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Sydney Articles: JEWFISH by Craig McGill

JEWFISH  by Craig McGill

JEWFISH by Craig McGill.

The frequency at which recreational anglers catch a given species can lead us to jump to conclusions about their abundance. Take for example a veracious predator like the estuary cod. When we first fish a pristine waterway we could be excused for thinking that they are in plague proportions. But its not long till their numbers dwindle and all of a sudden we realize that what we had mistaken for abundance was actually the fishes overzealous acceptance of our angling methods. To highlight this , take the case of the Luderick. They are one of the most abundant species in the temperate zone of the east coast but if you don't fish with weed you could easily be excused for concluding that they are rare.

There's lots of fish that will pounce on a poorly presented prawn but other species require specific baits and techniques. There are strict formulas that need to be adhered to to consistently take some species and they rarely show up as by catch of ‘chuck and chance' fishos . Whiting and luderick are two examples of fish with very specific requirements to the point that if you are not meeting them then you might as well go home.
When it comes to targeting fish using specific techniques Jewfish present the ultimate challenge.

Over the 06 season my learning curve on jewfish rocketed , fast tracked by the help of some local experts , during the shooting of our new DVD ‘Local Knowledge'. The culmination of our efforts for the season was two 50lbers and two 70 lbers amongst others and the following article reveals the formula that lead to these captures


Squid is the ultimate jew bait
Ive given live baits more than a fair go. For years I swam live yackas along side my squid baits and the yakka never got taken by a decent jew . Some times we would have jewies on all three squid baits at the same time and the remaining yakka would go untouched. Then , land the jewies ,re bait with squid and drop them back down right next to the yakka and the squid would get hit almost instantly.
To drive the point home , let me fully clarify what went on below the surface. A large school of jewies moved in under my boat. There were four baits to choose from , three squid and one yakka. The jewies took all three squid and left the yakka alone. At this point you could be excused for thinking that there were only three jewies down there. But when we dropped another three squid baits down and caught another three jewies , it became obvious that there was a large school down there . Still the yakka remained untouched . The jewies ranged in size from three to six kg so they were more than capable of swallowing the yakka. This scenario was repeated on many occasions. I wont go as far as saying that jewies don't eat or like yakkas but I know for sure that if they have the choice they will always choose squid before yakka.
Of course if you only ever use yakkas then you will pick up the occasional fish. Yakkas do not get the school as frenzied as does squid. By using yakkas you will have fewer successful sessions and when the fish do show up you will get less fish in that session
It is very important at this point to clarify that when I talk about Squid Im definitely referring to squid that you have caught yourself and is no less than six hours dead .Preferably the squid should be kept alive until just before you cut it up
The best cuts are the head and the guts but the strips are also very good. Don't be scared to put out huge baits. Whole 1 kg squid are a snack for a big jewfish. Big baits are also easier for a big fish to

locate. Another advantage of huge baits is that if there are pickers around it takes them much longer to strip it down to nothing. This means your bait is in an attractive state to a big jew for longer when compared to small baits . Having pickers at your bait isn't necessarily a bad thing . Jewie expert , Jewie Jim Siarakas , says that he is always more confident when pickers are at the bait as he believes that it attracts the attention of the bigger fish.
Squeeze the ink sack on the gut just before lowering it to the bottom. The ink is your major source of burly .Be careful not to let the baits bunch up on the hook .
Live squid can be good baits but it is amazing just how many times jewies will ignore a live squid and choose the cut baits.
Presentation of baits is also critical. I used to be a strong advocate of suspending baits just (1m) off the bottom but a bit of time with Jewie Jim convinced me otherwise. Unlike kings , for which we would suspend baits midwater , Jews spend a lot of time feeding right on the bottom. They will even disturb sand and mud to uncover prey. This theory is based on gut content observation which has included eels , flathead , full size blue swimmer crabs , whiting and many other bottom dwellers. It also goes a long way toward explaining their occasional parasitic flesh worm infestations. A lot of the species that have worm infestations , including silver and golden trevally are also bottom sifters and it is my belief that they pick up the worms in this manner of feeding. Many larval worms first host is small crustaceans that live on the sea bed. Flesh worms , assuming that the flesh is properly cooked , are harmless to humans albeit somewhat grose in concept.
So put your big squid baits right on the bottom , the shallower the water , the further away from the boat the better.
Despite having changed my mind on suspending baits I have still had the odd occasion where a bait suspended for kings has been taken by a jew . Of a spread of six baits it is still worth having at lease one of those suspended .



15kg line should be ample. 25 kg would be appropriate if you are targeting really big fish. They are not as tough or nasty as kings but a big jew on a short run will bury himself in a cave or wreck or under a ledge
The choice of tackle is not critical but a threadline or overhead with a capacity of about 250 yards on a matching rod would be close to the mark . My personal choice is a Fin-nor ‘offshore' 6500 on matching ‘offshore' 50lb jig rod , loaded with 25kg Sufix braid.


