How to catch Mulloway…bait fishing for the mystery fish

How to catch Mulloway…bait fishing for the mystery fish

Many anglers consider mulloway a bit of a mystery fish because they never catch them

trouble is, they use general purpose gear and fish the usual spots, not paying too much attention to baits, rigs and conditions!


 The anglers I know who specialise in Mulloway do things way differently. They use live or fresh killed bait, tackle up with finely weighted paternoster rigs and fluorocarbon leaders and focus on tide and weather conditions. They usually fish late evening or into the night and look for a rising tide to maximise their chances….they catch more than their fair share of Mulloway!


Mulloway like to follow baitfish, and the more baitfish the better. That’s why drop offs, holes and structure are their favourite places….the same places little fish go, big fish go.


I must admit that my experience in catching mulloway has usually been while I was targeting other fish. I fish the estuaries a lot and when I chase the big bream and pinkies with prawns and beachworms…this is when I’ve caught the smaller mulloway.


A mate of mine is a master at catching non target species. I love him like a brother but he is the worst angler I know! He tends to leave his rod idle and focus on other things…this has consequences. Once, while fishing near a bridge on the Maribyrnong river he cast in and left his rod while he played with his phone. Suddenly his rod shot out of the rod holder, just like an arrow from a crossbow, and landed half way across the river.


I’ve never seen anything like it!


This must have been a mulloway smashing a small goby or mullet that was hooked but my mate didn’t realise. Lucky the line broke and we could retrieve his rod.


He is also a master of casting over boats and canoes…but that’s another story!


You can find mulloway in the surf, bay beaches and estuaries. The things to look for always, are food, structure and depth. If you can find plenty of mullet, bream or other species in the area you have a good chance finding Mulloway.


Big mulloway like the dark and so night time is when you have your best chance of landing one. Areas near bridges and breakwalls, especially with some lighting that attracts the smaller fish is a good place to start…Piers can be good too. If they have a good squid population the mulloway won’t be too far away.


Many people believe moon phase is very important but seasoned mulloway anglers can catch in any moon phase!  The one thing to note here is that experience with predatory fish across the world strongly suggests that big fish are active during the full moon. My own experience has been the same….so fishing at night with the incoming tide on a full, or near full, moon could improve your chances.


Weather also plays a part. A mulloway specialist told  me once  that “heavy rain brings big Mulls”!


His favorite time to fish was after rain had increased estuary flows, coloured the water and pushed the smaller fish down to the mouth of the river and concentrated them in one spot. This is where the Mulloway would wait to catch the smaller fish caught up in the heavy flow. He would bait up with a live mullet and cast to the edge of the main flow….and had plenty of success.


Mulloway can be caught all year round but seem to be most active in the warmer months, especially January and February.


The gear of mulloway needs to be pretty strong. If you hook a big one they are unforgiving!


Land based anglers often use surf rods with 7 kg to 12kg line. Hooks sizes need to match the bait. Sizes 3/0 to 6/0 will handle live bait, generous fresh fish slices or squid. Sinkers need to hold the bait in place without feeling like a brick because you may need to gently wind in from time to time to trigger a bite. In clear water fluorocarbon leaders are recommended to keep the bait set up looking as natural (and invisible) as possible.


Baits are simple. Mulloway love live baits. Mullet, garfish, trevally, tommy ruff all do well but the killer bait is fresh squid and if you can fish a live one you could land a trophy size fish.


A Mulloway fanatic I knew from years ago would fish all evening for squid  off the Frankston pier  and then drive  to the mouth of  the Yarra River to fish  for the Mulloway through the night. He caught some very big Mulloway.


In the surf, sand worm, and plenty of them, seem to produce good results. If you also tie a bag of fish bits and tuna oil at the waters edge you can get mullet and salmon coming in….and the mulloway won’t be far behind.


So the message is that anyone can catch mulloway if you do a bit of planning and preparation. A bit of night fishing with the right bait could just be the thing that lands you your first Mulloway….or that trophy fish!


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