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How To Catch Mulloway (Jewfish)

Last updated 30/04/2015

Mulloway at Davenport Creek Beach, South Australia

Barely legal sized mulloway. Small but nonetheless satisfying.

Mulloway, or jewfish as they are called over east, are an iconic and elusive fish of the southern half of Australia. They’re one of the biggest fish within reach of the land based angler, and being a great feed too makes these a highly desirable target species. Like the barramundi, some anglers spend years trying to fulfill their ambition to catch a big mulloway. In fact mulloway even look similar to barra – beautiful silver flanked sides, the concave shape running down towards the head and the big paddle like tail. Both barramundi and mulloway are a handsome species of fish and together form two thirds of the Holy Trinity, with Australian Salmon making up the final species.

Like many, I thought catching mulloway was beyond my grasp. I’m the type of fisherman where fishing involves more time relaxing, drinking beer, and talking crap with your mates than it does actually fishing. Elusive mulloway were the domain of specialist hard core land based fisherman. Specialist fisherman who rock up to the beach in jumpsuits like they’re in the special forces, with specialist gear and fancy rigs specially designed for targeting mulloway. These mulloway specialists are such expert fisherman that they use tailor for bait. They can catch so many tailor with such reliability that tailor is relegated to mulloway bait. For me, tailor is a prize catch!

Fishing for mulloway does present opportunities for you to refine your gear and techniques if that’s the way you want to go. These special arrangements will improve you’re chances of landing a big mulloway. That doesn’t mean the average Joe can’t give it a go! This article is targeted at the average Joe. Your typical part time amateur fisherman who does a little bit of fishing and a whole lot of relaxing when going on fishing trips. So I wont be going into any optimized setups or specialist techniques, there’s heaps of information already on that. The purpose of this article is to give the average lazy fisherman like me a chance to catch a mulloway.

Time of Day

This is the most important factor in my opinion when it comes to targeting mulloway. If you want to catch mulloyway, you need to be fishing at night and you need to put in some hours. From the time the sun sets to as late as you are able to go – this is mulloway feeding time. If you’re not a mad keen fisherman you may not find the prospect of night fishing enjoyable. Make it enjoyable. Come well prepared with warm clothing and good torches. Bring the camping chairs out. Bring an esky full of your favourite drink. Put some music on. Build a fire and have a beachside bbq for dinner. The fire will also help keep away the bugs that come out at night. Fishing at night doesn’t mean being cold and uncomfortable. Turn your night time mulloway fishing session into a relaxing evening by the sea. A beach you can drive on is best because it means you can really set up comfortably with your vehicle. Make yourself as comfortable as possible so you’re more likely to be persistent throughout the night rather than giving up.

Good lighting helps with night fishing. I have an LED work light permanently mounted on the side of my roof rack that I put there especially for night fishing. It doesn’t use much power so I can use it all night. I point it towards the water when night fishing. Apart from generally helping with fishing duties, it means I can approach the water without feeling nervous. I can see the waves coming in, I can avoid getting wet by an incoming wave, which keeps me comfortable and warm. A head torch is also handy.

Put in some good night fishing hours and you’re already most of the way to catching a mulloway.

Suzuki Sierra camping, mulloway fishing

Set up for a big night of fishing for mulloway.

Habitat

Mulloway can be found in many parts of the ocean, estuaries and rivers, but in my opinion you’re most likely to find them on a sandy surf beach. A sandy, open beach exposed to the surf. So if you want to catch mulloway find yourself a sandy surf beach. I don’t have much experience targetting mulloway in other habitats so I’ll focus on beach fishing.

Mulloways love to feed in gutters running parallel to the beach. Gutters are simply deeper areas of water along the coast. Gutters are not unusual or special. You’d be surprised how much surf beach has a slightly deeper area running parallel to the beach. It’s not amazingly deep or particularly significant. You’ve probably swam in gutters and noticed the water depth becoming slightly shallower as you go further from shore. To find a gutter, look for deeper, darker water, and areas where breaking waves reform and become flatter and wider. Gutters can be right on the shore, surprisingly close, and can also be further out at a distance that is too far to cast to. Find a gutter you can cast to and target it with your casts. Doesn’t have to be right in the deepest part. Also try closer to the shore and try further away from the deepest point. Avoid areas with seaweed. Even during the day seaweed is a major pain. At night it’s very difficult to negotiate and will make your fishing experience unpleasant. Seaweed will cause you to give up prematurely.

The diagram below shows a cross sectional view of a beach with a gutter. The gutter is where you will catch mulloway. Even gutters very close to the shore are productive.

gutter for catching mulloway

This is where a beach that you can drive on is perfect. You’re able to cover a lot more beach in search of a good spot. Cruise along, find your spot, and set up shop ready for a mulloway catching session.

