and under marinas. Sometimes they can be found under coastal shelves in very shallow sudsy water. They are different to kings who hang around structure for reference, food and shade Jews actually like to get inside the structure for security. This doesn't mean that they ambush feed from here though. Their feeding is done when they move out and onto richer grounds as detailed above
Don't always assume that the structure needs to be deep either. I know of at least one patch of washy, knarly bombies, within casting distance from the shore, that produces Jew up to 40lb and sit in less than 15ft of water.

The worst week is the week after and including the night of the full moon. The best weeks are the lead up to the full and new moon. It's no co-incidence that the perfect tides during these periods fall early morning and late afternoon in low light conditions.

There are a number of baits you can use for Jew but the most important factor for all of them is freshness.
We picked up a 52 lb Jew the other day and a few minutes later a King fish of about 60cm or 2.5 kg. Out of interest I wanted to see how the king fitted into the jews mouth and was surprised to find that it didn't even touch the sides. Don't be scared to put out really big baits if you are after big jew. They have a huge mouth so they can eat big prey
If you want to catch quality jew consistently you are going to have to master squid fishing. Squid are the number one bait and all the really good jew fishos that I know are also gun squid fishos. Don't make the mistake of trying to find a way around this. Sashimi quality squid go for about $40. Kg and they are the closest you will get to an alternative. My formula is that the squid has to be back in the water, as bait, max 6 hours after it was caught -- not bought.
Even on the beach, where you wouldn't expect to find squid, they still rate as the top bait. Other good baits include large live baits like tailor and mullet but you will need to come up with a good method of controlling them or you can end up in an awful tangle, especially at night.
Big fillets of the above mentioned fish (leave the head on one side and the tail on the other) are also good. Most of the bigger Jewies and kings that I catch have silver biddies in their gut so if you can find a way to catch them then they are obviously great bait too.
When the fish takes the bait hit it immediately. A lot of people recon you should let them run before striking but in my experience this looses more fish than it catches.
If a big fish swims off with your bait there is only one place he can be holding it and that is in his mouth. If your hook is in the bait then it too is in the fish's mouth. If the hook is in the fish's mouth then I can't imagine why you would want to do anything other than strike.

It hasn't been a great season for kingfish from a numbers perspective but for the trophy hunters it's been a pearler. The big fellas like the deeper water spots like north and south head, Watsons bay, Neilson Park, Clifton gardens and some middle harbour spots. They also like the tides with a bit of run in them. Watch your tide chart for periods of big variation between high and low. A big high doesn't necessarily equate to a lot of run if the low is a high low. New and full moons tend to produce the best tides. Best baits are fresh squid and cuttlefish. The guts of a big squid are the number one bait and will often out fish a live squid.


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Pending World Record Black Bass

Papuan Black Bass are renowned the world over as the toughest pound for pound freshwater fish in the world, and the place to find the biggest Black Bass is PNG's Gulf province. The current all tackle world record Black Bass of 46lbs, and the fish pictured (caught on 19/6/14, by Stuart Reid, Fishabout) which is the pending world record at 50lbs, were both caught from these rivers.

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Sunset at Endyalgout

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