In WA we have been known to call them “Kingies” and the folks in the east call them Jewfish but, whichever way you look at it, there are few anglers that don’t dream of catching a big mulloway at some point in their fishing career.
Mulloway are often an extremely good by-product of some tailor fishing. They are found all over the coast and in most rivers and estuaries and, to the diehards, they are almost a religion.
In recent times, this dedicated band of locals have brought mulloway beyond a bycatch into a real artform / science with huge fish taken almost every week from The Narrows, North Mole, Mosmans and a host of other hotspots.
Previously misunderstood, we are now learning a lot more about this fish and it’s becoming more and more likely that you too can learn to chase and regularly catch the mighty mulloway.
The mulloway is widespread throughout all but the northern areas of Australia with western South Australia and Carnarvon, in WA’s Gascoyne region, the most widely accepted hotspots. The Australian record is just over 40kg but some fish from South Africa and Madagascar are enormous.
Rarely targeted in deep offshore waters, mulloway normally hunt close to the coast and spend a great deal of their lives in river and estuary systems. Having said that, large fish have been caught in waters up to 150m. In fact, charter boats working out of Perth or Jurien will often target mulloway grounds in 60-80m when the dhufish aren’t biting.
Juvenile fish congregate in small schools but become loners as they get older. Young fish can grow 30cm per year and mature at 6 years of age when they reach about 75cm in size.
How To Catch Them
As a fish that inhabits such a wide area, the local methods for targeting mulloway are going to vary widely. We’ll try to break them down as easily as we can.
Perth and Southern Beaches:
When tailor are on the bite, mulloway usually clean up scraps left over. Use a sinker rig and cast into foamy gutters. High tide in the late afternoon usually fishes well – especially after summer rains when they will gather at river mouths to feed on the exodus from the river of smaller fish. Bigger fish are usually taken at night.
When the cooler months arrive, so do the rains and this tends to flush the mulloway back down the system to saltier water and back to the ocean.
As the mulloway continue on their seaward journey, they pour out of our harbours, along our moles and beaches. Lately, North Mole has become the fashionable place to target sea bound mulloway as the word slowly gets out that regulars have been getting them for years.
But heading onto the beaches, look for deep gutters and try to fish those edges rather than the middle. They seem to like to sit in ambush and use that disturbed water as cover.
Fresh fillets of tailor would have to be the pick of the baits although plenty of mulloway have been caught on mulies fishing for tailor and salmon. A popular technique is to cast a tailor fillet out onto the edge of the gutter and place the outfit in a rod holder with a light drag setting whilst fishing a smaller outfit in hand for tailor.
Spots like Alkimos, Trigg, Swanbourne, White Hills, Tim’s Thicket and Singleton all provide excellent opportunities to pick up large fish as they have just the sort of structure a mulloway is looking for. Often, however, you are better to fish the jetties around Cockburn and Rockingham so keep your eye on fishing reports.
One certain time to target them is just before or particularly after a big storm. They will often pour out of the Swan with the dirty water and stacks are caught along the harbour side of North Mole.
More large mulloway than you expect are pulled out of the Swan each year. During late winter and early spring, mulloway move into our coastal estuaries and begin to school up together to spread throughout our systems. This is a great time to target them in deep water pockets from small boats.
Experts targeting these fish tend to keep excellent records and have certainly found that tides and moon phases play a big part. Big high tides around new and full moons are certainly proving to be excellent times to plan a trip, especially in a small boat.
The first full moon in September has long been talked about as the time to start targeting mulloway in the Swan but it can vary from year to year depending upon rains and the supply of baitfish in the system.
Live tailor and fresh tailor fillets are a bait that most people fishing small boats will use and trolling small lures at night around the Mosmans area should produce enough bait for a session. From shore, you’re probably going to have to make do with bony herring which also account for many fish. Live is best but they are extremely hard to catch (being so small) so many buy the bonies from the tackle store. Netting the Swan is, of course, illegal.
Mid-summer, The Narrows Bridge and Causeway in the centre of Perth are the most popular spots and, from here and other land based spots around the city, many are now trying lures.
Rather than camping in one spot like you would bait fishing, the method here is to move about and not fish the bottom but the mid-water. Mulloway generally feed in the middle third or even the top of the water column so that’s where your lure should be. Having said that, people still pick them of on the bottom prospecting but nailing those fish busting up in the Narrows lights requires a mid-water lure.
From a boat you have the big advantage of being able to drift or preferably use an electric bow mounted motor to cover more ground quietly. This works particularly well around bridge pylons like the Narrows where you want to cover plenty of water with as little noise as possible. Outboard noise can and does have a spooking effect on fish that might be feeding near a pylon so try to keep it to a minimum.
From the shore you should be trying to fish mostly around structures like bridges and jetties where mulloway will be holding station looking for a feed. Saturate the area with plenty of casts and move on if nothing is hooked. Many fish have also been hooked from barren areas along the shore of the river near Riverside Drive so be prepared to try other areas if the popular ones are not producing.
Any number of lures can work from soft plastics to bibbed minnows and the key is certainly to start with a lure you think will work but be prepared to change and experiment as you go.
As you head north, the chances of catching mulloway do increase but you have to pick your times. Geraldton can produce some excellent mulloway fishing from 7 Mile and 9 Mile Beaches or Sunset Beach, right near the river mouth and reef break.
Kalbarri is also famous for mulloway at times and the locals say they start moving when dirty water is due to arrive from the Murchison. Good spots include the town jetty, Chinamans and Wittecarra Creek but better catches can be had on the 4WD beaches south of town.
The One Mile Jetty in Carnarvon has produced probably more mulloway than any other land based spot in WA. It’s a Mecca for land based mulloway chasers who gather during massive mulloway runs where dozens of fish school under the pylons.
This is not, however, a place for catch and release fishing or for the unprepared because the jetty is a long way from the water and either a flying gaff or very long handled gaff is required to land a fish of any size.
Boat fishing can be awesome by anchoring away from the jetty so as not to annoy the other anglers and just floating mulies or even live tailor.
Mulloway are the one fish that most shore based anglers dream of catching but there’s only one way to do it â€œ get out there and try for yourself.
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