A soapie hooked on a plastic off Cameron Rocks.

Brisbane spring and summer jewfish

Darren with a nice jewfish.
Shannon Hodge caught this soapie using a fly.
Poddy mullet and live prawns are bait of choice for catching jewfish.
Luke Lispet nailed this river threadfin salmon.
Tim Vincent and his river jewfish coming in at over 1m in size.
The smile said it all – Tri Bell happy with his big river jewfish.

THE Brisbane River is home to a huge array of fish including  bream, flathead, snapper, cod, king threadfin salmon and jewfish. The trick with the river is knowing how and where to target these species. In this article I’ll cover how to catch big jewfish in spring and summer, as there are less soapies around later in the year. summerjewfish

It is very important to keep an eye out for baitfish, deep holes and drop-off as this is where the fish will be holding. Some areas to try include Cameron Rocks, Clara Rock, Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges (formerly the Gateway Bridge,. The mouths of Boggy Creek, Bulimba Creek and Breakfast Creek are also worth checking out. Even the mouth of Norman Creek will produce jewfish on occasions.

Drop-offs around the container terminals and across the opposite side the river are prime jew locations. There are many lit areas throughout the river all the way up to St Lucia, therefore moving from light source to light source will help you find fish. Jewfish and threadies are attracted to these areas, while chasing bait.summer jewfish

If fishing the Port of Brisbane, be aware of the restrictions with the 30m-exclusion zone around the terminals. The minimum size for jewfish in Queensland is 75cm with a possession limit of two, and in the areas outlined above you will catch soapies through to jewfish over 1m in size. Larger jew can be caught all year round but the best times are from winter through to December.

Prime bite times are overcast days, early morning, dusk and at night time. Aim to drift over deep edges, drop-offs, holes and along rock walls. If the tide allows, a simple rig of a running 2-ball sinker straight to a 6/0 or 7/0 circle hook should do the trick. Though if the tide is pushing hard, you may need extra weight or a downrigger to keep your bait in the strike zone.summer jewfish

An electric motor can also be an advantage when chasing these fish as you can control your drift. If using braid have at around 1.5m of 40lb fluorocarbon leader.  Be sure to check your bait every 10-15 minutes, as there is nothing worse than having the line in the water for half an hour or more with no bait on it. It is also important to set your drag light, I set it around 1.5-2kg.

Live bait such as poddy mullet, herring and prawns are a few of the best baits for catching jewfish and these can be found in the river. Places to try for poddy mullet include the area from the mouth of Boggy Creek to the small bay near Luggage Point (also called the poop chute), and the mouths of Bulimba and Norman creeks. There are a couple of mullet varieties that enter the river so all you have to do is remember gold is good  – gold spot or fleck on the gill cover or near the pectoral fin.summer jewfish

This will help distinguish them from sea mullet as their size limit is a minimum of 30cm. Pike, which are another goog bait, can be found around the Coffee Pots in Brisbane Rd. If anchoring, I use berley to attract baitfish, which in turn will attract predators and increases the chances of attracting a river snapper. I use two rods when anchored or drifting, both around 6’ in length – one rod is 4-6kg rod and matched with a Shimano Straddic and the other is 6-8kg with a 4500 Shimano Baitrunner.

The river has an abundance of structure, so it is vital to sound around for bait. The fish won’t be far away and an electric motor will increase your chance of holding in an area, while not making too much noise. I usually anchor to the side of any hole or rock wall and cast back to the edges. When using livies, the electric comes in handy, keeping you near the edges of drop-offs or deep holes. You also have a good chance of catching threadfin salmon around lights by using the above tactics.summer jewfish

Another method of catching jewfish is to use plastics in natural colours such as the Z-Man 7” MinnowZ, 8” StreakZ and 10” HeroZ. I have also tried the 5.5” Zerek Live Mullet swimbait – these are cast towards holes or drop offs using a skipping movement, and are brought back across the drop-off along the terminals or into deeper holes. When fishing around lit areas, use lightly weighted 6” Storm RIP Curly Tail, paddle tail lures and Z-Man ShrimpZ or Zerek Live Shrimp – these are a few plastics that will produce.

The addition of a Pro-Cure Bait Scent is equally important – I usually use Mullet Super Gel. Colours depend on the weather – dark for dark night, bright on bright nights and a few of the glow plastics at night on jig heads 1/4oz to 1oz depending on depths and tides. You need to get the lures down and keep them moving. When using soft plastics at night, I work the top half of the water column.

My thoughts are if a fish is near the bottom looking up and sees a soft plastic cruising by, there’s a good bet the fish will go for it, especially glow in the dark lures. If a spot has been identified as a deep hole or shallower area adjacent to deep water, this will best be targeted an hour either side of the change of tide – high or low depending on the spot, and in some spots it may not matter. It’s amazing how often you’ll get the bite smack on the tide change.summer jewfish

And while I do have a preference for high tide, low tide can still produce. Though the most productive time is during the night, followed by dusk, dawn and tide changes. Chasing jewfish in the river has been a challenge and being able to catch them consistently has been hard work. Glimpses of success every now and then keeps me keen to stick at it.

Learning to read your sounder and having confidence that your lures or bait can get them to bite is a big part of catching jewfish in the Brisbane River. I have found my better sessions to be on or around the new moon and with a run-out tide, and if you can score these conditions together with an early morning start, even better as jew tend to bite better early on. Other areas I’ve had success are the drop-offs around the northern side of Peel Island, the top of Macleay Island and the crossroad beacon near Goat Island, off Dunwich.summer jewfish

The river also has plenty of options for land-based fishing too – with a light rod, reel and a couple of good plastics, you stand the chance of being rewarded with a solid catch. Be on the lookout for jetties, rock walls, pontoons or lit areas that can be legally accessed. Fishing for jewfish is a challenge at any time but live poddies, herring, pike or live prawns will give you a better chance. A friend of mine has even caught them on fly!summer jewfish

So go out and give it a try – you may be pleasantly surprised.

The Whyte Island and Pinkenba ramps are close by and both give you quick access to the port, or you can launch from Colmslie (get some prawns) and work the lit areas towards the bridge and then the port.

For more summer options in the bay, click here!

About Brian Webb

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