SPORTFISHING with Al McGlashan: Jewfish

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Forget about cold nights at sea, writes Al McGlashan, jewfish can be targeted when the sun’s blazing.

SPORTFISHING with Al McGlashan: Jewfish
SPORTFISHING with Al McGlashan: Jewfish
Jewfish have long been considered a creature of the night, but spending long, cold nights trying to catch an elusive fish is an obscure definition of fun. Sure, I’ve done it a number of times, including in the heart of suburban Sydney for a television program to show how easy it really is, but in reality I much prefer the daytime.

There is no denying that jewfish are largely nocturnal in nature, but with a few cheeky tips you’ll still be able to land one while the sun is shining.

First and foremost, you’ll need a boat to take you to the exact spot where the jewfish are. During the day they tend to hide in caves, holes, ledges, wrecks and gutters but, to make matters more difficult, they only seem to like specific spots. Finding these locations is simply a matter of trial and error — the more you explore the more spots you’ll locate. One trick is to chat with divers and spearfishers who can give you the heads up on some jewie haunts.

Being an opportunistic feeder, jewfish will happily eat a bait or soft plastic, but you have to get it right on top of them. The logic is simple: if there’s a jar of lollies in front of you then you’ll probably eat them, but if they’re in the cupboard they’re safe — unless they’re your favourite. The same applies for jewfish. You need to get your offering right under their nose, which means some skilled boat handling. Setting up for the drift is paramount, and if you miss the spot by a few metres then you’ll catch zippo. This is not a game of "close enough is good enough" — you’re either hot or you’re not.

There is, however, a little trick you can employ to give you an advantage, and that is to offer something they cannot resist. In the case of bait a dead pilchard is hardly as tempting as a live, kicking yakka or a small squid pulsing in the current. Give them what they really want and they’ll come to you. Your best bet is to use nothing but livebait caught that day.

In terms of technique, I have found that drifting is usually the best option. Anchoring is great but positioning is so precise that you may spend too long realigning the boat, spooking the fish in the process.

The best rig for drifting with baits is a paternoster with a long dropper to the sinker to keep the bait well up off the bottom, avoiding snags. Alternately, a short leader will stop the bait tangling up — especially livebait, which obviously won’t be too happy about the situation. Even though jewfish have teeth, there is no need for heavy leaders.

Use your GPS and zoom right in on the plotter page so you can see your drift. When you get a fish, mark it on the GPS so you have reference points not just for that day but for when you fish that spot in the future. Here an electric motor is worth its weight in gold, especially if it’s got an inbuilt GPS.

Fishing for jewfish in daylight isn’t for everyone as it requires some serious dedication and many hours on the water, but when you see that chrome flank of silver pop up beneath the surface it’s suddenly all worthwhile.


In New South Wales jewfish are in trouble thanks to the absurd size limit imposed by the authorities. Jewfish first spawn at around 70cm, yet the New South Wales limit is just 45cm. This is madness, and what makes it even worse is that a small group of commercial fishers are the ones fighting against an increase in the size limit. All fish should have the chance to spawn as this is a basic principle of conservation.

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