TRUE BLUE JACK FISHING
Eating meat pies slathered in tomato sauce, using the term G'day mate, breakfast beers, wearing the singlet/stubbies/thongs combo, enjoying the outdoors - my list could go on forever... These are all well recognised, most loved Australian activities. My wife would happily have me add 'shopping for sales at the Plaza' to the list, but I would prefer to put forward the suggestion that Mangrove Jack fishing should be on that list. Many Aussies love the outdoors, namely fishing. But as we all know you can fish anywhere in the world, what makes fishing for the highly elusive Mangrove Jack so special, is that you can only catch them in our great country.
The continuous steamy, hot conditions we've had gracing us this summer and the distinct lack of flooding definitely will have the jacks on the prowl throughout the Sunshine Coast estuaries. The past weeks we have also seen massive schools of herring boiling on the surface in a feeding frenzy throughout the Maroochy River, and no doubt in most coastal rivers. These herring are at the bottom of the food chain for most big predators and along with small mullet and river prawns make up the majority of a mangrove jacks diet. The green river prawns numbers increased at the end of the year in our local creeks, upper reaches and canals. This is when a cast net can become invaluable to an angler who is trying to match what the mangrove jack are feeding on. And you only have to look at the photos of recent 'Jack' catches to realise that we're in peak Jack-fishing season.
WHERE TO FIND JACKS:
These fish are as comfortable around snaggy environments as I am with a fishing rod in my hands. Their favourite habitats include rocky structures, bridge pylons, and fallen trees, under pontoons, deep holes and, as adults, inshore reefs. Mangrove jack are drawn to these habitats as they provide great shelters and they can easily ambush prey or your bait with a vicious swift attack as it passes by their territory and lair. They will then dart back in to the deep coverage with the unsuspecting fish or when they become hooked, and this is when angler's lines tend to snap as they rub against the usually abrasive surfaces. Mangrove jacks are getting caught in their usual haunts. These include:
- Noosa: Noosa Sound, Woods Bay, Weyba Creek (where bait prawns love to hang), the Gympie Terrace stretch and in between Lake Cootharaba and Cooroibah.
- Maroochy: Eudlo Creek, Petrie Creek, Coolum Creek and around the Cane Train Bridge near Dunethin rock.
- Mooloolaba: Kawana Waters, the channel that runs under McKenzie's Bridge, Mountain Creek and the middle to upper reaches of the Mooloolah River.
- Caloundra: The top end of Currimundi Lake, Pelican Waters Canals, around the pylons of the Boardwalk and the upper reaches of Bells and Coochin Creek.
Live bait is generally the best, due to the appeal of a moving prey. Poddy mullet, diver whiting, prawns, gar, herring and hardy heads are all good locally found Jack food. When Jacks are really on a hot bite they will take most whole fish types of bait like W.A. pilchards, whitebait and even strips of mullet fillet. Lures are the other option. Jacks are so territorial, meaning they will take most lures that pass by their patch. They don't always hit the offering because they want to eat it. Jacks may hit your lure or bait as a warning for it to move away from their home. Some of the best hard bodied lures include; the RMG Scorpion 68, gold Bombersand the silver Berkley Frenzy minnow. Soft plastics are very affective for Jacks also because such a large surface area is covered with repetitive casting and retrieving. Four inch Powerbait minnows, three inch Atomic prongs and Gulpfive inch Jerk minnows have worked well in the Maroochy River.
It is best to find out what the Jacks in your local area feed on and try to match or replicate it. For instance, in Petrie Creek, Jacks will feed on green prawns or small mullet. So I use Atomic prongs to mimic the prawn and four inch Realistix Powerbait as a poddy mullet. Prawn Star lures look and swim similar to the river prawns. Make sure you work your lure in around overhanging trees, submerged snags, bridge pylons and rocky walls. Jack fishing legends always tell me 'you must be in their zone to make them angry enough to hit the lure or bait' which is obviously within a metre or two.
TACKLE FOR JACKS:
You need durable rigs to withstand the enormous fighting power. A strong reel with solid, yet smooth drag is needed to pull these fish in. The rod must have the ability to be fully loaded and then some. As a general rule I use 10kg mono or similar strength in braid, with a 40-60lb high abrasion resistant leader. Use a small ball sinker when there isn't much run in the tide and increase the size as the tides speed does. Use a running rig with a strong chemically sharpened suicide/octopus style hook to suit the bait size. Generally a 3/0 to 5/0 is ample for jacks.
Dawn, dusk, the turn of the tide and overnight are all good times for jack fishing. Overnight is when jacks will tend to wander away from their structure in search of food, so the odds of a successful fishing sessions is much better over night.
So armed with these Jack Fishing tips and the prospect of catching a beauty to cook up on barbeque on the most Australian day of the year (coming up next long weekend). Get in amongst the action and help me add Jack Fishing to the list of great patriotic Aussie activities!
There are plenty of quality whiting feeding on the shallow banks between Chambers Island and the river mouth, these 36cm specimens took a liking to my (Matt) bubble pop 45.
Mangrove jack have been smashing through the schools of herring and mullet around the Cane Bridge near Dunethin Rock as Murray Neauendorf found out this week when a 1.5kg specimen took a liking to his live bait.
Jeff loves to flick his home made lures in Petrie Creek in search of Mangrove jacks, but in this case his 2kg fish took a live bait.
Chris Gofter was fishing from Chambers Island using live sand worms when this 3kg monster jack smashes his whiting rod and after nearly spooling him on 6lb line, was dragged ashore with great delight.
LOCAL FISHING REPORT
Noosa: Plenty of mangrove jack to 2.25kg in Woods Bay, off Munna Point and up towards the Ferry crossing point. Bream at night in Noosa Sound and Weyba Creek. Estuary cod, bream, moses perch and school jew between the lakes and mud crabs still on the move in the creeks.
Maroochy: Mangrove jacks to 2kg throughout the upper reaches and creeks. Good flathead around the Motorway Bridge on the dropping tide. Whiting between Chambers Island and the Black Banks, also a few at the Maroochy Waters Canal entrance. Flathead, bream and grunter bream upstream of the Bli Bli channel markers at night. Schools of baitfish also on the move with the high tide.
Kawana: Plenty of baitfish schooling just inside the bar and through to the Coastguard. Whiting in the Basin and along the La Balsa stretch. Plenty of bream around the moorings and the canals. Trevally and mangrove jacks over night around McKenzie's bridge.
Caloundra: Bream, whiting and trevally from the Boardwalk. Whiting along the shallow banks out from the Power Boat Club and between Golden Beach and Bells Creek over night. Mangrove jacks in the Pelican Waters canals and upper reaches of Currimundi Lake.