Sci: Zeus faber

Common Names: In Australia, John dory is the common name for this fish, although it is occasionally called Peter's fish, Peter's dory or simply dory.

Description: An unusual looking, scaleless, plate-like fish with a deep, circular and laterally-compressed body, a big head, huge extendible mouth, and long, filamentous dorsal fin. John dory exhibit vary from greenish-brown to olive or grey on the back and are lighter on the flanks and belly, sometimes with dark patches or even a golden sheen. A large black spot or blotch bordered by a light edge is prominent on each flank.

Size: John dory commonly weigh between 0.5 and 1.5 kg and occasionally exceed 2.2 kg. Giants approaching 5 or 6 kg have been reported from New Zealand.

Distribution: John dory are found in cool and temperate waters all over the world. In Australia they are confined to the southern half, from about south eastern Queensland to South Australia, with sporadic appearances in Tasmania and the south of Western Australia, frequenting bays, harbours and estuaries, as well as deep reefs out to the edge of the continental shelf.

Fishing Techniques: Many of the John dory taken by anglers are incidental captures landed while fishing with live baits for flathead, mulloway or kingfish. If slightly smaller baits are used, the chance of taking a dory increases. Estuary and harbour anglers specifically targeting John dory mostly use handlines or light rods and small live baits, sometimes trimming the tail of the bait with scissors to slow it down. Over the deeper reefs, John dory take cut-flesh strips and whole small fish such as pilchards, as well as deep-fished live baits.

Eating Qualities: The John dory is rated as one of our very best table fish. The flesh is pearly-white, firm and has an extremely fine grain. Once filleted, there are no bones in the flesh. Because of its quality, the John dory commands a very high price at market, despite a fair degree of wastage due to the size of its head.

By Steve Starling