There is a growing interest in animal personality because individual variation is the substrate of the evolutionary process. Despite revelations that personality traits affect key fitness variables, little is known about the proximate mechanisms generating consistent behavioural differences between individuals. Boldness, the propensity to take risks, is one of the most widely studied aspects of personality in fishes. We assessed the position of juvenile Argyosomus japonicus on the "boldness-shyness" continuum by repeatedly recording the time taken to exit a refuge and explore a novel environment. Stress-related hormone concentrations after exposure to a mild stressor were analysed 1 month before behavioural assays and found to be significantly linked to boldness scores. Shy fish had significantly higher plasma cortisol concentrations in response to handling stress than bold fish. Spontaneous switching between personality categories occurred between trials, highlighting the importance of repeated testing of personality traits over time to correctly attribute personality.