The sinker should be big enough to hold the line on the bottom. It is put straight on the main line and a swivel is then tied to the end of the main line. A nylon trace of 25 to 40 kg and about 1.5 M long is then tied to the swivel. Finish off with a 5/0 to 10/0 hook depending on bait size.



Tides / Moon

Best tides are around the turn of the high and the first two hours of the run out. Second best tide is the turn of the low and the first two hours of the run in. Peak time for big fish is right on slack water.

I have caught jewies in the middle of the day on the right tides but the best times are when the high peaks early morning or late afternoon. You will find that this occurs around the full and new moons. New moon is best for early morning and into the day. Full moon is best for

late afternoon and into the night. The worst week is the week after and including the night of the full moon.


During daylight, jewies are less active and generally go into ‘holding' mode . Holding is basically a period where jewies don't do much and stay stationary. Jewies prefer to hold with their backs to some sort of structure and their eyes in the shade. I actually believe that they are resting at these times. I think that they like their backs to the structure to avoid attack from predators from behind
Ideal hang outs include, under deep water marinas ,boat moorings, bridges and jetties . Shelving rocks and caves found on the steep faces of reefs or headlands are also good spots. Wrecks that offer shelter are also worth a look. Areas where water eddies either horizontally or vertically are good signs as are deep holes and channels. Rocky shorelines that drop rapidly into deep water are good and if they occur off a point where there is some form of eddy, this is even better
Keep an eye on your sounder for steep drop offs, particularly if there appears to be overhangs on those drop-offs.
Jew have two areas where you might find them . Their holding grounds and their feeding grounds . As an example of this imagine a bombie just out behind a surf beach. On the turn of the tides they will come out of cover and make their way to a food rich surf gutter to feed . The bombie is the holding ground and the gutter 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 .
The jewfish that you will encounter feeding along the shore , near the rocks and in the beach gutters , will be on the move so you will need to act quickly if you want to pull more than one before they move on.

When to strike

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 fishes mouth. If the hook is in the fishes mouth then I cant imagine why you would want to do anything other than strike.
Talk of jewies swimming around with your bait in its lips, for a hundred meters, then spiting it out and sucking it back in again before swallowing it is just garbage.
They are a big , hungry and aggressive animal . They wolf a bait down aggressively and then if all is not right , go about the process of rejecting it. If Jewies fooled around with a bait like some people suggest they do it would be snatched off them by another fish before they knew what had hit them.
So the longer you give them without striking the greater the chance that they will reject it. The hook , line, swivel and sinker will feel unnatural to them and make the bait very hard to swallow. Even in free spool there will be some resistance from water pressure on the line and friction of the line going over the guides. Every second a fish has a bait in its mouth is another second it has to reject it.


I fish with the rod in the holder and the reel in gear with a normal drag setting. Ninty percent of the time the fish is hooked as soon as it takes the bait. My experience with letting fish run for long periods before striking is that you will drop most of them.
Once the fish is hooked then naturally it must be allowed to take line against your standard drag setting ,as with any fish .

Dirty water / depth

One of the most revealing tips that I picked up during the shooting of the DVD related to water quality and depth . We had scheduled a rock session with South coast expert Peter Rolf . I had envisaged a high flat ledge with clear blue water frontage . Instead we were taken to a low exposed platform with a shallow, sudsy façade . It was everything I imagined a jew ledge not to be. We pulled two jews over the half hour high slack water period , one 10 kg and one 20kg. What struck home here is that jews didn't mind shallow water providing that it was turbulent. Both fish were taken from less than 10 ft of water but visibility in that water was down to less than 1 foot leading me to conclude that the fish were not hunting by sight . We cant relate everything we know about fish to human perception. Jews love dirty water and they can see things in it that we couldn't . Clearly sight is not their primary sense in play in this situation


Two major factors influence Jews movement into the harbours and rivers in the cooler months . First is the return of the mullet from their spawning run to the beaches in May . Next the big squid move into

the coastal kelp beds for breeding. This is good news cause the squid , so critical for bait , are big and easy to catch.
To a lesser degree May /June is also a time for big and abundant tailor in the harbour . May ,June and July are your prime months but that's not to say that November through to May isn't worth a shot.
Both Peter Rolf and Jewie Jim agree that summer is the time for quantity and winter is the time for quality

In summary here is the formula and keep in mind you must have each one of these precise to score consistently

1 Bait - fresh squid -- big servings presented on the bottom
2 Tide - Turn of the high and the first hour of the run out ( lots of jewfish are caught right on the turn during the slack water period)
3 Moon - the week leading up to the full or new and more specifically three days before each. The worst week is the week after and including the night of the full moon
4 Time - early morning or late afternoon (you will see on your tide chart how well the above moon phases fit into this)
5 Location - deep water structures , holes and gutters (keeping in mind that they will come into shallow water at night or in murky water)
6 Water quality - prefer cloudy water but will hunt in clear water in low light conditions
7 Season - summer produces quantity and winter produces quality


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Pending World Record Black Bass

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Sunset at Endyalgout

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