Fishing for Jewfish in the Hawkesbury River
Catching a big jewfish is the ambition of many anglers who fish this area. Broken Bay & the Hawkesbury River have long been known as prime areas to land a large Jewfish. The large jewfish are still there but not in the numbers they used to be. Still if you concentrate on nailing a large jewfish it will happen sooner or later its just a matter of putting in the time & effort. Big jewfish don't come along every day so patience really is a virtue.
Jewfish are around pretty well all year round. They tend to be a bit few & far between in July & August but the rest of the year they are about. The warmer months are definitely the best & I have had my best catches of jewfish in February , March & April. Especially during the period where the moon is rising from half through to the full moon
I generally fish for Jewfish in the same areas I fish for bream. To name a few Juno Point, Walker Point, Gunyah Beach & Flint & Steel & the bait reef at West Head. You could of course never mention the Hawkesbury & Jewfish without bringing up the Road & Rail bridges many a huge jewfish fish has come from these! Anywhere you can find a good eddy caused by the tidal movement is a good place to look. The jewfish will move from one area to another with the tide so don't just sit on one spot move around & look for them. One hour in spot is enough if the jewfish are there you will get a chance if it is slow move you need to cover a bit of ground.
I generally use 15 kilo line on rods for Jewfish. I stick with an overhead outfit for this type of fishing but quality thread lines are fine. Any reel that holds 300 meters of 15 kilo line is OK & I normally use my Shimano Speedmaster overhead . A very versatile reel. I may be a bit old fashioned but I use a couple handlines as well. I use one of 25 kilo line & another of 37 kilo. I know that sounds heavy but you need something to grip when a big jewfish is on & especially if you are up around the bridges fishing or at Juno you need to put the muscle right on the fish to stop them going through the pylons or at Juno around the point. As for all fishing your tackle needs to be in good condition. Don't forget to have a nice SHARP gaff on board. Any decent jewfish is to big for a landing net & I would not recommend gilling jewfish to the inexperienced.
Top quality bait is a MUST if you want to consistently catch good size jewfish. The old saying " fresh is best, live is better" is a good one to keep in mind. We are talking BIG baits as well so a fair bit of effort goes into getting the bait. In my opinion live or fresh cut squid are the No.1 bait. If you are using dead squid baits they need to be fresh. Your fresh squid needs to have that brownish colour about it. If it has that pinkish tinge about it you are pretty well wasting your time. Other top live baits for jewfish are Slimey mackerel, tailor plus mullet during the colder months & of course yellowtail. For flesh baits for jewfish I prefer striped tuna , Slimey mackerel , tailor during the warmer months & fresh mullet during the winter. Live squid can be caught in Pittwater or Cowan over the weed beds using jigs & are well worth the effort. Slimey mackerel & yellowtail are available at West Head & at most bait areas in Pittwater or Cowan during summer. Schools of tailor are around Broken Bay during the warmer months & a few can be had at most of the fishing areas I mentioned by floating around a pilchard bait. I deliberately did not include pilchards as a Jew bait even though many good fish have been taken on them. They are a top bait for Jews but they just don't last long enough. Everything hits them & being soft you spend all your time putting baits on
Keep the rigs as simple as possible. One thing which is an absolute MUST when rigging up & baiting up is to ensure your baits do not bunch on your hooks & the complete bend & point MUST be clear. Failure to do this will mean missing 8 out of every ten jewfish. For hooks in flesh baits I use Mustad 540's in 8/0 & 10/0 for most baits but if I am using big fillets of 1/2 a kilo or so make it 12/0 to 14/0. For live baits I use the largest hook possible that does not destroy the appearance or movement of the bait. When using live squid I simply put a hook through the head about 25mm down from its point & with other live baits I prefer to hook them once BEHIND the dorsal fin. On flesh baits I put the hook through the fillet pulling the whole eye & a few inches of line through then push the point through from the skin side once then draw the line up tight so the hook shank is laying along the skin of the fillet then half hitch the line around the tip of the fillet. There are many ways of baiting up & every one has there own tricks but I stress again no matter how you do it take the time to make sure baits do not bunch up & foul the hook points. On my hand lines I do not use a heavier trace at all & if using 15 kilo gear I put a meter of 24 kilo trace just as a precaution. Jewfish have small teeth & are pretty harmless to line but your baits will be attacked by all number of toothy things like small tailor & bream & these can cause small nicks in the line. For sinkers I use the smallest ball sinker that will get the bait down & you will need to change it during a tide. Use the lightest lead possible & I prefer to have it running right down to the eye of the hook on flesh baits. When using live baits I use a swivel about 1 meter from the hook & have the lead running on the main line so the bait has some freedom of movement.
