Sci: Argyrosomus hololepidotus
Common Names: The mulloway has a range of common names,
their usage largely dictated by geography. In New South Wales and Queensland the
fish is almost exclusively known as jewfish, "jew" or "jewie". In Victoria, South
Australia and Western Australia, the official name of mulloway is more widely
accepted, although in South Australia the fish is sometimes called a butterfish
or "buttery", while in the West it may be referred to as a river kingfish, silver
kingfish or simply king. On the eastern sea board, juvenile mulloway up to about
3 kg are frequently nick-named "soapies", while fish from 3 to 8 kg or so are
commonly called "schoolies".
Description: A large, long-bodied, predatory fish of the
ocean, estuaries and tidal rivers, mulloway are characterised by a generous mouth,
heavy scales and a convex (outward curving), spade-like tail. Colouration varies
considerably with size and location; from dark bronze or brassy-green on the back
to blue-green or even purple-blue. The flanks are lighter, often overlaid with
a purplish sheen. The belly is silvery-white. Sometimes the fish exhibits a distinct
reddish tinge. Juveniles may be silvery all over. The fins are mainly dark and
there is a well-defined black patch just above the base of the pectoral fins.
When alive or freshly killed, mulloway have a string of bright spots along the
lateral line, not unlike the portholes of a ship. These and their rose-red eyes
glow under artificial light.
Size: "Soapies" are small fish in the 0.4 to 2.5 kg weight
bracket, while "schoolies" run up to about 8 kg, and adult fish range between
8 and 35 kg, with rare giants to 45 kg and very occasionally beyond. Maximum growth
potential for the species is probably in the order of 55 or 60 kg.
Distribution: The mulloway belongs to a world-wide
family of croakers, grunter and drum. In Australia, mulloway
are found southwards from about Rockhampton in Queensland,
around the southern half of the continent to at least Carnarvon
and possibly Exmouth in northern Western Australia. They
are practically unknown in Tasmania. While mulloway can
tolerate water that is almost completely fresh, they are
rarely found so far upstream. Their usual haunts lie between
the upper tidal limits of coastal rivers and inshore reefs
a few kilometres off the coast.
Fishing Techniques: Smaller mulloway mainly succumb to baits
of prawns, worms, yabbies or fish pieces intended for bream or flathead. They
will also take small live baits. Larger fish are best sought with live baits such
as mullet, yellowtail, slimy mackerel, pike, tailor and sweep, or dead baits of
whole or cut fish. Tailor, luderick pilchards and pike fillets are favourites
in some areas. Squid, octopus and cuttlefish are also very good baits, especially
if used alive or very fresh. Despite their generous mouths, mulloway often fumble
a bait or run with it for some distance before spitting it out. Using big, sharp
hooks and being willing to strike while the fish is running usually give the best
results. Periods of heavy rain and discoloured run-off are excellent for mulloway
fishing. When floodwaters cause a distinct colour change in the water at a river
mouth mulloway can readily be caught on lures. White, or red-and-white lead-head
feathers, soft plastic-tailed jigs, large, strong-actioned minnows and so-called
"chair-leg" poppers or darters are the favoured choices of "jewie" spinning specialists.
These fish may also be taken on lures at other times, particularly at night in
and around the pools of light created under illuminated bridges, breakwalls and
wharves or piers.
Eating Qualities: The mulloway or jewfish is unusual in
that the flesh quality of small fish is generally inferior to that of larger adults.
Jewish over 5 or 6 kg are very good table fare, despite their fairly strong smell.
Below 3 kg the flesh is often soft and rather flavourless; hence the nickname