Dhufish are one of the most sought after fish in Western Australia due to their fine eating qualities, fight and sheer size! They are endemic to Western Australia and can be found south of Steep Point right down to Esperance. They grow to over 115cm and 25kg+, current state record (2021) is a monstrous 26.42kg @ 116cm caught down in Augusta last year.
Dhufish can be found in a couple of metres of water right out to 100m+, typically they are caught in 5m-60m from the Perth Metro area. This is a good place to start narrowing down your fishing locations, the 3 Mile Reef system to the north and Five Fathom Bank to the south will place you in the shallower ground (<20m) where as fishing Direction Bank and south of Rotto will generally be deeper (20-60m) and can be accessed with a decent sized boat.
Finding the right ground is crucial when on the hunt for Dhufish. Limestone reef, flat plate coral and caves/ledges are all places dhuies live, basically any bit of structure should hold fish. Fishos typically aim for large bombies and ledges which are can be easily found on navigation charts. These spots are great places to start however chances are they have been smashed by other keen anglers. Finding your own ground away from navigation contour lines and marks should yield better results, by zooming in on your sounder and watching for dark changes in the bottom composition of the sounder will hopefully show some good areas to fish. These lumps don't need to be massive to hold Dhufish, 0.5-1m rises will also hold good fish and much less likely to cop fishing pressure. It isn't always necessary to fish directly over the bombie as the larger fish tend to hang out around the structure, not in it.. they are the king of the reef after all.
To jig or not to Jig? Jigging is very successful technique when targeting Dhuies. They are aggressive fish with a large mouth designed to hoover in any tasty morsel or anything artificial resembling food. When is the best time to jig can come down to surface and underwater conditions, jigging is difficult with fast drift as the jig works best when kept vertical.. with a fast drift it becomes more jig jig then retrieve with little time in the strike zone, if the drift is slower you can keep jigging and drop it back down keeping the jig in the strike zone for much longer. Water clarity can play a part in how jigs perform, if the water is clear then a natural/dark looking jig should fish better, dirty conditions will require a brighter jig or violent action to attract a bite. If they are not actively hunting or feeding they can attack a jig out of territorial aggression than hunger so be prepared to switch to a jig if the bite is a bit slow. Typical technique while jigging is to flick the jig out in front of the drift and feather (lightly hold) the line down until 10-15m off the bottom, then let go to allow the jig use its natural action to fall to the bottom. Most of the time a Dhufish will nail a jig on the drop. Best performing jig colours in our experience are Pink, Orange, Silver, Blue etc with a bit of luminous glow always helpful.
Another successful method is soft plastics. Large paddle tail plastics can be irresistible to a hungry dhu as the vibration of the paddle tail or ribbed plastic imitate a wounded bait fish. These are a good "rod holder" option as the plastics can be worked by the rocking of the boat while in the rod holder. Alternatively they can be fished with a couple of gentle lifts of the rod tip allowing the plastics to work back down to the bottom. Usually the lift of the rod tip creates the action while the pause or the fall to the bottom creates the bite.
For the "baito's' standard bait rigs such as paternoster or snelled drift bait catch fish especially with a large well presented fresh bait (occy, squid, fish fillet, pilchard). Fresh is always best so take the time to catch your own bait for best results. The latest craze is with hybrid style jigs which offer the best of both worlds, hybrid jigs are generally a coloured jighead with a squid skirt style assist allowing a bit more flash and action for the bait. They can be fished straight off the bottom or a couple of winds off the bottom in a rod holder. The lighter the better as this sinks slower allowing for a passing dhu to notice and creates more action with rod or boat movement. This is an advantage over traditional method of bait rigs alone and a step towards fishing an artificial jig/plastic on its own.
Which ever style of fishing you do, please remember to look after your catch and use a release weight for undersized or unwanted fish. Dhufish are a vulnerable species with current boat limit of 2 fish in the west coast region, further restrictions are pending so do the right thing and ensure there will be fish for the future generation to come!