G’Day, guys, my name is Jimmy, but I am also known as Captain Jim, Jimbob, the Captain and “that guy with the beard!” and I’ve been passionate about fishing ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Growing up in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, my family would often spend many weekends down the River Murray fishing and camping and thus, my desire and lust for the water began. I have spent time living (and fishing) all over Queensland but now call North Queensland home.
What’s so enticing about Mangrove Jacks?
They hit hard, they look mean and they fight dirty. I mean, what’s not to like about these fish? They truly are so badass! Given the chance, they will do you over quicker than an angry ex-girlfriend and leave you wondering what you did wrong. They will fight so dirty it’s like the equivalent of getting kicked in the nuts! Their tail is big, their teeth are sharp, and they will try and bite you!
What’s your preferred method for chasing these fish in the snags?
Personally, I love using surface lures for targeting Jacks in the snags. The strikes are often explosive and unexpected which makes for a great spectacle that really gets the heart racing. Soft plastic surface lures (like frogs) that can be rigged weedless are a great way to fish for Jacks as the lure can often be sent way back into the deep cover of mangroves without the fear of getting it stuck…. sometimes. Jacks don’t like venturing too far from home sometimes so it’s imperative that your lure is right in the strike zone. A few inches short and the fish won't be interested.
I know you’re a fan of going lighter than most with your gear, is there any benefits to this? Do you find your bite increases?
I mainly started fishing with light gear (4lb braid) as a way to cast the smaller lures with ease and with most things in fishing, presentation is key. As the saying goes “fish light to get the bite” and this is no different with Mangrove Jacks. These fish have tremendous vision and more often than not, if you can see them, well then, they have already seen you. They have extremely large eyes which makes them fantastic predators in both day and night, so if the presentation is off just a little bit, the Jack won't bite.
You must get stressed out using 4lb braid?
Oh look, I’m not going to lie and say its always smooth sailing. Having confidence in the gear you use is an absolute must in this situation. It also helps to stay calm in tricky situations, for instance, having a fish run you back into the timber can be stressful but after a little coercing and sometimes the releasing of tension on the line, the fish will often just swim straight back out. If that doesn’t work then it’s using the time to go in and fetch it out yourself, just make sure you have insect repellent.
What are you looking for structure-wise?
When it comes to structuring there are 2 things I look for. Somewhere for the fish to sit and something to bring the food to them e.g. current. MJ’s are ambush predators and often wait for baitfish to come to them. They expel enormous amounts of energy in an instance as they are built for speed, not endurance. They are also very territorial and will often kill other smaller fish if they get to close to their home. Mangrove lined banks that have good tidal flow through them are a great starting point as often the Jacks will make a short burst to engulf unsuspecting prey and the seek refuge in the snags.
Are there any other conditions they favour like tide and water temp?
Up here in North Queensland when the water temp starts to rise from around 25C and up to 28-29C, that’s when the jacks start to really fire up and feed aggressively. Also, the build-up just before storms is great as this can trigger them into a frenzy where they will hit anything that lands near them. I like the run-out tide best for targeting Jacks on the surface as the falling water tends to flush out baitfish from deep within the snags and past the waiting predators. The first push or start of the run-in tide is also good as the baitfish are trying to seek refuge back into the mangroves.
Are you pressuring structure or is just more of a run and gun situation?
If the structure looks really good and has a good amount of current flow and there is bait present, then I will work this area over for a while. Generally speaking, if you land your lure in the strike zone and there is a Jack nearby then they will usually have a go straight away. I will usually put in half a dozen casts into the strike zone before moving on. This is handy as it allows you to work over areas fairly quickly and can cover a lot of ground.
Are you using your sounder at all or are you more looking for the above structure?
I rarely use my sounder for the style of fishing as I more look at the structure above the water, for example, fallen trees, rock structures, undercut banks etc. It also pays to check out these structures at low tide and this way makes it quite easy to see ambush points, etc. A lot of the areas I target go dry at low tide, this is good as the bait must travel past this structure at some point which makes them easy pickings for hungry predators.
Your most memorable Jack capture?
A couple of years ago I landed a big Jack on a surface lure whilst fishing 4lb braid. This fish had me in the snags numerous times for a battle that seemed to last an eternity! This fish went 52cm and knew where every little stick was and used it to their advantage. After a couple of pics, it was released to fight another day. Also seeing Mangrove Jacks leap from the water to engulf a lure hanging in a tree just a few centimetres above the water is always unreal.
Mangrove Jack – the fish that doesn’t give a Fuck!!!