Mangrove Jacks On The Prowl

By Josh Gurney


Mangrove Jack have been pretty thick of late, especially in south east QLD and northern NSW. Good fish are being pulled every day, frequently over 40cm and sometimes over 50cm. Hot, muggy days and afternoon storms are usually the best times to chase these red brutes.


PB Jack (63cm) heavily twitching divers hard against structure

I often find myself launching the yak after work with an hour or two of daylight left before dark.


Using a small variety of lures such as, Lucky Craft 100mm XD Pointers, Jackall Downzvidos, Zman Diesel MinnowZ and SwimmerZ I can often tame the reds. Using lures, is usually not as productive as your average fisho with live bait, but it is much easier and less time consuming for a quick session. I recently caught a mangrove jack and, when the fish got close, I noticed what I though was a strand of seaweed hanging from its mouth. I was surprised when I found it was a bait hook with a short length of leader attached. The hook looked like a model your typical weekend warrior would use to whack a prawn on and have a cast for a bream or a flathead. Unfortunately for old mate, when he had a chance at this particular jack he wasn’t successful and was clearly under gunned for the unexpected.


A nice red jack from a rockwall
A nice red jack from a rockwall


Many people suggest 50lb, 60lb and even 70lb leader for jacks in tight structure. I can’t agree with using such heavy leader, especially if fishing with lures. The heavier the leader, the more unnatural your lure will look. Heavy leader will distort the action of the lure and affect the depth it dives etc… For this reason I stick to 30lb or 40lb leader; or if I’m fishing top water I’ll go as light as 20lb. This way I get a lot more bites, which I find is a massive confidence booster even if I am losing lures. I still get absolutely smoked from time to time, but jack fishing is jack fishing and if they are going to bust you off, it doesn’t matter how heavy your leader.


Jack extracted from a deep rockbar


I like to target deep rockbars, bridges and pontoons. Often hopping soft vibes or blades down deep will result in a good hook up, especially on the bottom of the tide as it stalls waiting for the incoming. Until recently, I’ve always found main bridges hard to fish from a kayak due to the roaring current that rips through. My view changed when I was making my way to one of my known good spots. To get to this spot I have to go via a bridge and a few good rock walls from my launch site. On this particular day the wind was blowing about 18 kts and my spot was quite uncomfortable to fish from the yak.


A classic rockwall jack
A classic rockwall jack


I found shelter hiding behind the pylons and even though I had always shunned the idea of fishing the bridge I decided to have a go due to the wind. I was sitting behind a pylon next to a calm, back eddy. The tide was flowing towards me so I was casting upstream and retrieving back down the current right alongside the pylon. I was using a Zman SwimmerZ in Smoky Shad employing a steady roll retrieve. I think it was about the 3rd or 4th cast and bang, I hooked a monster. Within seconds I had just lost my first jack while fishing a bridge. I was devastated, but more determined than ever and the very next morning set my alarm for 4am. Allowing one hour for travel, my plan was to be fishing by about 5am.I got to the spot on time and started fishing the first pylon. 10 casts either side of the pylon and then move onto the next one. Cast after cast followed and after what seemed a long while, I eventually set the hooks in a good fish. After a short hard fight, the fish surfaced and I was stoked to see a 51cm jack. That was the turning point for me and I now consistently fish the bridges.


The by-catch from the bridges can be fun also
The by-catch from the bridges can be fun also


When fishing divers, I like a twitch, twitch sort of action. This way I find my lure in the strike zone for longer. My hope is that every time I twitch the lure and pause then a jack is going to be sitting on its arse end resulting in a strike on the next twitch. I’ve found this to be my most successful style of fishing. A simple cast up to where the water meets the rocks, one very vicious twitch (to send out a hard pulse through the water to attract any fish’ attention) pause for a few seconds and then begin a very slow roll with a few cranks of the reel handle. Once the lure has slow rolled about a third of the way down the wall, I then pause again and give the lure a few more twitches. The idea of the slow rolling is to get the lure down to a good depth, and the twitching will hopefully get  the fish excited resulting in a strike when the lure pauses. That’s the theory anyway and I find it works for me.

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Fishing rock walls has got to be my favourite terrain to target. I’ve always managed to have luck with the rock walls. Even if it is just a single hit or a monumental bust off, the rock walls rarely let me down. My personal best jack was caught fishing some rocks in a canal system. I’ve always found the bigger, better quality jacks will be lurking around rock walls or rock bars. As long as you have your lure as close to the rocks as possible, it will just be a matter of time. They do say “if you’re not getting snagged then you’re not in the zone!” This is certainly true for mangrove jacks, but I’m no expert and jack fishing will always be jack fishing. It varies so much, however, put in the time and effort and you should be rewarded and hooked up to one of these red marauders.