Bait

You don’t need specially presented live or freshly caught bait to catch mulloway. Mullies / pilchards work well. The same old bait you’d use for usual surf fishing. Find a gutter and throw your mullie into it. Mulloway will also devour lures, especially soft plastics, but for a land based fisherman bait is the best bet.

Rigs

I catch mulloway on standard surf rigs. A set of gang hooks on a wire trace and a star sinker to keep the rig out in the surf. No special arrangements, no sliding sinkers, no dedicated live bait setups. Slap my mullie or pilchard on and throw it in. Wire trace is handy in case you hook up a shark. Sharks also feed at night so there’s a good chance of hooking up a shark when you’re targeting mulloway. Some people believe a wire trace leads to fewer hookups because fish don’t like them. I’ve had success with wire traces but you might consider using some heavy duty mono to terminate your hooks if you feel it gives you better odds.

You want your rig to hold the bait close to the bottom. Mulloway feed mostly near the bottom.

Bring rod holders. I use PVC piping shoved into the sand. Cast your bait out, put your rod in the rod holder and sit back in your chair. If you’re set up nicely, this style of fishing is very relaxing and not very demanding. Reel in to check your bait every now and then. Keep an eye on your rod. That’s it. Let it hang out in the surf and enjoy the night. Using this technique you can use more than one rod to improve your chances. Hang out a couple of rods, leave them in rod holders, sit back and relax.

If you’re leaving your rod unattended you have the risk of the line getting slack and it forming a big tangled mess. The last thing you need is a tangled mess to destroy your motivation. Use a star sinker heavy enough to suit the conditions and keep an eye on the line to avoid it getting too slack. Mono line works better in these conditions, as it’s less susceptible to forming birds nests. If your reel is spooled with braid, attach several meters of mono to use as a leader. Make sure you add enough length of mono so that, when casting, the rod is relaxed by the time the knot passes through the guides, otherwise the knot will violently smack into the guides as it passes through, wearing out the knot and guides.

Casting distance can be an issue when fishing for mulloway if the gutter is far from shore. The braid spooled reel with mono leader is a good setup for casting distance. You get the advantage of light, further casting line from the braid and the improved tangle resistance of mono. Mono line is also more abrasion resistant and provides some shock absorption which reduces the risk of a break off.

For casting distance you want a large surf rod, with oversized guides which help reduce friction as line spools off your reel. You want your reel filled to capacity to reduce the amount of lip that the line has to pass over when spooling off.

Breakaway casting sinkers can be used to improve casting distance and help you cast deep into mulloway catching territory. These sinkers hold your hooks captive during the cast. This prevents the tumbling action you usually get between hook and sinker when casting, minimizing wind resistance and maximizing energy transfer to linear momentum. Net result is further casting. The impact with the water causes the sinker to release the hooks, after which it behaves like a normal hook and sinker arrangement.

Moon and Tide

I’ve never taken notice of the moon or tide when fishing for mulloway. Based on personal experience I’m not sure what gives you the best odds. I know that not fishing because the tides or moon aren’t ideal according to someone’s opinion gives you pretty poor odds of catching a fish. In fact your chances are zero.

I think I read in a book once that rising or high tide is best, and around new moon.

Season

Summer, and closely either side of summer, is the best time for mulloway. That’s also the best time for night fishing. Perfect.

After Hookup

Mulloway are strong fighters when fresh on the hook. They tire quickly but you need to give them room at first to prevent breaking off. If you’ve hooked a big one you also risk breaking off when pulling it up the beach through the waves. The drag from the backwash can break you off so take care. Try to pull it in with the help of a wave, then use a gaff or grab it by the trace to pull it up the beach.

Eating

Mulloway are delicious. Mild flavoured, soft, tender white meat. Smaller ones are not ideal – they are called soapies due to their soapy texture. Medium sized fish are called schoolies and are the perfect size for eating. The legal minimum size of mulloway in Western Australia at the time of writing this is 50cm. Any mulloway above this size is fine for eating – 50cm is borderline soapy / schoolie territory. Mulloway freezes well and will last a few months in the freezer.

Davenport Creek Beach, South Australia

The morning after a successful night of mulloway fishing. It’s hard to tell from this shot, but there is a gutter running along the beach. It’s very common on surf beaches.

