Mangrove jack are seen as something of a glamour fish, living amongst gnarly man-made structures in big cities, adapting seamlessly into urban life and crippling even the most fortified tackle. These red terrors have made a name for themselves as the bully of the canals, but where they’re at their best, arguably, is in the mangrove creeks in the tropical north.
Jacks in the tropics:
Here, Jacks abound in numbers more akin to bream down south, and their habit of venturing out of structure in packs to attack a lure makes them a true icon of the north.
While the average size may be down in more tropical waters, the sheer numbers of fish make up for it. Heading north of around Bundaberg in Queensland sees a dramatic change in the jack fishery. When chasing their northern counterparts, the focus shifts from pontoons, jetties, bridges and boat hulls to fallen timber, mangroves and rock bars. The harshness isn’t restricted to the countryside either, with crocodiles, mosquitoes and other not-so-welcoming locals all part of the scene in the tropics.
Fishing natural structure can present an extra challenge, in that the shapes aren’t uniform like pontoons and bridge pylons. Mangroves and fallen timbers can grow into any shape imaginable, and getting a lure into the best part of the snag can require the angler to get a bit creative. Skip casting has become a popular method to target these areas, and buoyant soft plastics rigged weedless are just about the perfect presentation when jacks are sitting well back in the junk!
ZMan’s range of soft plastics, such as the Swimmerz, Diezel MinnowZ and 4” Hard Leg Frogz are great options and with a bit of skill, can be ‘skipped’ in under even the tightest overhangs and into the thickest of cover!
When rigged with Tackle Tactics’ Chinlockz Unweighted or Snakelockz these plastics can become an incredible tool for probing the depths of these unforgiving snag complexes. It’s then up to the angler to persuade the jack to come out for a photo!
This isn’t just the realm of plastics though, and hardbodies also have their place in this environment. The Bassday Sugar Deep 90mm Suspending Barra Tuned Lure and Rapala Ripstop Deep Lure are great options in more open areas, and will suspend naturally if more speedy presentations aren’t working.
If you’re consider yourself a jack aficionado and haven’t travelled north for a fix, you might want to get on that! You’ll find yourself in an angler’s heaven soon enough!
Jacks in the city:
While urban development has been detrimental to many aquatic species, mangrove jack seem to have thrived in these concrete jungles. Artificial structures such as bridges, pontoons, retaining walls and even sunken vehicles have provided our resident red dogs with places to ambush their prey, and in the last 20 years, fishing in these urban jungles has become very popular.
Despite being a prized target for lure anglers, those fishing with live or dead bait can rack up impressive numbers of jacks. If this type of fishing appeals to you, make sure you prepare yourself properly. You’ll need at least a 40lb monofilament or fluorocarbon trace, with Jinkai Leader, Black Magic Tough Trace and Scheider Leader Line providing a great connection between you and an angry jack. For hooks, whether using live or dead bait, you can’t go past Gamakatsu Live Bait Hooks, which are designed for this type of rough-and-tumble fishing!
Those interested in chasing these devils with lures can either cast or troll lures, with both methods proving very successful. The key with either method is to make sure you’re working over a lot of structure to find hungry fish. Trollers will want to work their lures along rock walls with pontoons and other structures, getting as close as possible to the prime real estate. Casters can get their lures even closer, and accurate casts that get lures swimming under pontoons and alongside pylons and rock walls is the key to provoking a strike.
Whether you choose to troll or cast, it’s important to get your lures as close as you dare. Extracting an angry jack may be difficult, but most seasoned jack nuts tend to focus on hooking their fish first, and worry about how they’re going to land them later. There are many losses in the city jack game, but that’s all part of the fun.
The canal systems on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Tweed River offer prime city-slickin’ jack fishing, and if you’re chasing an adrenaline rush in the warmer months, this is just the thing you need!
Whether you're hitting the city canals or the tropical waters up North, these little red devils are going to test your angling skills! Go get em 🎣🤘