How to

Get down deep for Jewies

Over the past few years I’ve written a couple of articles for Fisho on mulloway, including targeting them in the surf and from breakwalls.

One area I haven’t touched on until now is targeting them in the deeper water inside estuaries. These areas can be extremely productive places to score jewfish of all sizes from soapies to absolute monsters.

In NSW just about all the major estuary systems feature holes, channels, basins and submerged structure in 20m of water or more.

These are not only the deepest environments in estuaries but also the darkest and quietest.

For a species with a reputation of being fairly wary, particularly during daylight hours, these deep-water locations offer mulloway the perfect place to escape the chaotic marine disco raging above.

While other styles of mulloway fishing can take many years to master, catching them in the deeper regions of estuaries is a far less complex process. In fact as far as jewfish go, it’s perhaps the easiest of all methods.

This doesn’t, however, mean that simply finding a section of deep water is going to guarantee you a gun jewie spot.

The truth is that much of the deep-water environment inside estuaries is desolate and unproductive. This makes stumbling on the right spot an unlikely event.

You need to know just what boxes to tick in order to assess if a spot has potential. If you can do this, and follow up by fishing the right time frame using the right methods, success won’t be too far away.

The first thing you need to look for when tracking down a good deep-water jewie spot is obviously deep water.

The easiest way to do this is by studying a marine chart of your local waterway, best done using a quality GPS unit that accepts electronic charts such as Navionics or C-maps.

These are usually dead accurate and will give you a good understanding of where you should be looking.

Don’t, however, fall into the trap of thinking that the deepest water you can possibly find is going to yield the best chance of getting jewie action.

While depth is obviously a key factor, you’re far better off finding a sudden 20m drop off rather than an area that slowly descends to a flat featureless bottom in 40m of water.

One reason for this is because areas with steep walls provide places for mulloway to escape the harsh currents typical of a deep-water estuary environment, kind of like standing behind a building in a strong wind.

These areas will also often hold baitfish, another major factor as to why jewies congregate in certain locations.

While mud and sand drop offs can produce, the best areas to target are those with harder reefy walls and bottoms. These are usually found running adjacent to rocky shorelines or around islands that get exposed to the full brunt of a system’s tidal movement.

Other areas to look for are those that have some sort of feature that suddenly appears out of nowhere.

A good example of this – and a proven jewfish haunt – are wrecks. Jewies love to tuck up tight to the side of wrecks picking off baitfish that are also attracted to the structure.

Wrecks are usually well known and again often marked on charts. If you can find one in 20m or more of water then it will almost certainly hold jewfish at some time or another.

Because these kinds of areas are ravaged by tidal currents, they are virtually unfishable apart from a small window of slack water around a tide change.

Careful study of tide charts is where all deep water sessions must begin.

Remember to work out any time differences that might be applicable depending on how far up a system you’re fishing.

How much actual fishing time you have at a spot will depend on how big the variances are between the tides.

I don’t have a preference for a high or low tide as neither sticks out in my mind as producing more fish than the other.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect when it comes to this type of fishing is the chance of catching a really big mulloway during the daylight hours.

In fact, from my experience, these places fish poorly at night. This is probably because jewies tend to move out and hunt shallower grounds during the quieter hours of the night.

I find the best time of year to target these fish is from October through to May when the water temp is usually over 20 degrees.

An old but still effective method for fishing these areas is by anchoring up so that the boat is positioned just over the edge of a particular drop-off, allowing you to fish hard up against the wall.

This is easily done when a stiff breeze is blowing in a favourable direction but when there is little or no wind you are left at the mercy of the current.

The problem with this is it’s a nightmare trying to stay in the one spot while the tide is swinging around to the opposite direction.

In this situation, many anglers attempt to continuously re-anchor. This will cost you valuable fishing time but also spooks the hell out of any mulloway down there.

The answer to this in areas with deep edges that run for long distances is to simply drift with your motor in gear and make the necessary adjustments to keep you as close to those walls and edges as possible.

The downfall of this is the harder it runs, the more time you need to spend on the wheel adjusting course.

When you do connect to a jewie, get a bite or even just mark something interesting on the sounder, you’ll drift off it quite quickly. In this event it’s best to punch a mark into your GPS, go back and do a series of short drifts over the particular zone of interest.

While both of the above methods work well I haven’t used either of them since purchasing a Minn Kota iPilot electric motor about two years ago.

These motors make life so much easier when fishing the deeper water in an estuary.

While electric motors have been around for a long time, the iPilot version is still relatively new and offers major advantages over traditional electrics. Its major selling point is the “spot lock” feature that acts like a virtual anchor locking onto a GPS point with a push of a button.  

This is a great advantage because you know you’re going to stay exactly where you want to be regardless of current or wind direction.

Baits, rigs & outfits
When targeting jewfish in this fashion nothing is going to increase your chances of success more than using livebait.

This is why the first part of any deep-water mulloway outing should be spent filling up your bait tank with jewfish lollies such as squid, yellowtail, mullet, herring or pike.

The best way to rig up your live bait is by lightly pinning them above the lateral line just in front of the dorsal fin using a 6 to 8/0 hook (depending on the bait size).

I like to use circle hooks as they have a fantastic hook up regardless of if you’re holding onto the rod or if it gets hit sitting in a rod holder.

The rig I use is fairly simple. From the circle hook run an 80cm length of 40lb fluorocarbon trace to a swivel. Then tie a short length of 60lb line to the other end of the swivel and run that through a number 6-8 barrel sinker attaching it to the braided mainline via a Slim Beauty Knot.

I lock my sinker off above the swivel with a series of half hitches so it can’t move. Larger live bait can often swim upwards sending the sinker up the mainline making it very difficult to know exactly where your bait is. Locking the sinker off prevents this from happening.

I find 30lb braid on 4000 to 6000 sized spinning reels ideal for this type of fishing, however, overheads with similar line capacities will also do the trick.

When it comes to rods, what you want is something not too long. Five feet to 6’6” with a forgiving tip but plenty of balls down low is ideal.

A good example of this – and my personal favourite for this style of fishing – is the Shimano T-Curve 200.

There’s not too much else that needs to be said. All you’ve got to do now is show up and employ the above tactics. All going to plan, it shouldn’t be too long before you get amongst some deep-water estuary jewie action. Good luck!

This article was first published in the Fishing World October 2013 issue.

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