G’day, and welcome to my Mangrove Jack fishing column.

If there’s one fish that knows where home is it’s the Mangrove Jack.  Monumental bust ups are a regular occurrence, especially if you are not on the ball.  Hook a Jack in open territory you’re a chance, but hook one close to home and you’ll have to earn it.  This is what makes the mangrove jack one of the most targeted estuary sportfish in Queensland.

My ALLSTARS INSALT online fishing competition has had a great response to the Mangrove Jack category with some beautiful sized fish weighed in to date, the largest for the year being 62 cm caught by Nick Hartshorn from a Bundaberg estuary.  Bragging rights are up for grabs and members like Nick are ensuring great quality brag photos are uploaded to win cash prizes.

Mangrove Jacks are found in all Queensland waters and beyond, with young adults and juvenile in mangrove estuaries all the way to the upper reaches of freshwater streams.  On the Queensland coast the fish to the South are bigger on average but aren’t as abundant as the Northern waters where the average size is smaller.  Larger adults at some stage in their life move to offshore waters where they breed and grow to over 100cm in length.  Sexual maturity for a female is over 500mm and males over 450mm.  This does beg the question as why the legal size is 350mm which is a fish that hasn’t had the chance to reach sexual maturity and breed.  They also share the same breeding cycles as the coral reef fin fish.  Jacks have been proven to be very slow growing with studies on one particular fish of 85cm revealing a ripe old age of 26 years. 

Mangrove Jacks are successfully bred in captivity and have been stocking impoundments in Queensland for years because they thrive in freshwater environments. 

Speaking of which, the Gladstone Area Water Board has a new fish breeding facility under construction at Lake Awoonga.  With it hopefully opening in September 2021 where they will be breeding Barramundi, Sea Mullet and Mangrove Jack.  Once opened the general public will hopefully get an opportunity to tour the facility. 

I spoke with Tom Hayes from the hatchery who’s responsible for producing the millions of hatchlings that are released into impoundments throughout Australia.  I’ve personally supplied Tom with some of his brood stock Barramundi over the years and have consequently been lucky enough to witness feeding time for his Barra and Jacks.  Put it this way… it’s something you won’t ever forget.

Observing these fish on a daily basis, Tom gave me the heads up on some of the unique characteristics of Mangrove Jack.  Some of his observations worth noting are: 

  • Their ability to instantly change colour from silver to red when they are cranky, stressed or feeding.
  • When they attack their prey it’s very fast and by the time they have turned, the fish is completely swallowed.
  • They shed their teeth. 
  • They are very intelligent, an example of this was when he had quite a large fish that was asserting its dominance over a few smaller fish.  The smaller fish took a real dislike to this and ganged up on the larger fish and killed it in a pack mentality style. 

Recreational fisherman target this species with a wide range of techniques including live baits, dead baits and a multitude of lures including top water surface hard bodies and plastics, vibes, prawn and crab imitations.  By far the surface style is the most exciting given the visual aspect in clear water.

Larger fish can still be found in inshore river systems and our current ALLSTARS INSALT Mangrove Jack Leader Nick Hartshorn is testament to this with his 62cm whopper.  Nick has proven himself to be a serious contender with quite a few species he’s caught taking out cash prizes.  I caught up with Nick for a chat and asked him what his secret is to catching large Mangrove Jacks.  Rivers with rocks he says are the key and using his heavy-duty reef fishing gear gets the results.  Large mullet over 35cm is his bait of choice and early morning and night-time sessions work the best on the neap tides.  As for lure casting Nick catches some quality Jacks up to 50cm on plastics in the sticks with the Z Man 4 inch paddle tails being his favourite.  But he admits the large live baits produce the prize winning size Jacks over 60cm.

If you are targeting Mangrove Jacks and are lucky enough to catch one remember they are nick named “dogs“ for good reason.  They carry a huge set of teeth and just like a distressed dog they will eagerly bite your fingers.  The bite is hard and fast and they won’t let go in a hurry.  They have good vision and will make you pay for the pain you inflicted upon them, which if you’re a spectator is great entertainment, but not so much fun for the victim.

Mangrove Jack have superb eating qualities which is another reason they are one of the top target species in Queensland.   Hopefully this article inspires you to get on the water and give a Jack a crack.  Lucky for us with all the covid 19 restrictions we are still allowed to fish for a feed.

ALLSTARS has months of competition still to occur and stories to share.  I have decades of fishing tips and will interview many more successful commercial and recreational anglers to share their suggestions too.

As much as I like to write about fishing, I’d also like to hear from you.  So please email me at info@allstarsinsalt.com.au to share your fishing trips, fishing tips, fishing stories and photos.

A day on the water is better than a day at work.

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