Jack On
  |  First Published: November 2011

The first day of November spells the end of the barramundi season for 2011 and it certainly has been a memorable one with some of the best catches of barra seen in Bowen for decades.

While the barra season may be over for another year, it does not mean it’s time to put the bait casters down, as there are still several other species worth targeting in the creeks and rivers. Thankfully the most desirable species, the mighty mangrove jack, will be one of the most prolific this month.

Not only are these fish around in big numbers, their quality should also prove to be outstanding which is great news for sports fishers. Now well and truly into the warmer months, these fish will have been feeding heavily and putting on the pounds which should see the average fish size jump to around 42cm to 45cm. At this size these are great fighting thick shouldered fish so make sure your drags are tight, your split rings and trebles are strong, and most importantly you are prepared for the strike.

The mangrove jack will be hard on the bite particularly around stormy weather when the barometer begins to drop and the humidity begins to rise. Afternoons between 4pm and 6pm seem to be the best time to target these fish. A good rule of thumb is to concentrate both lure and bait fishing around tide heights which peak just before the tide water breaks over the creek banks and spills out into the mangroves.

Jacks just love to feed on crabs and prawns and when the water spills over the banks, it allows them to move into the mangroves and help themselves to an easy feed of these crustaceans. Once the water spills into the mangroves these fish will be out of reach of lures and bait. Getting on the water during times when the tidal water stops just before the spill over will see the jacks at the bank ready to feed making it prime time to send in your lure to be hastily devoured.

When these red devils come on the bite be prepared for a strike even when the lure is well and truly out of the assumed strike zone. Through the month of November, I tend to get better results with a slow wind than a jerk pause style retrieve.

Slow rolling style lures like Bombers, and Reidys seem to produce better results during these hot bite times and often guarantee a better hook up. Jerk style retrieves using lures like Rapala Xraps and YoZuri Crystal Minnows often see the jacks smash the lure on the pause and due to the lack of contact that extra three inches of line slack can often be the end of the battle before it even starts.

November is one month where multiple jack catches off the same snag are possible. Once you have extracted one fish try swapping for a soft plastic to entice another fish to get on board. I really like slow swimming paddle tails in this case as you can get them working the moment they hit the water. Reidys Rubbers and Squidgy Slick Rigs are two pre-rigged softies that really work a treat in this case and are both very good options.

If you are bait fishing for your jacks fresh herring and mullet strips will be the way to go. I have found jacks really do prefer dead fresh baits over live ones. When bait fishing make sure your gear is a little stronger as the fish will already be well and truly turned back heading into the snag during the strike before you know it. Leaving the rod in the holder will only prove fruitless. While I love using bait runners when bait fishing, the old mangrove jack loves them just as much as they provide plenty of opportunity for the brick style escape.

Hooks are also important and it is hard to go past the old true turn hooks for bait fishing as their swivelling nature works a treat with the hard strike of a jack. When bait fishing a bit of berley drifted into a snag can often be just the right ingredient to get these fish into feeding mode.

All creeks in Bowen will produce great jacks in November and the systems to the north of the Don like Bob Moses and Boat Creek are easily accessible on the top of the tide. Similarly the creeks to the south like Adelaide and Duck creeks, which can be easily accessible by Adelaide Creek boat ramp will also produce excellent jacks. Duck Creek is especially renowned for big numbers of these fish.

By mid November the mud crabs should also begin to build back up again. Those small rusty undersized bucks that plagued pots through September and October should now be moving into size which is great news for those chasing some chilly crab. Don’t be surprised if you snare a few on the line as well. A bait filled stocking weighted down and thrown out into the creek while chasing a jack can often result in a good catch of crabs in November.

November can also produce some great catches in the blue water. Coral trout and similar species spawn over the new moon in November and as such the coral reef fin fish closure will be between the 22 to the 26 November this year. Fishing near and around these dates around big bombies where the trout congregate with baits and plastics will see some great catches of these great tasting fish.

Surprisingly the inshore reefs like Southern Cross off Kings Beach and the fringing areas near Murrays Bay and North Head produce some big trout this time of year, especially on large baits like hussar and fusilier frames. Fresh herring are also a gun bait for these fish and giving the cast net a quick throw before leaving the Bowen Harbour is a must.

Next month the great jacks will continue to bite and the creeks will still be rick with crabs but tactics will begin to change, especially when the wet season begins to have an influence on our creek systems. This will see dirty water beginto play a role and new target species like threadfin salmon start to come on the chew.

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