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See also:

How to Catch Australian Salmon

How to Catch Squid

How to Catch Barramundi

How to Drive on Sand

Our Fishing Setup for Touring / Camping

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38 thoughts on “How To Catch Mulloway (Jewfish)

  1. Thanks heaps 4 that info I’m yet 2 catch one
    I have been using a sliding sinker rig with a
    60pound leader but I keep getting bit off they
    Nearly spooled me I always use big bait
    How do u rig em pannanosta set up? I always
    Use 2 hooks and I’m wondering how 2 do
    That on that set up,other wize I will get
    A wire trace for my slider rig.i so hope I catch
    One this year,anyway thanks 4 ya tips.

    • Hey mate I don’t know the proper name of the rig I use I just call it a surf rig. I use a mullie or pilchard on gang hooks. I suppose I should update the article with more specifics on the rig, will do that one day. Hope you’ve landed yourself a big one!

      • thanks, matie! I am same type of angler as you, love chatting night out with my mates and I don’t live my whole life for catching one fish. but as catching a fish is also a great fun and keeps my wife happy when she eats ’em. sometimes when another night failed to bring fish I thought I must have done something wrong, but i do exact same thing you do and your articles give me hope. all the best and good luck.

      • There’s always hope. Using”fishing” to justify some beer time with mates is an excellent ploy but like you say if you come home empty handed it looks bad on your resume when you’re applying for future fishing prospects. As a backup you could buy a whole fish from somewhere on the way home.

  2. Just caught a 1.2m mulloway off the Broome jetty with a prawn tail for bait out going tide

    • Woa nice work, prize catch. That would be a black jewfish I think, close relative of the mulloway, it would be rare to get a mulloway that far north. Nevertheless highly prized. Good eating too.

  3. Nice write up. I personally really enjoy the banter that goes on between fisherman about how to catch jewies. I’ve been beach fishing every couple of months for about 3 years and landed only one jew about 75cm, people I’ve been fishing with have landed some monsters but still it’s a special occasion when someone lands one off the beach – so for us at least it’s a rare and exciting catch.

    Beach fishing is great fun, throwing your line out into the surf you never know what you’ll find. Particularly exciting at night if you ask me

    • Yeah I agree beach fishing is great fun and good social occasion. I’ve only caught a few mulloway or jews myself. They can be hard to get. But there are a few remote spots on the south coast of oz where you can catch schoolies fairly reliably.

  4. Great read mate cheers!

  5. Thanks for making all that info on fishing for mulloway, do you have any suggestions for fishing the swan river for mulloway? I have tried a few times without any luck and i have to use fresh baits other wise the blowies and grunted strip it clean. Also should I berly up if so what with?

    • Hey dude yeah there’s heaps of blowies in the swan so fresh bait is a must, not so much on open surf beaches. Apart from fishing at night and putting in long hours I don’t have anything to offer. Never targeted mulloway in the swan or anywhere apart from surf beaches. I remember reading about some good spots in the swan but can’t recall exactly where.

      • There is no right or wrong way,bait time or rig for catching Mulloway in the Swan River.
        Location wise anywhere I guess but from personal experience Canning Bridge to Applecross have produced good size fellas. 60lb on one occasion and several around the 10lb .
        Fair Dinkum on one night chopper tailor consumed the mulies so in desperation out came a piece of roast lamb from the sanga and it produced a 12pounder.!!!!

      • Yo Reg I aint never fished the Swan for mulloway. Good for mulloway you say. I reckon I’ll try one day seeing as I live in Perth it seems pretty convenient to try. Cheers for your comment!

  6. i think you have hit the nail on the head about making it as comfortable as you can ‘that is me in a nut shell’ fish all night and give your self a chance in landing the whopper i find that when every one has given up and gone home for some reason you seem to jag them ,maybe because yours is the only bait still out there.any way mate i enjoyed reading your blog .ANDREW

  7. great article, reckon your spot on when it comes to simplicity. just rig up and slap on the mullie, i have caught myself heaps of Mulloway this way. best thing as well, dont cast to far! cheers.

  8. Great write up, The simple basic rig is best but for variation we have used snapper snatchers and just normal surf rigs with poppers and have hooked up on mulloway. We also are great believers in making an event of it and we have spent many summer nights on the beach at the Coorong in our chairs with the camp oven on the coals, having a few wines waiting for the grey ghosts to come on the bite. Don’t put to much thought in to it, and just enjoy the fact you can get out there. Put the baits out there and the fish will come. Our biggest ghost was 82cm and our best effort was 28 in one weekend (mostly soapies). Hoping to break the 1 metre mark soon.

    • Hey Ren yeah a big night fishing with your mates on the beach is great. And if you land a couple of mulloway then it’s a bonus. You have caught many more mulloway then me and bigger too. Remote areas of south Australia seem pretty awesome for mulloway. A one meter mulloway would be tremendous. Good luck!

