kayak fishing mangroves


If you are heading to the north of Australia or spend a lot of time here like me and are looking for a real fishing challenge, you can’t go past the Mangrove Jack. We give them lots of names up here, including Red Devils and Dogtooth Bream. They are a fantastic fish to look at with their deep red and bronze appearance, not to mention their vibrant markings. More than their impressive appearance, I just love their aggression and bad attitude. They love to ambush and love to pin and consume their targets with speed and explosive power. As you can probably tell, this is one fish that makes for great fishing. You will need both patience and skill.

Mangrove Jacks are well known for getting the upper hand on many anglers. I’m putting down some of my experience here in the north of Queensland. If you get into fishing Mangrove Jack, you will probably find you’ve become addicted before too long.


Mangrove Jack make a migration out to the reefs as they mature. Mangrove Jacks generally leave the tidal mangroves and estuaries but some will stay and can even be found upstream. As juveniles, they are found in the upper reaches of rivers and freshwater dams.

This means they can be found around rocky headlands and caves before they finally head out to the reefs. With so many habitats to be found in, Mangrove Jack offer some diversified fishing. Catching a Mangrove Jack at around 50cm is nothing short of exhilarating. Out on the reefs, they can get much larger.


If you are one for lure fishing, the best place to target Mangrove Jacks is in the creeks and estuaries. You’ll most likely find them well hidden in heavy structure. They are the masters of waiting in cover to snatch their prey. They are intelligent too. They are very adept at nabbing their prey on the way back to cover. They will circle their prey and attack with an explosion of ferocity and head straight back to a stealthy location to wait for the next unsuspecting victim. You will know when you have a bite from a Mangrove Jack because of the sheer ferocity. They don’t mess around. A slip of your concentration and you’ll have lost your gear to a bust-off or be dragged into a snag.


Mangrove Jacks can be taken all throughout the year in northern Queensland, although the warmer months (which is the majority) offer for spectacular fishing. I find the most action is when the sun is going down.

You will find Mangrove Jacks anywhere there is a maze of creeks and rivers to explore. And that’s a lot of places up here. I’m really keen on enjoying my surroundings, and Queensland has plenty of that to offer. I always feel as if I am on a true hunting expedition when I go out for a day or few chasing Mangrove Jack.


You need to sharpen your lure fishing skills when going after this master of ambush. Mangrove Jack like to hide hard up in the cover. This means accurate casting deep into structure is extremely important to take this fish. I find weedless plastics work the best for me. My aim is to get right into the strike zone without getting snagged. Then fishing for Mangrove Jack requires a little patience because it is only a matter of time until an angry Jack strikes. Patience and concentration are key because it’s easy to get spooked yourself if you are not prepared for the attack by one of these predators.


And that happens all too often with Mangrove Jacks. That’s what makes them so much fun to fish for around here for me. It’s crucial to get the upper hand immediately. I always make sure I have a tight drag because these fish are still able to pull fishing line from my spool. I go with a rod that is able to take some of the shock to help avoid breaking line under strain. I recommend using a fishing rod that’s rated between 3 and 6kg. I use a size 2500 reel. I regularly go with a 15lb braid line and a 30lb leader, fluorocarbon, of course. Whatever you choose, you should be looking for an outfit that allows you to flick your presentations with accuracy while giving you enough power to turn Jacks away from the thick structure they will immediately head for.


Tides are also important when you are looking for Mangrove Jack. While they can be taken at all tide times, I’ve found they are best found in the smaller creeks on a high tide while I also have been very successful when fishing on the few hours towards the low tide. This is because their prey, baitfish and crustaceans are forced out and looking for food as the water levels come down.

The key to success around here is taking a good look around while paying attention to the environment. Until I get to really know any particular area, I can spend a couple of days watching the tides and watching structure change with water levels. There are so many regions packed with estuaries and places to find Mangrove Jack all along the coast of northern Queensland, you really can’t go wrong.


Do you have any Mangrove Jack fishing tips you would like to add? Share your expertise through the comments section below.

Robert M Davies

Robert passed the "Obsessed With Fishing Test" with flying colours. Instead of talking, Robert has turned his hand to writing about his experience in fishing all around Australia.