North Queensland is renowned for its awesome Barramundi fishing, but with the seas on closure just around the corner it’s time to focus on some other species. A good fish to target in the closed season, is the Mangrove Jack. Jacks are one of the meanest fish in the creeks, they are built like bulldogs. When hooked they head straight for structure and within seconds the fight can be over. These fish are also of a very high eating quality and sparkle with color when landed. Jacks grow to about 50cm’s in the creeks before heading out and living around rocky headlands and inshore reefs.
There are a few different ways you can target these territorial fish of the creeks. One of the easiest ways to fish for them is a well presented live bait or strip bait drifted into any form of structure in a small mangrove creek. They will slam the baits on the way back into the structure, so you have to be pretty quick on the strike with a tight drag to stop them. Fishing for Jacks like this is great when fishing with the family in the day time. You can also catch other species like Fingermark, Grunter, Bream and Barra but be sure to release a Barra if it’s caught in the closed season. Sometimes though bait fishing can produce a lot of vermin it can be boring, so it pays to have some lures and plastics on board.
Lure fishing isn’t for everyone but for those who want to spend a day on the water and get big numbers of Jacks, flicking is a great way to do it. When flicking for them there are two ways that work best. The first way is to flick little hard bodied lures under the shallow mangroves in a maximum of 1.5m’s of water. Lures up to 100mm’s in length work the best in bright colors to stir them into an aggression bite. The best way I found to retrieve small Jack lures is with sharp erratic twitches mixed in with some pauses. Razor sharp trebles and a strongly built lure are essential for these fish because of their huge teeth and jaw crushing power.
The other form of lure fishing for them is with soft plastics. The best way to get Jacks on soft plastics is by flicking them and letting them sink into deep structure like trees and bridge pylons. Let the soft plastic sink right down into their territory and give it a sharp quick lift off the bottom with a quick retrieve repeated until you get a strike. The best soft plastics I recommend for Jacks are Shimano Squidgy Mongrels and Ridgebacks. They sink straight down into the structure quickly causing the jacks to get aggressive and strike. Fitted with razor sharp hooks and built with strong plastic, these Squidgy’s can handle multiple Jacks before the plastic needs to be changed.
The tackle I use for chasing Jacks on hard bodies is a Shimano Curado 200E5 with a Shimano Raider Barra Magnum Rod. This combo is matched perfectly for flicking smaller hard bodies and has a smooth tough drag to handle these dog fighters of the creeks. I use 20lb Power Pro braid with a 40-60lb leader so if they do get me in the structure I can pull them back out. I recommend this set up if you’re thinking about getting into some serious lure flicking.
When flicking plastics down deep I prefer to use a spinning combo. The reason I prefer to use a Spin combo and recommend them when using soft plastics is simply because they have more feel down on the bottom. Once the plastic hits the bottom and the lift is given you can feel every vibration of the plastic and the instant slam from the Jacks. With a spin combo it is also easier to get the plastics off of the structure if you happen to get snagged on it. The spinning outfit I recommend that is ideal for Jacks is a Shimano Stradic 3000Ci4 matched with a Gloomis Gl2 8-15lb Rod. I run 4lb and 10lb Power Pro braid on this combo for ultimate feel when finessing for Jacks. It is a real challenge in the tight structure trying to pull a solid jack away from its habitat using light line.
Jacks can be caught all year round but seem to fire up in the hotter months of the year. This is perfect because it is closed season for Barramundi and all keen fishermen can target these Mangrove Jacks, that are just as fun if not better then catching a Barra. Just remember closed season for Barramundi is between midday 1 November to midday 1 February on the QLD coast. If you happen to hook a Barra release it back into the water as soon as you can without harming it. So go in search of Mangrove Jacks, they are excellent eating and put up an outstanding fight.