  9. Took a quick trip along a few k of beach today looking for a good trough. Found a smallish one that might give up a Tailor or Kingie [ mulloway]tomorrow.
    See what the day brings.Cheers OBJ

  10. OBJ You could always try around Blackwall Reach. Its about 20 metres deep in those parts so get a spot on the rise and you would have a half reasonable chance. GOOD LUCK.

  11. Hey mate I just read this article and I don’t agree with much of it. As far as mulloway go the fresher the bait the better. You will catch a hungry one on pillies but if your mate had a fresh bait on you could be pretty sure he will get smacked first. As far as night time goes I have caught 2 over 30 lb at night but all the big fish we have hooked during the day. The best advice I can give is big hooks, strong tackle, FRESH bait and deep water that is near structure. They are not easy fish to catch and you need everything on your side to give yourself a shot at landing one

    • Hey Red I agree with your advice and think following it will improve the odds. That info is posted everywhere in the traditional how to catch mulloway guides but this article is more for the lazy amateur like myself.

      There ain’t no structure on the open surf beaches which are the focus of this article. All my mulloways have been caught at night on a pilchard / mullie in gutters on open surf beaches.

  12. Sometimes fresh bait is not always available so commercially frozen baits are the only option until a salmon comes along and snaps up your pilly, then presto fresh salmon fillets on the hooks.

    Recent studies have also shown that winter river mulloway tend to migrate to open ocean and deeper bays during the late spring early summer to spawn. This provides the opportunity to catch some big ones on open surf beaches in gutters close to shore (no structure here). As they are expending considerable energy migrating to these new waters they are more prone to be opportunistic eaters and the freshness of the bait isn’t as critical. If it’s there and it’s edible they will take it aggressively as they need to keep fuelling themselves.

    That’s why having a range of baits in the water as much as you can is your best strategy to catch one as they swim past. As there is no structure they wont hang around so you have to be there with a bait.

    Mulloway caught and tagged in the Glenelg river (Nelson Vic)) in winter have then have been caught months later in the Murray mouth during the hotter seasons. These fish have then been re caught in the Glenelg river the following winter. That partially explains why fishermen are fishing the river systems in the middle of winter.

    After 12-15 days a year at the Coorong in SA every year for the past 17 years and a lot of googling, they are still a mystery and hard to catch. But that is why they are such a prize.

    Ren

  13. G’day mate. I’m a bit like you regarding rigs. The last time I caught a fish it was too bloody stupid to realise it had been caught on the wrong type of rig. 😱

    Fish are interested in the bait and how it’s presented. Just like humans. They’re more interested in their dinner, than the type of plate it’s served on.

    Good fishing….Daryl

  14. Pointing lights toward the surf at night … Big no no , lighting fires on the beach also a no no . The only time you will catch Jewys with light is under bridges because that light has become natural habitat after many years . Lights on the beach is a serious way not to catch Jewys . Also mullet and pilchards are terrible bait unless your targeting Taylor to throw on when the serious gear comes out . This article has no factual information other than fishing a gutter . Iv caught hundreds of Jewys and I’m telling you all now if you wanna sit around with quiet reels follow this guys info closely

    • Hey Jim I think you missed the point of the article, which is for the average part time fisherman to get some basics right. I haven’t caught as many mulloway as you but they have all been on pilchards with a fire and lights, immediately invalidating what you suggest. Obviously there’s heaps of room to optimise the process, that pursuit is never ending. It’s on a spectrum, I pick my point on the spectrum, you pick yours. Everyone’s happy. We all catch fish.

      No need to take your fishing so seriously dude. It’s about having fun, not about perfecting your vision of ideal mulloway fishing. You can just say “You’ll probably catch more with better bait and no lights” rather than being a turkey. How are you defining your “factual information”? Everything that is your opinion?

  15. Thanks for the informative article outbackjoe, I will be giving all of your tips a go very soon at the local estuary. I just hope frozen baits will work as live baits are hard to come by.

  16. Good Read I love surf fishing at night haven’t done for years going with my Son this week heading down through Robe/Kingston South Australia. Let you know how we go but we are just the average joe fisherman.

  17. Great post Joe, New Moon Thursday, tides are perfect. Sit back and relax sounds good with Lagers, i am there Dude!

  18. Daly Head in S.A. is a great Jewie spot. No driving on the beach, down the steps you go so fish light in carry gear. Small whole Octopus is my bait of choice. Find your gutter of choice from top of the stairs and fish your stress away, if Jews are absent Salmon, Snapper, Flatties or Mullet will fill your creel. Yes we get SNAPPER in the surf at Daly’s

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