(Author: Derek Maynard – Tackle World Tully)
Mangrove Jack are one of the most popular sportfish in Australia. They are hard fighters and put up a great battle, making them a favourite amongst anglers. Catching Mangrove Jack can be challenging but with the right techniques it is possible to land these fish almost every time.
What are Mangrove Jack?
Mangrove Jacks are a predatory fish found in estuaries and coastal waters throughout Northern Australia. They are a member of the LUTJANIDAE family of tropical snappers and are commonly called Mangrove Jacks or Reef Jacks, depending on where they are caught. According to the DAF, estuary-caught male fish mature at around 4-5 years old (45-50 cm long), with females maturing between 5-8 years old (50-55 cm). Maximum age may exceed 31 years.
In southern Queensland, Mangrove Jacks stay in the estuary for the most part of their life cycle with spawning occurring on inshore reefs and appear to be increasing in size well over 50cm to 65cm. In northern fish they often migrate to the inshore and offshore reefs at around 40-45cm in length and stay there, at this point they are often called reef jacks. Reef jacks have been known to grow over 125cm, weigh over 17kg and live for up to 39 years they are usually caught in vicinity of other reef species like Coral Trout, Nannies and Red emperors especially at night. Estuary-caught Mangrove Jack are most commonly found in areas with plenty of structure, such as mangroves, submerged logs, under bridges and near rocks or wrecks.
Anglers can find Mangrove Jack around the whole northern coastline of Australia and often into the freshwater sections of Estuaries and rivers they have been caught as low as the Hawkesbury River near Sydney and reports of catches in the Illawarra region, , and Shark Bay in Western Australia.
Mangrove Jacks are classed as a Demersal species whose scientific name is Lutjanus argentimaculatus.
How to Identify a Mangrove Jack
One of the ways to identify a Mangrove Jack is by its coloration and nasty set of choppers. Mangrove jack are typically bright Red but vary in tones of Brown, pink to a silver grey depending on the country they are living in, their commonly called Red dogs. The reef Jacks are often confused with Red Bass(a no take fish that commonly carries ciguatera) and the best way to see the difference is via their caudal pit differences Jacks have a shallower Caudal pit in front of their eyes, this can be looked up in any fish ID app or book.
Another way to identify Mangrove Jack is by their behaviour. These fish are known for being aggressive feeders and will often attack bait and lures aggressively. They are also one of the strongest fish in the sea, making them a challenge to catch. Mangrove Jacks typically run for structure faster than any other species and it’s wise to use heavier line and leader than normal you would for normal estuary fishing. Generally, 30lb braid with 50lb mono leader is enough.
Mangrove Jack can be caught throughout the year in sub-tropical and tropical Australia, but the best time to fish for them is when the water temperature is increasing and Mangrove Jack are most active.
The best time to fish for jacks is from October to March. Look for the very humid days/ nights with high barometric pressure with warm water temps.
Best Conditions to Catch Mangrove Jack
Mangrove Jack can be caught during daylight hours especially in shaded areas and during the night often larger versions hit live baits aggressively at night.
Size and possession limits
At the time of this article the size limit in Qld is 35cm and a possession limit of 5. And NSW has no size limit but a possession limit of 5.
Other states and territories have different closed seasons for Mangrove Jack, so it is important to check the regulations before you go fishing.
What is the diet of a Mangrove Jack?
Mangrove Jack is a predatory fish and feeds on a variety of prey items. They will eat anything from baitfish and prawns to crabs and other crustaceans. Anglers can use a variety of baits to catch Mangrove Jack, such as live baitfish, prawns, and crabs. The best bait to use depends on the location and conditions you are fishing in.
Mangrove Jack can also be caught using artificial lures. Some of the best lures to use include soft plastics, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits.
The best way to catch Mangrove Jack is by using a combination of live bait and artificial lures. This provides the best chance of success for anglers. As always – using locally caught bait is the best, if the prawns are running, then using prawn lures or bait will provide better results. Matching the hatch both in bait species and size, is KEY.
Best Gear for Mangrove Jack
Fishing gear for Mangrove Jack can vary depending on the location and conditions you are fishing in. Some dedicated jack anglers prefer a soft tip rod with a strong mid-section to move the fish but not lose contact with them, others prefer a stiffer and sturdy rod and reel with a line weight of 10-15kg. Highly abrasive resistant leaders are needed and strong knot connections.
What is the best live bait to use when fishing for Mangrove Jack
There is no one definitive answer to this question as the best bait to use when fishing for Mangrove Jack varies depending on the location and conditions you are fishing in. However, some of the best baits to use include live prawns, crabs, and poddy mullet.
What are the recommended lures (Action type, Profile type and Lures Sizes) for catching Mangrove Jack
Mangrove Jack can be caught using a variety of artificial lures, including soft plastics, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits. These lures can be fished in a number of ways, allowing anglers to adapt to the conditions.
When fishing for Mangrove Jack, it is best to use lures with a deep-diving action. This will allow you to fish in deeper water and target larger fish. Typically, a hard crank and pause to get the lure into their zone, with a choice of a slow roll or aggressive retrieve depending on their mood.
In terms of profile type, it is best to use lures that have an aggressive wobble. This will help to create more vibration and attract Mangrove Jack from a distance.
Finally, when choosing lures for Mangrove Jack, it is important to select lures that are in the size range of 40-60mm. Larger lures have a higher chance of success than smaller lures, but it is important to match the size of the lure to the size of the fish you are targeting.
What are the best retrieval techniques for catching Mangrove Jack?
When fishing for Mangrove Jack, it is important to use a variety of retrieval techniques to maximize your chances of success. In general, you will want to use a mix of fast and slow retrieve techniques.
When using soft plastics, spinnerbaits, or crankbaits, it is best to use a fast retrieve technique. This will help to create more vibration and attract Mangrove Jack from a distance.
How do you know if Mangrove Jack is biting your line and what is the best way to set the hook properly?
Mangrove Jack is a hard-fighting fish and puts up a great battle when hooked. In general, you will know that Mangrove Jack is biting your line when you feel a strong tug on your rod.
When setting the hook, it is important to strike quickly and forcefully. This will help to secure the hook in the mouth of the fish and increase your chances of landing it.
What is the best way to land Mangrove Jack?
Once you have landed the fish, it is important to be careful when removing the hook. Mangrove Jack have sharp teeth and can cause injury if not handled properly.
Are Mangrove Jacks good eating fish?
Mangrove Jack are good eating fish and can be enjoyed fresh or frozen. They are a popular target for anglers due to their tasty flesh.