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Hit back for jack
  |  First Published: December 2012



It’s that time of year to hit them as hard as they hit you! It’s jack time!

Despite all the whispers and rumours that have been floating around, now is the time for mangrove jack! But if you don’t like loosing lures, line, patients and gear this is not the month for you. Nevertheless, as an avid fan I’ve got my guard up and gear ready, so when they hit I’m ready to hit back.

It’s also the month I get asked a lot of questions and plugged for information, such as where, when, how and what with? So here are a few answers to help you out this jack season.

What bait Do I use?

Bait is not that critical in the capture of this species. It’s obviously best to use good and fresh-as-a-daisy bait, but it’s more about where you put it and when you put it. And yes, size does matter.

Bigger is not always better. The saying ‘big bait bring big fish’ is not applicable for jack. These guys want to hit a good mouth full and head for home real quick – that’s how they roll. Naturally, the trick is to give them what they want; a nice slab of mullet, around 2-3” on a 4/0 hook or a live bait, like a 3” herring on a 4/0 hook. It doesn’t really matter whether the bait is alive or dead as long as its fresh and in the target area.

The target area for mangrove jack are the snags, the denser the better. Areas such as eroded creek banks with fallen trees or mangroves can yield a dozen jacks or more. My best score is six out of one fallen tree, and I dropped seven; all in a 3 hour window.

Snags come and go but the bigger the snag the better. A big fallen gum tree or mangrove will out-fish a few rocks any day. A fallen tree offers food and shelter – win-win for the fish, and win-win for the angler.

If you prefer using lures, keep them bite size and realistic. I use soft plastics rigged weedless with very little weight just through it in the bite zone, and then hang on. Scents can help but are not essential; they’re great in slow moving currents and tides, but when the flow gets going they’re a waste of money.

What’s the best gear?

You can catch jacks on standard light bream gear but I’m not going to recommend it. At the end of the day you won’t get a jack over legal length on the bream gear unless you’re having a very good day or just plain lucky. Legal length is 35cm and five per person.

My set up is a 4000 Shimano Stella spin reel on a 12-25lb Samaki Rod spooled with 25lb PE Sunline. You don’t need to spend that much coin if you don’t want to, but I will say it is a prime piece of machinery with big berries, super smooth and light as a feather. You can swing off this all day and not crack a sweat. My back up is a twin power on a 6-8kg Jewel.

What tide should I fish?

Different areas will yield different results on different tidal heights and directions. It is very much a case of trial and error, nevertheless the more fish you catch, the more you will learn. Just remember what happened and when it happened and you will work out why it happened.

Incoming tides are great in some areas and outgoing tides are good in others. When departing the ramp and heading off up the creeks (Hussy, Coochin, Bells and the Caboolture River), plug the snags on the tide that is present and fish the opposite tide on your way back to the ramp. A snag on one tide that doesn’t yield fish, may and often will yield fish on the opposite tide. With a little perseverance brings reward, and the by-catch can be explosive.

Other options

There have been a few small mulloway around but they have been very hard to target, so they are best left to the dedicated few.

The whiting have been coming in thick and fast. The northern areas of the passage are producing the best results.

The mouth of Coochin Creek holds some prime fish this time of year, but they are scattered all through the passage at the moment.

If crabbing is your delight, go nuts! The sand crab have been all go and are in XXL size and quality. From the back gutter and south through to the bridge has been, and will continue to be, the go-to area this month for a feed of sandies. Remember to tag your pots and give your details on the float as the silly season approaches. The fisheries and boys in blue will be watching as well as Santa.

Best of luck until next month.

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