Here's a species that needs no introduction. The mangrove jack would have to be hands down one of Australia's most sought after sportfish, and for good reason. Renowned for their striking good looks, ridiculous pulling power, ferocious appetite, and an attitude that would rival any school yard bully! For many Aussie fishos out there the hunt for this estuary brawler is well and truly an addiction - and one they have no intention giving up. If you haven't yet experienced the lightning fast, crash tackle hit that is a jack attack… buckle up! Jacks of any size can put up a solid tussle, and when the cards fall in your favour the outcome is a red dog reward. But be warned, these cunning critters can dust you quicker than you can say "what Jack?" and have been known to bring experienced anglers to tears. To help kickstart your red devil fishing adventure, our BCFing experts have thrown together this epic guide with everything you need to know. Good luck!
Where to catch mangrove jack?
Mangrove jack can be found all throughout northern Australia, from Shark Bay in the west, across the Northern Territory and Queensland, right down to the mid north coast of New South Wales. As the name suggests these fish love their structure, and whether that's in the form of mangroves and fallen timber, rock bars, weed beds, or coral reefs, there's no better place to find 'em! Jacks have a pretty interesting life cycle, with juveniles and young adults (under 55cm) happily taking residence in your rivers, estuaries, and freshwater streams where they reign supreme. Once they reach maturity, Jacks migrate to inshore and offshore reefs to live out the rest of their days and grow to unbelievable sizes (over 120cm). Who wouldn't want to catch one of those beasts?
What gear to use for mangrove jack
Using the correct setup is the first piece of the puzzle when chasing Jacks and one that will ensure you're not taking a knife to a gun fight. While they aren't the biggest fish going around with any specimen over 50cm considered a donkey, they more than make up for it in attitude and brute strength - so don't go thinking you'll get away with any your average rod and reel! Unfortunately, the age old "go light to get the bite" just doesn't work in this situation and instead it's "go big or go home!" Ask any jack enthusiast and they'll tell you that you just can't go past the accuracy and control that comes with a baitcaster reel. When you start looking at the type of country you're casting into, there's just nothing better! Any baitcaster rod between 6'-6'6" in length and 3-6kg or 4-8kg in weight is on the money, matched with a 150-200 size reel and you're good to go. If baitcasters aren't your cup of tea and you find spinning reels more user friendly, no dramas! Any spinning rod between 6'6" - 7' in length 3-6 or 4-8kg in weight will get the job done, match it with a 3000-4000 size spinning reel for the best results. Spool these up with 20-30lb braid and an appropriate monofilament leader of roughly 30-40lb and bingo! - although we take no responsibility if Big Red still gives you a flogging.
Best bait for mangrove jack
Although many Jack lovers sit firmly on the lure only fence, the truth is sinking baits can be a productive way to get the red dogs to play. Don't go thinking baits are a sure thing though, as bait fishing for mangrove jack still has plenty of challenges. Mangrove jack are certainly not the fussiest thing with fins and will happily have a crack at just about anything that'll fit in their mouth - and some things that won't! While the likes of herring, garfish, poddy mullet and whiting all make up a large portion of the jack diet and make ripper bait choices, they'll also feed on almost any other small forage species like crabs, yabbies, and sandworms. When it comes to choosing a bait, both live and dead baits work extremely well and the more important thing to consider is bait presentation. Just to reiterate… jacks love structure! So, while ensuring your bait is close enough to the snag to entice a jack attack is priority number one, getting the fish out is a whole different story. You want your presentation to look as natural as possible, so stick with the lightly weighted (or even unweighted) for best results. As for hooks, a single 1/0 – 4/0 is the way to go! By keeping a small selection of different sinkers, swivels and hooks you'll be able to make changes to your rig on the fly dependant on tide, depth, etc.
Best lures for mangrove jack
Undeniably the most popular way to target jacks is with lures! Not only is lure casting an extremely effective way to target them - it's also a heap of fun! As with their bait preferences, Jacks aren't exactly fussy when it comes to what lure they'll munch on and can be targeted on a huge variety. From hardbodies and vibes, they all look like mighty meals to the red dog. But if you're looking for the ultimate adrenaline rush, there's nothing quite like throwing surface lures for these brutes. Getting your lure (no matter what type you choose) deep into cover is the most important part and can be the difference between success and going home empty handed. Prospecting the prime real estate with accurate casts is how you entice a jack attack, and remember if you're not getting the odd snag, you're not getting close enough. If it's your first time chasing these fiery fish, you can't go wrong with a 60 - 80mm hardbody like the Luckycraft Pointer 78XD, work it slow, work it fast - just remember to include a pause. 3- and 4- inch soft plastics like the Zman DieZel Minnow are another staple in any jack tackle box and can be rigged weedless, making them perfect for snag bashing - and that's what you need!
When to catch mangrove jack?
When the temperatures start heating up, the jacks come out to play. Considered predominantly a spring and summer species, this is without a doubt the best time of year to target these brutes! The hot and humid weather, afternoon storms and rising barometer make the perfect recipe for a red fish. Jacks can be caught throughout the day, but like most predators prefer to hunt during low light periods and are most active under the complete cover of darkness. This is a great time to target these spirited fish as they venture a bit further from home in search of a meal. As for the best tides, they can be caught at all stages, with the run out being the preferred time as it draws out the bait and fish from their underwater lair. While winter would certainly not be the season to go chasing jacks as their metabolism slows to deal with the colder temperatures, it's still not unheard of and the next winter jack will not be the last.
Jack fishing is not for the faint hearted! It's a white knuckle, do or die fishing experience like no other! Whether you're giving fishing a crack for the first time or it's part of your everyday life, we think that catching a mangrove jack may be the perfect challenge for any willing angler. Some days these guys play the game and others they leave you scratching your head, but that's all part of the fun! Hopefully this how-to guide has come in handy, now get out there and put the brakes on big red!