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The Secrets to Catching Barramundi and Mangrove Jack in Townsville.

The Secrets to Catching Barramundi and Mangrove Jack in Townsville.

Catching Barramundi and Mangrove Jack - Australian Icons.

by Danny Brooks

Welcome to the ultimate guide on how to catch Barramundi and Mangrove Jack in Townsville using Bait & Lures. When fishing for one, you will almost always find the other too, so it makes sense to group them together. Whether you're a seasoned angler or just starting out, this blog will equip you with the knowledge and techniques to reel in these prized catches.

🐟 What are Barramundi and Mangrove Jack?

Barramundi and Mangrove Jack are two iconic fish species found in the waters around Townsville. They are both prized for their fighting ability and eating qualities if caught in saltwater. Freshwater specimens in impoundments tend to be less palatable. These fish are on everyones bucket list, and then there are anglers who fish for these two species exclusively. They are both something very special.

Townsville saltwater barramundi

Barramundi, Lates calcarifer, are typically found in estuaries, rivers, and coastal waters, often lurking near structure like mangroves and rock bars. They can grow up to 1.8 meters in length and live up to 20 years.

Townsville mangrove jack on soft plastic lure

Mangrove Jack, Lutjanus argentimaculatus, inhabit mangrove-lined creeks, rivers, and estuaries, known for their aggressive strikes and fighting prowess. They can reach lengths to 60 centimetres in the estuary and are then up to 8 years old. Jacks then move residence to offshore reefs and continue to grow. The largest recorded capture of an offshore Jack was 101cm to the fork of the tail! The oldest recorded fish was 57 years old but only measured 82 centimetres. Age doesn't alway mean that the fish will be larger.

🔍 How to Identify Barramundi and Mangrove Jack

Physically, Barramundi have a distinctive elongated body with a large, slightly upturned mouth. They often display a mottled green and silver colouration. Saltwater Barra tend to have yellow colouring in their fins.

Mangrove Jacks have a reddish-brown body with a prominent black spot on their gill cover and a distinctive forked powerful tail. Jacks also boast an impressive array of teeth. Keep fingers well clear as they can extend their mouth well forward when striking.

Both species are known to be ambush predators, often hiding near structure and striking prey with explosive force. They are aggressive hunters, perfectly willing to strike fast-moving lures and baits when trolled by their ambush station. The chances are that if you can get the lure or bait in front of the fish, and twitch or move it, you'll get hit.

🌊 Best Tides to Catch Barramundi and Mangrove Jack

Barramundi fishing is best during the warmer months from October to April, while Mangrove Jacks are more active during the wet season from November to March.

On the high tide work the deeper ledges, rock bars and river bends as the mangroves are often flooded and fish will move right up the back of the mangroves. In most cases making it almost impossible to get close to with a bait or lure. Not to mention if you did get close enough the chance of them bricking you in the snags is extremely high.

As the water moves out of the mangroves the fish will be pushed out also and become much more accessible making these areas a much better option.

The dropping tide presents multiple opportunities with the flats and drains also becoming good feeding zones. The key is bait so if you see bait working in an area the barra and jacks will not be far away. Move out with the tide, work the mouths of drains, and look for the deeper snags that stand out on a bank as they are often an area that fish will move to towards the bottom of the tide.

On the bottom of the tide look to set yourself up for the first push of the tide with creek mouths and flats holding good structure often good places to start with. As the tide starts to pick up there is usually a bite period that can vary depending on area and the system you are fishing.

Townsville Mangrove Jack

In freshwater impoundments barramundi can be a fish of a thousand casts but the best conditions are usually associated with the moon. Impoundments tend to fish best in the twilight with late afternoon and early morning peak times to target impoundment barra. Moon light nights can also fish well with those using surface stick baits and fizzers often reports good sessions. This is partly due better lure placement by anglers and the light also allows the barra to see surface lures and become more active during these periods.

Townsville barramundi

Legal Sizes & Limits

Size and Possession Limits: It's crucial to adhere to size and possession limits set by fisheries authorities. In Queensland, Barramundi must be between 58cm and 120cm in length and a limit of 5 barra per person or 10 per boat with two or more anglers. There is a 3 month closed season from November to January to protect the fish during breeding. Mangrove Jacks have a minimum size limit of 35cm and a possession limit of five per person. This was correct at the time of publication, however click the link at the bottom of this blog to get up-to-date information before fishing.

🍽️ Diet of Barramundi and Mangrove Jack

Both species are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of smaller fish, crustaceans, and even insects, frogs and lizards. Understanding their diet can help anglers choose the right bait and lures for a successful catch.

Best Baits for Barra and Jacks

In our area we find that the barra will rarely refuse a live prawn, mullet or herring where as Jacks tend to be partial to a well-presented strip bait.

Townsville single hook paternoster rig

🎣 Best Gear for Barramundi and Mangrove Jack

You don’t have to over think it when it comes to bait fishing. Generally a spin reel 4000 to 6000 size reel that can hold 150m plus of 20-30lb mono or braid matched with a 6-10kg rod around 6ft-7ft. Regardless of the main line it is recommended that you use a heavier mono leader with some abrasive resistant properties as you tend to fish around structure for these fish.

