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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

Overview

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.

John dories 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
FamilyZeidae
Identifying CharacteristicsSharp spines and big dark spot on the side.
Flat, round body shape, and bony fish with long spines on its dorsal fin.
A john dory grows to a maximum size of 2 ft.
Depth Range5m to 360m
HabitatIt can be found in tropical and temperate latitudes of the world oceans such as the North Atlantic as well as cooler parts of the South Pacific (except in the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic oceans). However, it is most common in the UK, New Zealand, South East Asia, and Australia
LimitsCheck your local regulations
Largest Recorded11 lbs

Where to Find John Dory

St. Peter’s 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 

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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 whole 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 whole 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
The 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.

Seasons

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

Were you able to catch a john dory and want a meal out of it? Here’s a john dory recipe to try. If not, are you planning on buying one?

When purchasing fresh John Dory, check that it has bright skin, clear bulging eyes, and red gills. You can just buy fillets and not the whole fish since its head accounts half of its weight.

  1. Mix 50kg of softened butter with half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and set aside.
  2. Heat a large frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it.
  3. Season the john dory fillet with salt and add to the pan skin side down.
  4. Press the fillet firmly in the pan using a spatula for a minute to prevent curling.
  5. Cook for 2 minutes then flip and add the prepared paprika butter to the pan.
  6. 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.
  7. Remove the fillet from the pan and serve with lemon wedges.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does john dory taste like?

John dory has delicate white flesh and firm yet fine flakes with a slightly sweet flavor. It’s a a delicious fish.

Is John Dory fish good to eat?

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

How does john dory hunt for prey?

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.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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Articles » Saltwater Fishing » John Dory — How to Catch Zeus faber