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Jewels of the North Coast by Wayne Judge. [2008-03-25]

On selected reefs and coast of northern New South Wales, for many months of the year you can find a species of fish that has an almost religious following amongst spearfishers. These fish will return year after year to the same reefs and holes and the experienced divers guard these spots jealously and amaze new divers by almost always being able bring one or two back each trip. The species I am talking about of course is Mulloway, the Jewels of the North Coast.

Recently I was on a weekend away with Jools, on his boat Chop Chop, visiting some of our favourite spots. Jools is currently fixated on jewfish, he loves hunting them and will spend hours in a spot searching them out, just because he can smell them or because he heard a “grunt”.

We had just swum hard against a current to put ourselves on top of a bommy in about 5 metres of water. I was relaxing keeping slow pace with the current, getting my breath under control and Jools was somewhere in the vicinity. The visibility was bad, less than 8 metres.

I dived down the edge of the bommy to a ledge at about 8 metres and came to rest. I just lay there moving my head slowly looking for tell tale movements or shapes in the water. Soon it was time for a breath but before heading up to the surface I coasted off the edge and dropped another couple of metres and that is where I saw the movement. As I slowly sunk to the bottom the movement turned into the shape of a jewie. It had seen me and was slowly moving away. With as little movement as possible I followed and it joined up with another one, a bigger one. The one I was following was still just out of range but the other fish must have wanted a better look at me and went broadside… Yes!! It was a long shot but a big target. I had a 7.5mm spear on my 1.3RA so I was pretty confident the shot would push out the other side of the fish. I released the spear and I had a fight on my hands.

I had returned to the surface excited as all hell. Jools was cheering and yelling. I thought, “Yeah! Jools knows I am on and is being real encouraging.” I continued to fight and Jools continued to shout. Next thing he shoves a huge jewie under my nose, it gave me a hell of a fright. I wondered how the hell Jools got hold of my fish… then the penny dropped. Jools had shot another fish! I was just about to give him a high five when the fish below me went for another run. Jools had dived, stoned his fish and returned to the surface with the jewie in his arms. Good going.

Back at the boat the fish looked of similar size. Jools’ fish was a bit longer, mine was a bit fatter. There was a lot at stake, the NSUC Mulloway Trophy. These fish both looked over 25kgs and the current record held by Jools was 22kgs. Back at the ramp my fish came in at 26.5kgs and Jools’ was 25.5. Taka had also taken a nice one. It was a great afternoon. Two weeks later the 2007 club record was broken again, but that is another story.

Good eating, great fun the mulloway is a very satisfying fish to take. I look forward to seeing that familiar outline and those iridescent blue spots in the water again.


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