When it comes to casting lures or soft plastics for these fish it can start to get a little more specialised. However, in most cases a low-profile bait caster reel from the Shimano, Daiwa, or Abu Revo stable will do the trick. Look for a reel that will hold at least 100m plus of 20-30lb braid, a leader material around the 40-60lb depending on the lure or plastics and the area you are fishing.

Low profile baitcaster combo for barra and jack fishing
Find out more about the Tatulion reel

Without going into the semantics of it all it will depend on your budget and how often you hit the water targeting these great fish as to the exact reel that suites your personal preference. This also applies to the rod you match to your reel but once again it will depend on several factors like the feel in your hand, the line class you are fishing and the lures or soft plastics you are casting in terms of their weights. It also depends on the distance you are looking to cast with shorter rods for close quarters and longer rods for longer casting options.

The practice of skipping soft plastics is one of the techniques that works well particularly for chasing Mangrove Jacks as it allows for greater penetration into an area of overhanging mangroves. This is where a spin out fit can work best as it tends to allow for easier cast control by the index finger to stop the skip.

Learn to skip-cast in the mangroves

This technique works particularly well for working surface soft plastics frogs on a weedless hook to get the surface strike that all barra or jack anglers just live for.

It is recommended that you use terminal tackle that is up to the punishment these fish can put on a hook, lure, or jig head. Upgrade your split rings and treble hooks on lures where needed.

🎣 Recommended Lures for Barramundi and Mangrove Jack

These fish will hit poppers, plastics, vibes, floating diving minnows and suspending minnows. Barra tend to be less aggressive than Jacks, so a slow twitching retrieve tends to work best while Jacks often respond to fast-moving lure or surface popper.

Choose lures that mimic the natural prey of each species, such as mullet or prawn imitations for Barramundi and small baitfish patterns for Mangrove Jacks.

Vary lure sizes based on water conditions and the size of the target fish. For Barramundi, opt for lures between 3-6" in length, while Mangrove Jacks often prefer smaller offerings in the 2–4” range.

Lure selection is associated with the area you are fishing including depth, water clarity and structure you are fishing around and the time of the day. This is why any serious barra or jack angler has a wide variety of lures and soft plastics at their disposal.

Casting and trolling lures for barramundi and mangrove jack fishing

  • A few things that might help when it comes to selecting a lure from your tackle box on any given day. Bright colours in dirty water or overcast days while more natural colours for clean water and bright days.
  • Slow suspending lures for casting around snags while faster floating lures are a good option to reduce snag ups while trolling lures through heavy structure.
  • Fishing heavy structure can be frustrating at time always snagging up but this is where soft plastic prawn or bait fish profile rigged weedless can work well.
  • Deep ledges and areas where fish are sitting away for heavy structure can be fished with sinking soft vibe style lures. Allowing an anger to get in the face of fish and draw the strike.

Weedless and vibe lures for barramundi and mangrove jack fishing

Look for lures that fit your fish area and always make sure the split rings and trebles on the lure can withstand the power of these fish.

🎣 Best Techniques for Barramundi and Mangrove Jack

Technique is king, it can turn a slow day into a productive one just by how you cast and retrieve your lure.

Barramundi: Use a slow, twitching retrieve with pauses to mimic wounded baitfish. Focus on casting near structure and allowing the lure to suspend in the strike zone.

Mangrove Jack: Employ a fast, erratic retrieve to trigger aggressive strikes. Target shallow flats, rock bars, and mangrove edges, varying retrieve speeds until you find what entices the fish.

It is all in the detail so look for the subtleties in your retrieve that draw the strike and repeat. Every day on the water is different this is what makes fishing such a special sport.

It could be a brra or it could be a jack.

🎣 Best Way to Land Barramundi and Mangrove Jack

When landing these powerful fish, it is essential to use a landing net or lip grips to safely bring them aboard without causing harm to the fish or yourself. Always support the belly of any larger fish to prevent pressure on their gills and neck particularly if you intend to release them to fight another day. Larger fish can look fine swimming away but often will die later if held by the mouth without supporting the fish's weight.

Best spots to try

Many of the estuary and river around Townsville will produce both Barramundi and Mangrove Jacks it is about putting the time in on the water to determine what system fishes best on any given tide. From the Hinchinbrook Channel to the Burdekin there are numerous creeks and rivers accessible via boat with boat ramps at most. Land based locations are also vast with many locations accessible via foot. Just be vigilante as it is croc country and where there are barra there can be crocs.

Beware, Townsville crocodiles

There are three weirs along the freshwater reaches of the Ross River running through Townsville which are part of the Stocked Impoundment Program (SIPs Permit). The entire system is stocked with Barra and produce some special fish over the metre mark on a regular basis.

🍽️ Are Barramundi and Mangrove Jack Good Eating Fish?

Yes, both Barramundi and Mangrove Jack are prized for their delicious white flesh. Many prefer jacks to barra, but there are some that put the balance the other way around. Both are great to eat and you'll find them in the very best restaurants around Australia. Remember though, it's essential to follow sustainable fishing practices and adhere to size and possession limits to ensure healthy fish populations for future generations.

Tackle World Townsville

Tackle World Townsville

Visit Townsville Tackle World, your one-stop-shop for all fishing needs. Located at 305 Ingham Road, Garbutt, Townsville, this renowned store offers a vast selection of quality gear and expert advice for an exceptional fishing experience.

Phone: 07 4725 1266

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QLD size & possession limits

QLD Stocked Impoundment Permit - Online