Sizzling Jack Season
  |  First Published: December 2011

Well the big red fat man should be well and truly be on his way and let’s hope his sack is full of lots of new fishing goodies!

I can tell you there are plenty of creek anglers in Bowen hoping for some new soft plastics and lures so they can get into the outstanding mangrove jack season we are currently experiencing, which just keeps getting better and better. Unfortunately one of the negative aspects of tangling with these robust red devils is that they will really test your line, leader and tackle and any weakness will leave you with lost opportunity. This has certainly been the case over the last month throughout all creeks in and around Bowen with some amazing mangrove jack fishing taking place.

The real hot sessions have been taking place during the lead up to the full moon especially around the late afternoons when the tide is just beginning to make. These tidal conditions see many snags open and exposed which makes targeting fish lying in deep cover more accessible to those throwing hard and soft lures. On the very bottom of the tide when snags are really exposed I like to utilise weedless soft plastics. They can be confidently fished deep into structure. This is real heart in your mouth fishing as hooking the jacks and extracting them out of the tangled mangrove mess is often a challenging task. This is where quality leaders are a must and for extremely snaggy country, opting for a twisted leader is a very good option as they are extremely tough compared to a single strand leader. When using a twisted you are sacrificing strength for stealth, however if the fish are biting hard this shouldn’t hamper your fishing that much.

When the tide begins to rise over the snags, shallow running jerk style hard bodies like bombers, Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows and Rapala X-Raps are the ticket as they can be slowly worked around the just submerged timber. Poppers are also a very good option during this tidal time especially during times of low light when fish love to feed off the surface.

Jacks are not the only species running in the creeks with some quality grunter getting around the shallow sandy holes. Soft plastics like 2” grubs and even Berkley Crazy legs are finding the mouths of these great tasting fish. Grunter are a very much under-rated fish as they have similar eating qualities to barramundi , freeze better than barra and also put up a very good account for themselves.

Staying in the creeks and there will be no shortage of mud crabs around for Christmas and with the bigger summer tides beginning to build there is plenty of water to get around the flats and gutters to lay a few pots. I’ve had some great success lately vacuum-sealing cooked mud crabs and they seem to freeze very well and not lose any taste or quality. If you are going to try this make sure you use multiple bags as the sharp points on the shells can often puncture during the process. It’s also important to point out that possession limits include what’s in your freezer.

Out on the blue water now and fingermark really begin to fire up on the inshore reefs and wrecks throughout December. These hard fighting and great tasting fish really bite hard with the hotter weather and live squid is the key to finding these fish amongst the undesirables such as trevally. The best time to target these fish is around times of new moon. This is because it’s extremely difficult to catch live squid when the moon is dominant and without live squid your fingermark chances diminish quickly. If you are fishing for them during daylight hours try using plastics like the latest Berkley Squid Vicious and 4” jigging grubs.

The islands around Bowen also offer some excellent crayfish in December especially the painted variety. Glouster Island is a great place to hunt for these tasty crustaceans and they’ll be right up in the shallows this time of the year. Make sure you use a small gun to get into the caves and some good gloves as they are extremely spiky.

Next month will see the wet season upon us, which means run off fishing will begin. This will mean the creek fishing will become a little more difficult as systems begin to be effected by the fresh. The best options here is to use the big summer tides and concentrate fishing around the headlands and mangrove lined banks around creek mouths as this is often where bait is pushed into and subsequently the fish will follow. If the wet is a little more controlled and stability remains in the creeks we should see a continuation of some of the best jack fishing we have seen in years.

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