Tides & Times
Jewfish can be around at just about any stage of the tide but seem to be more active in the areas I mentioned during the run out tide. Still you need to try the run in as well as I have nailed a few during the run up & top of the tide as well. I prefer to fish at dusk & on into the night rather than the morning after all they are mainly a nocturnal feeder. I have done well in the last hour of light up to about 9 pm & after that all I seem to catch are grinners (sharks) big eels & assorted other bits of rubbish.
When I get to my chosen spot I like to get some berley out same as I would when bream fishing. Having a few fish feeding on berley helps attract jewfish as much as the berley itself. I prefer to fish 2 live baits on rods & 2 flesh baits on handlines. I set the live baits well back from the boat & the flesh baits in close as big livies tend to move around a bit with a light lead. When my live baits are set I leave the reel in free spool with the ratchet off. I adjust the spool tension so the live bait does not take line but there is a minimum of resistance if a jewfish moves off with the bait. With the baits on handlines I just form a small loop in the line & sit it under the lip of the hand caster & this stops the current peeling off line. When a jewfish moves in on a live bait generally the rod will start bouncing a bit as the bait starts to panic then there will be a couple bumps as it gets taken then the fish will move off with it. Wind the slack out of the line until you feel his weight & strike. Much the same with fish baits , let him get them down for a couple seconds then whack him. Don't let the fish run forever before striking it. A few feet is enough A point to remember when fishing for Jew is that quite a few runs you get will not be from jewfish. By that I mean the line will run off etc & when you strike you come up empty. This is when many people make the mistake of thinking the hooks are too big & so are the baits & change down to small hooks & baits. Problem is when they get a real jew bite they miss it because of the little hooks. Many runs on jewfish baits are caused by big bream & small jewfish & most of the time you will miss them. This is where you need to decide do you want to catch big Jews regularly or big bream & small jewfish. It is very hard to do both so you need to do one or the other. Sticking a bream bait out among the jewfish baits is asking for trouble. I have had jewfish pick up my little bream baits & take me either through the pylons at the bridges or around the point at Juno & cut me off. Stick to your game plan & nail a 25 kilo plus jewfish. When a jewfish is hooked they generally go hard for one run & that's about it , he may do a couple small runs after the first but they generally slow down pretty quick. If you get a hook up that's peeling line all over the place & making multiple long runs its probably just a grinner ( shark) & these will mostly bite you off. Sharks are behind most of the big jewfish that got away stories as are big rays. Anyhow when you get your jewfish to the boat they are normally very placid & often floating on their side or even belly up. Take your time to gaff him properly there is no rush. If he is upright alongside just place the gaff over his shoulder just behind the head & when the point touches him just a quick tug to drive it in. If he is upside down just put the gaff under his back & pull it in. Thin pointed gaffs work best & must be sharp remember jews have big thick scales. I generally don't drive it in until I feel the point has actually bitten through the scales. A lot of jews are lost at this stage by inexperienced gaff men. Take your time the fish are normally very docile & will stay that way for a while. I kill my fish with a hardwood club & doing this helps with the table qualities. If they are small enough to fit in my fish box I also ice them down as well. See pics below.
Jew fishing is fun & being a big silver fish they make great pose photos as well. I cut mine into cutlets to eat in preference to fillets I think they taste better that way. I use a knife & go along the fish on one side & make cuts about 25mm apart down to the back bone. I then put a meat cleaver against the bone & give it a whack with a mallet to sever the backbone & complete cutting through the meat with a knife. jewfish freezes well & a point to remember is with Jews is that size is important & bigger is definitely better. The larger the fish the better they eat. Good luck!
A couple Jewfish photos
A nice 25 kilo fish taken on Squid at Juno Point
A little Jewfish from Gunyah Point
4 Average Jewfish ready to be turned into cutlets