Species Guide


Jewfish | Butterfish
Scientific Name
Argyrosomus japonicus
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This in depth guide on mulloway is written by Black Magic Brand Ambassador, and experienced angler, Leigh Holtsbaum. Based in Queensland (AUS), Leigh regularly chases mulloway and other saltwater and estuarine species from his boat and landbased.

Mulloway are one of Australia’s most iconic species and can be found in the estuary, on the beach and around offshore reefs. Their variety of habitats allow both landbased and boat anglers equal opportunity to chase these beasts.

Large specimens are hard fighting, and can really test an anglers endurance. But they're also an excellent table fish, as long as they're over about 3kg.

The black jewfish is the northern cousin of the mulloway.


Mulloway can vary in colour from dark bronze to silver, and there may be red or purple tinges. They have large scales and a wide mouth, and a tail fin which is rounded outwards.

Mulloway can reach 1.8 meters and more than 60kg, but any fish over 25kg is considered an exceptional catch. Juveniles grow rapidly to reach 35cm in 1 year and 87-90cm long in 5 years. Mulloway are most commonly caught at 3-10kg.

Adult mulloway feed on squid and fish, which they find within seagrass, mangroves, and over sand and mud flats.

Mulloway spawn from January through to April at sea and in the lower reaches of estuaries, and they can spawn more than once in a breeding season. Males reach maturity at 51cm (about 2 years old) and females at 68cm (about 3 years old).


Mulloway can be found along the southern half of Australia’s coastline up to Gladstone in Queensland where the mulloway’s northern cousin, the black jewfish, takes over.

Throughout their distribution, mulloway can be found from the brackish reaches of the estuary, out to the beaches and on the reefs where I have caught them in water as deep as 50 fathoms. Juvenile mulloway inhabit estuaries and I’ve seen schools of small 10-15cm fish in the shallows around the mangroves hunting small prawns. The medium sized fish (up to a meter in length) will school up in the hundreds and patrol the break walls around river mouths and inshore reefs. Meanwhile, the larger fish will also school up at times, but normally in smaller numbers, and follow established hunting routes that can cover large distances from river to reef.

Mulloway favour ground with structure that holds bait, like around deep holes, fallen timber, wrecks, rocky headlands and large reef pinnacles. They also like to hunt around man-made structures like jetties, rocky break walls and bridges over deeper sections or rivers.

In southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, mulloway are a year-round prospect however, the bigger fish are often caught around the river mouths when the mullet and tailor are running during winter. This is when the land based anglers chase them and catch some truly monstrous fish each winter off the break walls.


Mulloway can be very hesitant at times playing with bait making them hard to hook, particularly when using larger baits like tailor or mullet. This often feels like a small fish is attacking the bait but you have to give it time before you set the hook. Allow them some line and a few seconds to swallow the bait and then set the hook. At other times they just smash and scream off so you have to be ready to hang on.

The reason why I have both a heavy and light setup ready is when they are hesitant you can often entice a bite by using the lighter leader. Sometimes this can end up in heartache with a big fish blowing you away but sometimes you have to go light to get the bite.


Mulloway can be caught year round and at any time of the day or night, but if you are after the big one, first light or the first few hours of darkness are best. Mulloway also bite better on certain moon phases and in my experience the 4 days leading into the full moon are the most productive.

Traditionally winter has been the season to target big mulloway, however, in recent years I have found November to be a very productive month, just before the warm summer rolls in.


The areas around break walls where mulloway hang out can be identified using a mixture of technology and visual observations. Using the depth sounder you can find deep holes and drop offs just wide the break wall and these are great fish holding spots. Additionally, tidal eddies which can be spotted on the water surface as it swirls around are ideal spots to find fish schooling up waiting in ambush for bait to be pushed past by the rushing water. The end of the rock walls where the estuary empties into the ocean is a great place to start and if you can find a deep hole, with an eddy in close proximity the mulloway will surely be close by.

There are lots of theories about the best times of the moon phase and tides to target mulloway. Truth is that you can catch them any time, but to maximise your chances I find the best moon phase is the week leading into the full moon matched with an early morning outgoing tide to be the for chasing mulloway around break walls. While many anglers swear that night is the best time to target this species, I have caught many in the middle of the day, but I do agree the size is generally smaller.


Mulloway love structure and where you find reefs with large structures and plenty of large holes or caves you will find schools of Jewfish. Wrecks also attract Mulloway and they will sit in the structure venturing out during the feeding periods to hunt the prolific bait schools that are also attracted to the wreck. Mulloway are schooling fish and will school with other fish of a similar size over these areas. The bigger the fish the small the school size. And it is often the case that fish in water deeper than 30m tend to be larger than 1m in length.

