Winter jewfish – Cody Hochen 2015

The winter chill has finally arrived, and you know what that means? Jewfish! This silver ghost is the number one predator lurking in estuaries at the moment throughout South East Queensland (SEQ).


Other than snapper, jewfish are the most sought after fish for the serious fisherman during the colder months. Specifically targeting these fish is not for the faint hearted and it takes serious dedication and skill to consistently produce results. Donning three jumpers, a beanie, ugg boots while fishing all hours of the night or very early in the morning are what chasing jewfish is all about. In the end it’s all worth it when you feel that tell-tale thump and line being peeled off your reel with the unmistakable first run of a big jewfish.

Over the last few years jewfish numbers have exploded in SEQ. I put this mostly down to the increasing of their size limit to 75cm about 6 years ago. Since this increase, targeting these fish has become very popular, particularly amongst lure fisherman. About a year after the size limit increase, small jewfish became abundant throughout many SEQ estuaries. Early morning sessions in the Brisbane River resulted in double figures of 50cm – 75cm fish on a number of occasions. One particular fish around 60cm was so ravenous it ate both my lure and my deckie’s at the same time. Needless to say, there was an argument as to who had actually caught fish. Caboolture, Noosa, Maroochy Rivers and the Seaway and Jumpinpin also had large numbers of these small to medium fish schooled up in deeper holes and structure throughout the systems.

Six years later there are still plenty of school size fish around, but those smaller fish from six years ago are now beautifully conditioned jewfish around the one metre mark. Prominent deeper systems such as Jumpinpin, Southport Seaway and Brisbane River predominately hold most of these larger fish. Large schools have also ventured into Moreton Bay and are regularly captured around most artificial reefs and the bay islands such as Peel and Mud. Large schools can be easily sounded up around West Peel Artificial Reef when they are around, which is great to see. This artificial reef consists of 341 reef balls that were installed by the Queensland Government since2010. Over the last three years this area has been producing outstanding numbers of jewfish and snapper due to the additional habitat the reefs provide.

Like with most species, the tide is a very important factor for success when targeting jewfish. They are best targeted around one and a half hours each side of a tide change. This is partly due to them being a relatively lazy fish, but mostly to do with the deeper areas and areas of strong current where they are targeted. Moon phases also play a role when it comes to catching jewfish. I like to base my fishing trips specifically around targeting jewfish 2 to 3 days before a full or new moon, combined with an early morning tide change.

Before you even consider targeting a species you need to do your research and work out the best place to catch your target species. Tackle shops are great outlets for getting expert advice. My first jewfish experience was off the back of advice from Charlton’s Fishing about nine years ago. After purchasing a packet of white 7 inch Atomic Plazo Jerk Minnows and ¼ ounce jigheads, a plan was set.

Here’s how it happened… I woke up early the next morning for a solo session at Jumpinpin. I launched at Jacobs Well boat ramp an hour before low tide with high anticipation. Right on first light I cruised up to my chosen location under the power of the Minn Kota. I cast the white Atomic and jighead about five metres past the drop off. I proceeded to hop the lure back to the boat. As I worked the lure over the drop off and into the deeper water I felt a slight bump. I struck, not knowing what to expect. Within seconds I had some serious weight and drag peeling off my 2500 Shimano Sedona. Knowing that I had a serious fish and that there were snags littered through the area, I drew the fish away from danger with the electric motor. After what felt like 100 metres (but more like 40) had disappeared off my reel I started to make some ground on the beast below. After five minutes of to-ing and fro-ing up popped my target: a good size jewfish. Netting the large jewfish was easier than I thought and I soon had one metre of silver beauty lying on the deck of the Quintrex. To say I was happy was an understatement. To this day that is my PB jewfish.

The two systems where I mostly fish for jewfish are Jumpinpin and the Brisbane River. Both systems demand different techniques, but are relatively easy to fish and consistently produce quality jewfish as well as plenty of other species.


To fish Jumpinpin there are two techniques I use for jewfish. The first involves targeting jewfish that use the drop-offs and sunken timber to ambush baitfish. These areas are generally shallower and around the edge of the channels near the mouth in anywhere from 3 – 7 metres of depth. As these areas are relatively shallow when it comes to targeting jewfish the best time to target these area are at first light. The aim is to target the drop-offs and sunken timber with 5 – 7 inch paddle tail softplastics, casting up current and slowly hopping them back to the boat. One of the best softplastics with a great action is the six inch McArthy Paddle Tail Saltwater Bait. Jighead size depends on the current but generally anything from ¼ – ¾ ounce will suffice. It is vital to make sure you choose a jighead that allows the softplastic to naturally fall through the water column rather than plummet to the bottom. Around a tide change a ¼ ounce jighead is enough to produce a natural presentation.

