John Dory — How to Catch Zeus faber

Some might call the john dory the ugliest fish in the ocean.

However, when you fish john dory and get a chance to cook them up, you’ll be blown away by the mild sweet flavor and delicious texture it has to offer.

How to Catch John Dory
Check out that massive dark spot on the side with the gold ring. Source: John Turnbull


The fish has a large mouth, extremely thin body which is oval-shaped and over 10 formidable sharp spines that run along the top of its body. It also has false eyes or large black dots on either side that disorient predators.

The dore fish can be found in the North Atlantic as well as cooler parts of the South Pacific. Common in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

It can live up to 12 years during which time it grows about 60 cm and weighs 10 kg.

John Dory Facts

Scientific NameZeus faber
Common Name(s)John dory, jondori, St. Peter’s fish, dory fish
Identifying CharacteristicsSharp spines and big dark spot on the side.
Depth Range5m to 360m
HabitatIt can be found in the North Atlantic as well as cooler parts of the South Pacific. However, it is most common in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia
LimitsCheck your local regulations
Largest Recorded11 lbs

Where to Find John Dory

John dorian fish are demersal and can be found in depths that are a few meters deep to several hundred meters deep. They are poor swimmers and remain around weed lines and kelp beds in warm waters. It usually remains near the seafloor over both hard and soft bottoms where they also target their own species.

How to Catch John Dory 

How to catch John Dory

The best way to snag a john dory fish is via rigs such as the single hook dropper variety but you can also use soft baits and cut-up bait. Target the fish in any area where there is a steady supply of baitfish such as estuaries, harbors and around reefs. If you prefer a rod, use a lightweight rod one that is flexible and sensitive at the tip but strong enough to reel in a dory.

Use J hooks for this fish or you will not be able to hook its odd-shaped mouth. If you are using live bait you can use just about any species to lure this fish such as mullet and spotties. When in doubt try using mussels.

Fishing Tactics

  • The smaller the live bait you use, the higher your chances of catching a john dory.
  • Circle hooks will only turn into the bait resulting in missed strikes. To avoid this hook the point in and up through the roof of the baitfish’s mouth. That way a point will be left swinging free of any soft flesh.
John Dory Fishing Tips
That dark spot becomes more prominent when it’s out of the water. Source: Brian Gatwicke

Fishing Tips

  1. John dory fish have soft mouths that tear easily. When you hook one, use a net to bring it in the boat to avoid damage.
  2. Set the depth by dropping the rig to the bottom without bait first and when you feel the sinker hit, lift it to about 2m and set the rod in the holder. Then pull the line-up, pin the bait and send it back to the bottom.


The dory species are available year-round but it is most abundant during May and June and between September and December. The quality of the meat of the fish is the best during these months.

John Dory Recipe

  • Mix 50kg of softened butter with half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and set aside.
  • Heat a large frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it.
  • Season the john dory fillet with salt and add to the pan skin side down.
  • Press the fillet firmly in the pan using a spatula for a minute to prevent curling.
  • Cook for 2 minutes then flip and add the prepared paprika butter to the pan.
  • Baste the fish with the melting butter and cook for another 2 minutes when the fish is just cooked through and the butter turns foamy.
  • Remove the fillet from the pan and serve with lemon wedges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does john dory taste like?

A: The peter s fish has delicate white flesh and a firm yet flaky texture that is slightly sweet.

Q: Is John Dory fish good to eat?

A: Yes. They have a flavor that will leave you craving more.

Q: How does john dory hunt for prey?

A: The fish is a poor swimmer but it has a tube-like mouth that it extends to catch unsuspecting smaller fish once they inch close enough to them.

Q: Why is it called John Dory?

A: It’s the English variant derived from ‘jaune doré’ meaning ‘golden yellow’ in French.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing and spearfishing enthusiast. He's been fishing since he was 5 years old in the backcountry of Yosemite for trout and in the surf near his home in SoCal. Over the past 4 years, he's been spearfishing up and down the coast of California. He started Cast and Spear to help inspire others to get outside and chase their dream fish. Notable catches include spearing a 65-pound white sea bass, large grouper, and yellowtail down in Baja. When he's not in the water, he's usually fishing from his Gregor Baja aluminum boat or inflatable Takacat catamaran.
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Articles » Fish Guides » Saltwater Fish » John Dory — How to Catch Zeus faber

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