When fishing around reefs or wrecks I prefer to anchor or spot lock up current of the structure and drop baits back or simply just drift over the structure using the boat to position the baits in the most likely zone on the reef.

Live Slimy Mackerel are an excellent bait around reefs and wrecks however, Yellowtail and Tailor will also work effectively.

The best rigs in this situation are 30-50lb braided mainline, with 3m of 60lb Tough Trace wind on leader with a 1m length of 60lb Tough Trace connected to a pair of snelled DX Point® hooks tied to a 15kg swivel. The size of the weight will depend on current and depth and will range from 2-6oz in weight.

Alternatively, a single paternoster rig tied with 60lb Tough Trace can be used with a single 7/0 KLT® hook to suspend the bait 1m off the bottom.


Mulloway are extremely susceptible to barotrauma and it is best to limit your catch when fishing in waters greater than depths of 20m as most of these fish will not recover after being released. If you find small fish in an area just leave them and find a different school.

Don’t be afraid to keep a nice mulloway as they are excellent eating and I find that they also freeze very well. Shallow fried in breadcrumbs or simply coated in flour with salt and pepper. Mulloway dinners are a crowd favorite in my household.

There’s nothing wrong with taking home a good feed of mulloway, just remember to check your local Fisheries regulations and stick to them.



When fishing for mulloway using baits, the options are vast and often dictated by the habitat where you are targeting them.

On the beach slabs of tailor or a bunch of beach worms can work a treat whilst on the reef live slimy mackerel or a well-presented pilchard claim their fair share of solid fish.

Around structure, particularly in river mouths, the answer is live baits. I like to use live yellowtail scad or slimy mackerel when the fish are schools sized in the 75-90cm. The good thing about using smaller baits like this is that it is common to catch a large amount of other non-target species keeping you occupied if the mulloway are not biting.

However, when the bigger fish are around you can up the size of the bait and use 30-40cm sea mullet, big pike or legal sized tailor. These bigger baits will reduce your bycatch but increase the chance that you might hook that fish of a lifetime.


In the same environments that mulloway are targeted using live baits, they will often be tempted by lures. Soft plastic lures like the Dartspin, jerk baits, soft vibes and slow pitch jigs. The best colours are white or glow particularly in low light periods. I have also had good success in the same areas using Dartspin lures in the chartreuse colour matched with a 1oz jig head.

Mulloway like slower moving lures that are hopped along the bottom and most often will eat the lure as it is on the drop. Slowly lift up the rod tip 1-2m so that the lure lifts off the bottom and then allow the lure to sink back down. Keep the line tight, so you can detect the bite if your lure gets hit on the drop. In some situations, I’ve caught mulloway with the plastic motionless on the bottom. Vary your retrieve but keep it relatively slow and seductive.


When targeting any species around solid structure your terminal tackle needs to be tough and durable. Mulloway are typically not dirty fighters but will take a decent run and often this can be straight past rocks or logs and rub you off quickly. These are the 2 main setups I use.

The first is a medium overhead setup with 30lb braided mainline. Using an FG knot I tie around 3m of 60lb Tough Trace to the braid.

The second setup is a medium spin outfit with 20lb braid and 3m length of 20lb Fluorocarbon leader tied with an FG knot.

On the heavier setup, I then add a 1m length of 60lb Tough Trace with a pair of snelled DX Point® hooks tied to a 15kg swivel.

I specifically choose DX Point® hooks are they are strong, with needle sharp points that won’t roll or lose their penetrating capabilities when being dragged through the snags and rocks.

To complete the rig, I add a sinker ranging from a size 4 to size 10 ball depending on the tidal flow.

On the lighter setup I run a single C Point® hook tied using a uni knot to the 1m leader of 20lb Fluorocarbon leader and a 10kg swivel. With the lighter setup I can normally get away with a size 3 to size 5 ball sinker.

The size of the hook depends on the size of the bait being used. For smaller baits like yellowtail and slimy mackerel 5/0 C Point® hooks are perfect but as you increase the bait size I also increase the hook size, sometimes adding a second snelled hook. On larger baits like Tailor I will use 7/0 DX Point® hooks.

The twin hook rig works extremely effectively on bigger baits as it allows one hook to pin the bait through the nose and the second hook in the back doubling your chance of hooking up.

When fishing around break walls or any kind of structure, make sure you constantly check your leaders for small weaknesses and nicks, as this will cause you heartache when you get the bite and they bust you off on the first run.

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