Jungle Perch are one of the most challenging but rewarding fish in FNQ. They are found in good numbers between Cairns and Townsville, sometimes even further south in the Mackay area. The reason Jungle Perch (JPs) are so challenging to catch is because they live in exactly what their name states, Jungle/Rainforest freshwater streams. To some people JPs are considered rare but if you know what you’re looking for and how to target them 50-100 fish days are common. These fish don’t grow very big, anything over 40cm is a big fish with most of the fish caught in a session are only about 25-30cm’s.
The crystal clear creeks and streams that JPs live in can only be fished by walking up them on foot. Most of the creeks that hold fish are only about knee deep with rock pools and rapids snaking their way through the system. With the gear you have to use to get these smart fish to eat they always seem to pull hard for their size. Another aspect of JP fishing that makes it so challenging is that they have excellent site and can see you from a good 10m away, sometimes getting on your knees and precision casting is required.
As stated before JPs can be found from Cairns to Mackay. They freshwater creeks that are full of rocks and fast flowing water that snakes through the rainforest. It is best if the creek you fish runs from the top of the hills and down into the salt eventually. Once you have found a creek you want to start fishing in, all the perch will be in tight backwaters formed from rapids and any bit of structure or overhanging trees. You will tend to only find one decent fish in each little section of the river because once one is hooked the others smarten up very quick and tend to shy away from the select lure.
The best way to catch a Jungle Perch is to keep moving constantly up the creek. While you are slowly moving up the creek try to be as stealthy as you can so they don’t see you, most of the time walking up the creek in the water seems to be the best. Once you have found either a deep hole, overhanging snag or rock with current flow around it cast as close to the selected structure as possible and work our lure or plastic out with a steady retrieve. Jungle Perch do not eat big lures very often, anything under 3’ is perfect. They will eat anything that has a small enough profile but the most effective way to fish for them is with small surface plastics or poppers. Half the time they will eat your lure/plastic as it hits the water so be ready to strike! JPs can be targeted at any time of year apart from when the creeks are flooding and running red.
The gear used for JPs is always small spinning outfits with light 4lb braid or even sometimes mono. My favourite set up to use for these fish is a Shimano Stradic Ci4 3000FA loaded with 4lb Power Pro, this is then matched to my Gloomis GL2 800ML ESP 4-10lb rod. This combo is ideal for this time of fishing because it can cast a mile without being seen by the fish and is short enough to fit through the tight walking country encountered on these missions. About 6ft of 8-12lb mono leader seems to be the best to get them to bite harder and not be so shy on the lures/plastics.
The lures/plastics that are used can be anything with a very small profile, anything from Spinners, Poppers, Blades & plastics rigged surface/subsurface.
My favourite lure to use for JPs is a 50mm Stiffy popper, they have such a small profile but put out a god splash when slowly popped back to your feet and JPs love all the surface commotion.
One of the biggest tips for JP fishing is wear a good pair of shoes that can get wet and are comfortable for a full day of walking.
Take a small first aid kit because sometimes you are a few hours walk away from the car.
If your lure gets caught in a tree let it drop down into the water and jig it, they will be all over it.
Have no more than a few casts in each hole or snag, JPs will normally eat it straight away so always keep walking up the creek.
Once you have fished the creek, dot worry about fishing it on the way down as they have already seen you and will have spooked.
These fish are great sports fish and should always be released with care as they are slow growing and rare in some parts.
Get a couple mates together and go explore some new ground in and around FNQ you’ll never know, you might come across that elusive 50cm Jungle Perch.