Northern mulloway – Here for a hard fight, not a long fight

Also known as black jewfish, northern mulloway are renowned for their fighting qualities and with good reason.

Protonibea diacanthus

Eating: 3 stars

ID – Wedge-shaped tail.

Often found around inshore structure such as reefs, northern mulloway will head straight for cover when hooked and boast plenty of power, certainly more than their southern cousins, provided by a strong tail wrist.

Northern mulloway have plenty of power, largely due to their strong tail wrist.

They can grow to more than 1.5 metres long and weigh up to 40 kilos, at which size they would take a lot of stopping.

They can be found in up to 60m of water, including in estuaries where they will hold in deep holes, but research from the Northern Territory has shown they release poorly in anything but the shallowest of water and this needs to be considered if the fish is not to be kept for the table.

They are usually found from Onslow north and around the top end to Rockhampton in Queensland. However, I have seen them caught in Exmouth Gulf in good sizes.

We had a fun day chasing them in the Gulf a few years ago, and I was surprised by how many we hooked. While they can be found throughout the Kimberley and are usually an incidental catch, Broome’s Roebuck Bay would be one of the most consistent spots, with fish often taken around the plane wrecks. They are also sometimes taken in the shallows of Roebuck Bay.

Legendary Kimberley guide Bluey Vaughan with a nice black jewfish.

I have also heard of good numbers of fish being caught by jigging near the Horizontal Falls. Solid gear is required to subdue black jewfish and heavy spinning or overhead outfits need to be used to stop the bullocking runs. Line of around 30kg is suggested, along with heavy leader, and fresh baits work well. Live baits or whole fish are best, while squid and cut fish baits will also work.

Running sinker rigs are popular so the fish does not feel any weight initially, but the angler has to react quickly once the hooks are set.

Metal jigs will also work on northern mulloway, as will large soft plastics. On a recent Kimberley trip we got some by dropping soft plastics vibes into snags, similar to tactics for barramundi. Slow trolling large minnow lures has also produced the odd fish in some locations.