In Search of Jungle Perch

By Luke Galea

The humble Jungle Perch (JP for short) has been right at the top of my bucket list for the last few years. I have lost count of the amount of money I have spent on fuel, hours I have endured and dozens of kilometres I have walked in pristine rivers in creeks in Mackay over the past few years in pursuit of “speckled gold”.

Jungle Perch are relatively common in rainforest streams north of about Townsville and in very good numbers between Townsville in Cairns. Historically, their extent spanned all the way down the eastern seaboard into northern New South Wales but significant urbanisation and barriers to migration has significantly reduced their geographic extent to the south.

Very small populations are still evident in the Mackay Whitsunday region but they definitely take some work to find. More often than not, locally around Mackay, they are more-so found in various National Parks (so I have been told) that are off limits to any kind of fishing. It is their elusiveness and rarity around Mackay that has planted a seed within my core. I am fixated on capturing one in my local waters and essentially, will not rest until I do. If I am two things, I am 1) determined and 2) persistent...its only a matter of time.

I have just returned from a relaxing Easter break in Cairns with my wife and daughter and caught up with a couple of good mates whilst I was up there. Even though catching a JP in Cairns was not as great a challenge as catching one in Mackay, I was still hell-bent in ticking this species off the bucket list.

I ventured into a local tackle store, explained my dream was to catch a JP and within minutes one of the staff actually gave me their sons private mobile number so that he could give me the low-down on where he regularly catches them. Talk about a good bloke and great service.

We arrived at the chosen location at first light on the following morning. Admittedly our hopes weren’t overly high due to Tropical Cyclone Ita giving Cairns a good hammering only a week earlier, however, we persisted (did I say I was persistent and determined?).

I flung out my little popper alongside a log on the opposing bank and was rewarded almost instantly by a small JP. I did not care one iota that it was a was a JP...the fish I had dreamt about for so long, and I am sure my mates in Mackay would have heard my elation. Over the course of the next 3-4 hours, I caught another 6 of these beautiful fish up to 30cm. Still not huge but once again, that did not matter.

All of these fish were caught from areas of structure where you would typically think they would be hiding out. From beneath trees and undercut banks, eddying backwaters and pressure points of large boulders, these fish were there occupying the best habitat available to them in each pool. We only managed to catch one or two fish from each pool however before the bite shut down and we were forced to move upstream.

I was using a 3-6kg spin stick and my Shimano Saros 3000FA for these fish which I admit was a bit of an overkill. A 1000 or 2500 Shimano spin reel matched with a 1-3kg or 2-4kg spin stick would have made things even more enjoyable. A Ci4 spin reel such as a Stradic or Rarenium in the smaller sizes mentioned would be ideal for the long tough treks through rugged country due to them being extremely light.

I loved these fish so much that I have planned a 5-day JP expedition in Cairns in mid-late November. Bring it on!!