John Dory Fishing: Zeus Faber
The John Dory (Zeus faber) is a sad-looking fish and is not taken in large numbers by anglers, although it is often brought in by netsmen off the south and west coasts.
It has a deep, narrow body, with a large head and mouth, and when first captured is usually a golden colour, which however soon fades to olive-brown. There is a large round black spot on either side of its body. It is a small-scaled fish.
Anglers who catch the Dory for the first time are usually puzzled by the identity of their catch. A number of local names add to the confusion. One popular alias is golden; the Dory’s body at a first glance is not unlike that of the sea bream.
Small fish, such as sand-eels, smelts, and pilchards are the John Dory’s main diet. But prawns and limpets have been found inside some specimens.
The Dory is a slow-moving fish, relying on its large mouth to engulf its prey. This shoots out like a funnel, and small fish are sucked in quickly. John Dory observed in aquariums have sucked in food up to 45 cms (18 ins) away from their mouths.
In really warm weather the Dory is known to drift on the surface, striking now and again to feed off brit and sand-eels. Back in 1956 several were found washed up on Chesil Beach, Dorset, and it was thought they must have become stranded when the professionals were netting mackerel inshore. The Dory were probably feeding off small mackerel at the time.
Anglers seldom, if ever, deliberately fish for this species. Dory are usually taken when fish baits are being floated for bass and pollack from boats and rocks. The larger fish do not swim in shoals, but occasionally one can catch a number of the smaller fish from rocky points, particularly during late evening in the summer.
Those who do fish for Dory are mainly anglers who have realized their good table qualities. Although one rarely sees them on fishmongers’ slabs in this country, they are something of a delicacy on the Continent and fetch a good price.
Dory can be fished for from boats by drift-lining with a live sand-eel as bait. Tackle is simple : a light rod, free-running reel, trace, and hook. Only if a strong current is running is it necessary to add a small spiral weight to get the bait down to the fish.
From rocks surrounded by deep water, the best method is float-fishing. Arrange the bait mid-water and letmove around with the current, near weed-beds if possible, for the Dory will be nosing around after the small fish that feed in seaweed.