FISHFACTS ENEWS - Subscribe for the latest SA fishing news

Blue crab commercial fishing closure
A temporary closure is in place for the commercial blue swimmer crab fishery along the Adelaide coastline and on the eastern side of the Yorke Peninsula.
Media release
Closure map (PDF 302.0 KB)

Snapper fishing spatial closures

PIRSA has confirmed the continuation of five Snapper spatial closures from midday 15 December 2014 to midday 31 January 2015.
Media release
Closures map
Frequently asked questions
Catch and release fact sheet (PDF 326.9 KB)

Lakes and Coorong Draft Plan
The Draft Management Plan for the South Australian Commercial Lakes and Coorong Fishery has been released for public consultation until 4 February 2015.
Media release
Find out more

Changes to recreational rock lobster devices - Northern Zone
New arrangements are in place for recreational rock lobster devices used in the Northern Zone of the rock lobster fishery.
View media release
Frequently asked questions
View the fishing gear page

Port River Mud Cockle closure
The Port River Mud Cockle fishing closure has been extended until 30 June 2015 due to ongoing concerns about sustainability.
Map of closure area
Frequently asked questions
View media release 

Changes to commercial and recreational Blue Swimmer Crab fishing limits
View media release
Frequently asked questions
Map of reduction area

Spencer Gulf Cuttlefish closure
Cuttlefish fishing in northern Spencer Gulf has been closed until 14 February 2015.
Frequently asked questions

Map of closure area

Recreational shark fishing restrictions
Restrictions on targeted recreational shark fishing in metropolitan waters have been updated.
Find out more




Argyosomus hololepidotus

Mulloway overview

The mulloway is found in Africa, Madagascar and along the southern coastline of Australia from Shark Bay in Western Australia to north of Brisbane in Queensland.

It is the most southern species belonging to the scinaenid family with many species present in the north of Australia. The most notable species is the ‘black jew’, which is often confused with the mulloway but distinguishable by the slightly stouter body, smaller more compact scales, firmer texture and darker appearance. Also known as butterfish and jewies, they are perhaps the most prized sporting fish that is in ready reach of the everyday angler.

What do they look like?

Mulloway is a fish of many names and is the preferred name in South Australia. It is the aboriginal name for ‘the greatest one’.

Mulloway are indeed one of our greatest scalefish and are easily distinguished from other fish through their metallic silver / bronze sheen, shield like scales and concave (outward fanning) tail. They grow to a large size, with fish up to 30kg common and some records of fish up to 40kg. They have a quite distinctive smell and some ‘old salts’ claim to be able to ‘smell’ schools of mulloway from the beach.

Mulloway are equipped with elaborate swim bladders which are able to resonate and emit a ‘croaking’ noise, which can often be heard from the sides of the boats on a quiet night when fish are many metres below. This characteristic is common to the sciaenid family of fishes, collectively known as drums or croakers for the reasons described.

Mulloway also contain enlarged otoliths or ‘ear bones’ which are often collected for jewellery items. This attribute has led eastern staters in particular to refer to them as ‘jewies’ or jew fish (after ‘jewel fish’). Another name used to describe mulloway is ‘butterfish’ which relates to the yellow butter-like lather that mulloway apparently produce on the surface of the seawater during spawning.

Where are they found?

Everywhere from estuaries to ocean beaches, the gulfs and offshore reefs. Some have even been taken from the fresh water of Lake Alexandrina and in fact were the basis of a large fishery there before the barrages were constructed in 1940.

They are most abundant in the Coorong Lagoon, which is by far the most important nursery area for this species. Larger fish are taken most commonly off of the ocean beaches adjacent to the Coorong and off of the beaches of the Great Australian Bight. They are also seasonally abundant in the Port River estuaries. Although it is difficult to generalise, mulloway tend to spend their first four years or so in the estuaries and then move to marine waters for the remaining years. The ocean beaches during summer and the Port River during winter is the renowned ‘hot spots’ for large mulloway.

Life cycle

Mulloway generally spawn in marine waters just outside of the surf zone and the egg larval development occurs at sea, with juveniles settling in estuarine nursery areas until a length of 46cm is reached, in about three to four years. A 10kg mulloway is likely to be about six to seven years of age. They are thought to live for a maximum of about 30 years.

Mulloway are believed to reach sexual maturity at a length of about 75cm, although this has not been verified for Australian waters.

Feeding habits

Mulloway are opportunistic predators, feeding on a variety of fish, molluscs and crustaceans. The size of prey items increases with the size of the fish (there is a message for the anglers here!). Large fish have been observed though, with large numbers of euphausides, which are small shrimp like crustaceans which often ‘swarm’ in the water column just beyond the surf zone. Other food items include sand crabs (especially on surf beaches), small fish such as mullet, and whatever organisms are abundant in the locality.

A regular flow of water out of the Murray Mouth is considered important to ensure sufficient spawning to maintain recruitment. The diminished flow of the River Murray water has led to a decline in the abundance of mulloway.

Commercial fishing

There is a small commercial fishery for mulloway, mostly restricted to the Coorong Lagoon where nets are used to take fish between about 46cm and 70cm in length. The mulloway is an important supplement to the income of the commercial fishers in the region who number about 40.

Recreational fishing

Most anglers dream of catching a large mulloway. It is one of the few large sport fish available in South Australian water. Mulloway is an important target species for many South Australians, particularly shore based anglers. Surf fishing along the ocean beaches adjacent to the Coorong is especially popular, as is fishing in the Coorong / Murray Mouth area, Port River and west coast beaches.

Both spinners and baits are used to take mulloway, with live bait the best alternative.

Catch limits and legal lengths

A Mulloway

Type of fish
Common name
Scientific name
Argyrosomus japonicus

Within the Coorong only

Minimum legal length 46 cm measured from tip of snout to tip of tail
Personal daily bag limit
for fish measuring 46 to 75 cm
Personal daily bag limit
for fish measuring more than 75 cm

Outside Coorong waters

Minimum legal length75 cm measured from tip of snout to tip of tail
Personal daily bag limit2
Daily boat limit6
Species information
More information about Mulloway.