How to catch mulloway

Mulloway are the largest fish available to estuary fishermen in southern Australia, and to catch one is always a highlight.

Mulloway belong to the croaker family, of which there are several species found around Australia.

The most important are the southern mulloway, the northern black jewfish, the river perch, and the teraglin.

This article is about the southern mulloway, which has somewhat different habits to the other species.

The southern mulloway is most commonly caught from Carnarvon, Western Australia, across Australia’s southern coast to South-East Queensland.

Mulloway inhabit the surf zone, sheltered beaches, estuaries and to some extent the higher saline reaches of rivers.

They are often targeted in the lower reaches of large estuaries, and will congregate around the mouths of estuaries when rain pushes baitfish from rivers into the sea.

Mulloway can be caught using lures or livebait, with small live fish baits often used to catch them.

However, a live squid is probably the best bait of all.

Smaller fish can be targeted with baits such as beach worms, but more abundant species will likely find these baits first.

Mulloway feed more reliably at night but can be caught during the day.

Feeding activity is often around the turn of the tide.

On surf beaches, look for deep inshore high tide gutters and fish the bigger tides.

The deeper holes in rivers and estuaries are often where they will be, and along deep rock walls, and in holes off headlands.

When chasing mulloway, often there’s no need to fish deep or cast far.

Off headlands, schools may loiter in in rocky gutters below the wash, well within casting distance.

Mulloway can be caught with lures under bridge lights.

Mulloway also appear on coastal wrecks and reefs at times.

Smaller fish will lob off sheltered beaches on occasion, providing some excitement for fishermen expecting flathead and whiting.

Sturdy gear is needed to land mulloway as fish over 10kg are quite common, and occasionally much larger fish show up, especially in remote areas such as South Australia’s Yalata, and at larger river mouths.

A heavy nylon trace helps resist their abrasive mouth and gills.

Mulloway often grab a bait and run fast, presumably to escape other fish in the school that might steal the bait, in which case choosing the time to set the hook can be tricky.

If mulloway won’t take lures, use livebait.

Famous mulloway spots include WA’s Swan River and Carnarvon’s long jetty ruins, South Australia’s Yalata region, Port River and the River Murray mouth and associated surf beaches, Victoria’s larger estuaries, including Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay, New South Wales’ river entrances, Queensland’s Gold Coast Seaway and the nearby sandpumping jetty.

Fishing tackle for mulloway

A 6kg spin outfit is ideal for chasing small mulloway in small estuaries and rivers. See eBay listings here.

A heavy-duty surf rod is needed for surf and rock mulloway fishing, see eBay listings here.

Larger soft plastic paddle tail lures and shads are popular and effective all-round lures for mulloway. See eBay listings here. Hardbodied minnows will also work and may have a better hookup rate.

Weighted jig heads are needed to rig most soft plastic lures, although some have the jig head built in. See eBay’s jig listings here. It pays to use the lightest jig head possible, and light resin jig heads allow an angler to present a more realistic suspending lure action.

For most surf mulloway fishing, ball sinkers are used as part of a running sinker rig where the sinker slides along the line, allowing a fish to run with a baited hook. See eBay listings for ball sinkers here, see listings for star sinkers here and for snapper leads here.

Hooks in size 11/0 are fine for large mulloway, but go smaller for smaller fish. Finer hooks are better for livebaiting as heavy hooks can damage baits. See listings on eBay here.

Ganged hooks (joined chains of hooks) are used when fishing dead pilchard or garfish baits for Australian salmon and tailor, and such a rig will also take mulloway. Listings on eBay here.

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