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.
Wild Mulloway from the Lakes and Coorong district is currently undergoing Marine Stewardship Council assessment following the expiration of their previous certification in March 2014.
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.