MANGROVE JACK FISHING TIPS
Mangrove Jack (Lutjanus argentimaculatus) are the demon fish of Australian waterways. They are aggressive and savage predators that destroy potential prey and obliterate unwary or underprepared anglers. Jack’s have a reputation for burying baits, lures, and leaders deep into dark snag-strewn lairs, never to be seen again.
Mangrove Jacks are most prevalent in tropical mangrove creeks but can be encountered as far south as the mild temperate waters of Sydney. They are among the hardest hitting sport fish in Australian estuaries and arguably the tastiest.
Here’s a brief guide to the behaviour and habits of Mangrove Jack and some tips on how to catch them.
MANGROVE JACKS LOVE EVERYTHING FROM STREAMS TO REEFS
Mangrove Jack exhibit an intriguing life history that involves a distinct transition from freshwater habitats to deep-water coral reefs. Juvenile jacks primarily reside in the lower reaches of freshwater streams and rivers. Mangrove Jacks thrive in tropical coastal waterways that have a clean freshwater input from mountain streams.
Adolescent Mangrove Jack migrate into brackish estuarine environments and take up residence among estuarine structure such as mangroves, rock bars and pylons. They are most commonly encountered during the adolescent phase at approximately 20-50cm in length.
Mature adults then leave the estuaries to lurk around headlands or take up residence on offshore rocky or coral reefs. Adult Mangrove Jacks can be found at depths in excess of 100m.
Mangrove Jack can grow to 1.5m in length in deep offshore environments and are virtually unstoppable beasts.
STRUCTURE MASTERS HARD TO CATCH
Mangrove Jacks possess a strong affinity for structure. Structure, is a fishing terms that describes areas where it is often difficult to fish, under ledges, among mangroves and the like. Keep that term in mind because it comes along very often. In freshwater and estuarine environments, Mangrove Jacks commonly reside among timber snags, mangrove roots, bridge pylons, and rock bars. In offshore environments, they typically inhabit rocky and coral reefs.
Jacks are powerful and dirty fighters that are responsible for the majority of lines and lures obliterated in tropical estuaries. They lurk deep within structure and rampage out at high speed to destroy baits and lures. Once they grab hold of their target, they immediately bolt back to cover.
HOW TO GO ABOUT CATCHING THE MANGROVE JACK
Mangrove Jacks are suckers for lures of all styles, shapes, and colours. Floating hardbody lures around 100mm with deep diving bibs are ideal for Jacks, as are poppers and similar size paddle tail plastics. Jacks are also particularly receptive to soft vibe style lures that are worked along the edges of mangrove habitat and over rock bars.
Another productive way to catch Mangrove Jack is to anchor up next to a substantial snag and berley-up with cubes of pilchards. Place a pilchard cube onto a hook and drift it into the mix on unweighted rigs.
GEARING UP FOR THE CHALLENGE
HARDBODY AND VIBE HEAVEN
Rod: 4-6kg baitcaster
Mainline: 20lb braid
Leader: 20-40lb Monofilament
Lure: Killalure Flatz Ratz, Predatek Spoonbill, Transams, Threadybusters, poppers
PLASTICS AND BAIT
Rod: 4-6 kg spin
Reel: Size 25 spin
Mainline: 16-20lb braid or gel spun
Leader: 20-40lb fluorocarbon
Lure: 60-100mm paddle tail plastics, prawn plastics, pilchards, prawn baits
Mangrove Jacks are one of the toughest sportsfish species on the planet, and they really one of my favorites to fish for just that reason. They inhabit gnarly structure, deliver explosive strikes, fight tough and dirty, and they taste sensational. You couldn’t ask for more in a sportsfish. Ensure you experience the power and aggression of a Mangrove Jack at some point in your fishing journey.
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