The second technique involves drifting the channel at the mouth of Jumpinpin by vertically jigging large softplastics as you are drifting with the current. Using a sounder to find schools of fish and bait allows particular areas to be targeted by directly dropping plastics into the school. Large jigheads from ¾ – 1 ounce are needed for this fishing style. I prefer to use 6 – 8 inch curly tail or jerkshad softplastics with this technique. Large paddle tail soft plastics usually provide too much resistance to vertical jig and retain contact with the bottom, so are often overlooked with this method.

When fishing these areas I use a spinning outfit consisting of a medium sized rod matched with a 4000 size reel spooled with 20lb braid. Smaller gear can be used, but be aware that there are jewfish in excess of 1.3 metres lurking in these areas and they can take some stopping. Sharks also plague the mouth of Jumpinpin and a prolonged fight on light tackle increases your odds of a beautiful jewfish unnecessarily being sharked. There is some serious sunken timber at the mouth of Jumpinpin so I recommend using a 30lb – 40lb leader to provide abrasion resistance.

Brisbane River

The Brisbane River is a totally different system compared with Jumpinpin and therefore it requires a different approach. Natural drop-offs and sunken timber are replaced with man-made structure such as wharves, pylons, rock walls and continually dredged channels and drop-offs.

The Brisbane River has such an abundance of structure, so it is vital to sound areas to find fish and bait. When a school of bait or fish is found, the use of an electric motor for positioning downstream as well as and peppering the area with soft and hard vibes such as Threadybusters and paddle-tail softplastics, are very successful techniques. Letting the lure sink to the bottom and hopping it back to the boat is another helpful technique. If bait or fish are scattered, drifting through the area and casting to the edge of wharves, pylons and rock walls with vibes is a great way to search for jewfish.


Another method for catching jewfish in the Brisbane River is used when fishing in low light conditions. At night and very early in the morning, jewfish turn into a completely different beast. The shy silver ghost that doesn’t venture far away from the school, structure or hole during the day comes out to hunt at night. Using lightly weighted softplastics around rock walls, structure and lighted areas at night can produce some outstanding sessions. Fishing around lighted wharves at night with lightly weighted 4 inch curly-tail paddle-tail and prawn style softplastics is the most exciting way to target these species. Softplastics such as Zman Curlytailz and Shrimpz, Atomic Prongs and Zerek Live Shrimp are just a few lures that will produce fish. The lights attract various baitfish, which of course attracts larger predators such as jewfish. It is common to see them smashing bait off the surface. When they are feeding in this manner they can be caught off shallow diving hardbody lures and even surface lures. Despite the freezing conditions this is the most exciting time to target this species.

As the fish are feeding in the top half of the water column it is imperative to be quiet and not spook the fish. Turning off the engine 100 metres from the chosen wharf and approaching under the power of the electric motor will not disturb the feeding fish. Using an electric motor sparingly at least 30 metres away from the wharf will also improve your success. A splash of a lure definitely attracts jewfish and quite a few hits come as the lure hits the water so be prepared to strike. There are many lit areas throughout the Brisbane River all the way past St Lucia; therefore, moving from light to light will help you to find the fish. As well as jewfish there are also plenty of threadfin salmon feeding in the same area.  

When fishing for jewfish in the Brisbane River I tend to fish a little bit lighter than at Jumpinpin. I usually use a medium sized baitcaster combo or a 3000 spinning outfit spooled with 15lb braid. A leader of 20lb – 30lb will usually suffice, as the average fish is between 70 – 95cm. Jewfish seem to be very responsive to white lures. It is usually the first coloured lure I tie on, especially when fishing in low light conditions.

When fishing both Jumpinpin and Brisbane River for jewfish there is an opportunity to tangle with many different species. Regular bycatch includes threadfin salmon, flathead, snapper, mangrove jack, estuary cod, trevally, tailor, kingfish and sharks. A session either side of the tide can have you tangle with at least 3-4 different species.

Jewfish are a fish that will make you work hard. In hindsight, catching a one-metre jewfish on my first cast, when I first targeted them was 95% luck and maybe 5% skill. This is one of my most memorable captures and will never be forgotten. When you receive the tell-tail bump and then the first big run of a jewfish, all those freezing hours are worth it once you see the silver flanks of a jewfish lying on your deck.