Species Guide

John Dory

Kuparu | JD’s | Johnnies
Scientific Name
Zeus faber
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John Dory have a laterally compressed body, which is so thin it can hardly be seen from the front.

They’re usually olive-yellow in colour with a large dark spot on the side of their body, and long spines on the dorsal fin.

The “eye spot” on the side of their body is designed to confuse their prey, but is also believed to aid in their defense against predators – by turning side on to the attacker – the large spot mimics an eye, which can scare off larger fish.

They also have large eyes on the front of their head which provide them with binocular vision and the depth perception they need to catch prey.

John Dory catch their prey by stalking it, then extending its jaw forward in a tube-like structure to suck the fish in with some water. The water then flows out through the gills; the pre-maxillary bone, the only tooth-bearing bone in this fish, is used to grind the food.


John Dory can grow to a maximum size of 65cm and 4kg+ in weight. The current all tackle world record is 4.09kg, caught in Mercury Bay (New Zealand) in 2016.

They usually breed in late spring and summer, with a rapid growth rate, so that by their second winter they will be approximately 25cm in length.

At 3 years of age, they’re ready to reproduce, which happens around the end of winter.


John Dory are most commonly found around the inshore coastal waters of New Zealand north of the Cook Strait. But they can be encountered in the upper South Island as well.

They may reside in depths of up to 200m but are more commonly found in water less than 50 meters.

John Dory are typically found around structures like reefs, weed edges, rocky shorelines, or man-made constructions such as wharves or break walls. These areas provide cover for the slow swimming John Dory, so they can ambush their prey.

They also love the protection of harbours, ports, and wharves, and these areas tend to hold good schools of bait fish.


John Dory are a carnivorous species but as they are poor swimmers, they rely heavily on their “eye spot” and ability to camouflage to stalk their prey. They eat a variety of small fish such as sardines and bait fish.


John Dory are voracious predators who will happily take any live small baitfish on offer. Using a live bait that matches their usual diet will increase your chances of getting a bite. Small jack or yellowtail mackerels, kahawai or piper are ideal, but any small baitfish will do the trick.

Our purpose built John Dory rig is perfect for targeting them with live baits.

John Dory will not take your bait aggressively, lack any “fighting power”, and can be a little like winding in a gumboot. Therefore, a slow and steady wind up is recommended, and always net your catch as soon as it reaches the side of the boat.

John Dory are a common by-catch when targeting snapper and other species. So they can also be caught on rigs, like our Snatchers®, but this is not a common way to specifically target John Dory.


Use a size 7 or 10 sabiki rig to target mackerel or kahawai live baits. Pre-rigged with quality Japanese made hooks on abrasion resistant mono leader


Our pre-tied John Dory rig includes a rust resistant 7/0 LB Series hook, tied to abrasion resistant 80lb Tough Trace. Assembled and packaged in New Zealand, they're designed to give your live bait the freedom to swim naturally.

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