Name

John Dory (Zeus faber)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught John Dory can weigh 4 Kg (9 lbs) or more. The average John dory weighs around 0.90 Kg (2 lbs).

Also known as

St. Peter’s Fish

IUCN Status

LC – Least Concern

Appearance

The john dory is an odd fish and has a very distinctive shape, its body is almost completely circular and very thin, in colour it is generally brown or olive, but it can also be orange. It also has white or gold stripes and blotches on its body and its underbelly is pale.

It has a single large black spot on each of its sides – legend has it that these are St. Peter’s thumb prints, giving rise to its alternative name, St. Peter’s fish. The john dory has a large head with an unusual tubular mouth and two dorsal fins, the first of which has 10 long, sharp spines whilst the second is elongated and does not have spines. It also has prominent anal fins and long pectoral fins.

Warning: Don’t touch the sharp-spiked dorsal fin. Try to hold it where St. Peter placed his thumbs or you’ll be sorry!

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So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

John dory is best caught using small whole fish, particularly herring, sprat or pilchard. Fish strips such as squid, herring and mackerel are also effective. Alternatively you can also use prawns, shrimps or sandeels.

Seasons

John Dory can be caught throughout the year although big john dory migrate from inshore to deep offshore water in cold and/or rough weather.

Favourite Feeding Places

Wherever shoals of small fish gather, there will be john dory. Near rocks and reefs; round wrecks; wherever fish make easy prey, there drifts john dory!

Best Locations

John dory can be caught both inshore and in deep offshore water, even as deep as 110 fathoms (200 m). The best catches are off West Country coastline, western Northern Ireland and it can also be found around the shores of southern England.

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Best rigs for catching john dory

Shore Fishing

To catch john dory from the shoreline we recommend either a simple paternoster rig which is cast into deep water, or a running paternoster rig, again cast into deep water.

Simple Paternoster Rig

This rig works great when you want to present your bait just above the seabed and move with the current. The distance between the weight and split ring can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). Likewise, the distance between the hook and swivel (free running on main line) can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches).

Running Paternoster Rig

This rig allows you to anchor your hookbait above the seabed and also lets fish take the bait without instantly sensing resistance from the weight. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches). The space between the weight and swivel on connecting line is also variable, but should generally be about 610 mm (2 ft).

Boat Fishing

If you’re fishing for john dory from a boat, a two hook paternoster rig or a simple paternoster rig will work well.

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Two Hook Paternoster Rig

This is a flexible rig which allows you to present two baited hooks above the seabed, with two different hookbaits being able to be used should you desire. Beach casting anglers reduce seabed wear and tear on the knot by clipping a small split ring onto the weight’s “eye” and tying line to the split ring. Alternatively, the line can be tied straight to the weight. 3 way swivels can be used instead of the blood loops. The distances between the weight, 1st blood loop, 2nd blood loop and top swivel/or split ring, can vary but each should generally be 460 mm (1½ ft). Similarly, the distance between hook and blood loop can vary but should be about 200 mm (8 inches).

Simple Paternoster Rig

This rig works great when you want to present your bait just above the seabed and move with the current. The distance between the weight and split ring can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). Likewise, the distance between the hook and swivel (free running on main line) can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches).

Top tips

  1. Due to its unusual shape, the john dory is not a good swimmer, therefore to hunt for food it drifts in a harmless fashion towards unsuspecting victims when it then opens its mouth and suck them in! Therefore anchored or slow moving bait is most likely to succeed in arousing john dory’s interest.
  2. John dory’s diet mainly comprises of fish, therefore bait should preferably be live but at least be fresh.
  3. One of the best ways to catch john dory is by using paternostered live sandeels. Live prawns, or freshly killed sprats are also very effective.