You’re walking beside a crystal clear stream in a tropical rainforest. All around you hear birdsong and the sound of water rippling over the rocks. It’s like a scene from a postcard and then… SURFACE EXPLOSION!
Before you even have a chance to click the bail on you reel, you’re on! A chrome-armoured covered predator has launched itself from the water to smash your surface offering, and what once was a peaceful environment has now turned into complete chaos, with line-peeling adrenalin!
Welcome to jungle perch country.
Jungle perch (or JPs) are one of the most attractive freshwater species in Australia. With their polished sterling silver scales and defined black tail markings, it’s no wonder many anglers put in the time and effort to target this iconic sportfish.
Jungle Perch inhabit the clearest of tropical waters. Being able to observe their surroundings from both under and above the water makes them one of the most cunning freshwater fish around. These sharp-eyed fish will always give the experienced lurefisher many opportunities to test his or her skills to try to tempt one into a strike. Jungle perch will take a variety of lures and on many occasions they’ll strike as soon as the lure hits the water.
I like to approach my JP fishing with stealth, as if I’m stalking my prey. I try to work from the shadows, get behind structure, stay low, and keep out of the water as much as possible. Keeping out of sight is very important if you want to maximise your catch rate.
In many occasions if you see the JP it’ll be too late; chances are he’s already spotted you coming. The only thing the JP should see and hear is the splash of your lure. Using the flow of the water to make your lure appear as natural as possible is also a big factor. Anything that doesn’t look natural will cause the JP to swim the other way.
Walking upstream is the way to go. Not only will it make your presentations appear realistic, the sound of the water flowing will mask your noise and give you that extra advantage.
When it comes to the gear for my JP fishing, I use a 6’6” G.Loomis GLX rod with a fast taper to give my artificial offerings the best action possible. I like to use a 2-piece, because when I head bush I’m often exposed to rough terrain that can require some intense climbing. A 2-piece rod also makes things a little easier when trekking through the thick jungle to find the honey holes.
Spinning gear is the way to go for this style of fishing. Reels I use range from 1000-2500, and I load these up with 4lb braid and 4lb-8lb fluorocarbon leader. The lighter you can go, the better. At times you’ll need to be able to cast your lightly-weighted presentations long distances to avoid detection.
Overhanging vegetation, snags, deep pools, and bends in streams or rivers are all key elements to keep an eye out for when JP fishing. These fish love to hang under cover and wait for a small insect, lizard, frog or even a berry to fall in the water. That’s why an accurate cast into these areas is sure to give you some action! My favourite surface lure is the new Halco Roosta 45. It’s the same colour as the berries I come across in the areas I fish, and let me tell you – it doesn’t last long in the water!
Soft plastics also work well when JP fishing. A lightly-weighted approach in some of the deeper pools, or a heavier weighted jighead for the faster water, is sure to get the attention you’re after. I often land a lot more of the small model jungle perch when using softies, compared to the bigger ones I get on surface lures. My usual game plan is to walk upstream with hardbodied surface presentations and then switch to soft plastics upon my return. I find that you can work a plastic to a more natural presentation when the flow is not in your favour.
My must-have JP lures are: Halco Roosta 45, River2Sea Bubble Pop 45, Lucky Craft Sammy 65 (surface lures); Squidgy Bloodworm Wriggler and 2.5” Z-Man GrubZ (soft plastics); and Ecogear SX 48 (diving minnow).
To get that trophy jungle perch you’ll need to do some serous trekking through some amazing country to find that untouched water. Before you set out on your JP adventure, you’ll need the following: water, first-aid kit, GPS, food, phone, torch, camera and of course the fishing gear.
It’s also very important to let a few people know exactly what river system you intend walking up. It’s always best to fish with someone when going into the jungle, as there are so many things that can go wrong. Safety first!
Also be prepared to tangle with a few of the other locals when out JP fishing. The grumpy old river sooty will most certainly like the look of your popper, and the odd mangrove jack might come along to test out your drag pressure!
Jungle perch fishing is an amazing experience. It’s such a magical way to get away from it all and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer, while catching a truly amazing species. I recommend this style of fishing to anyone. Give it a go, you will love it.
Primarily a freshwater fish, jungle perch (Kuhlia rupestris) are commonly found in fairly fast-flowing, clear streams, and in pools below waterfalls. Adults move downstream to spawn in estuaries or inshore coastal waters.
Their range has decreased due to deforestation and run-off, but they can still be readily found in rainforest areas north of Townsville.
Their diet consists of small fish, insects, crustaceans and fruits that fall into the water.
This fish has an olive-brown back merging into a bright silver belly, with distinct black markings on its tail. It looks similar to a spotted flagtail, except that the tips of a jungle perch’s tail are rounded (a flagtail’s tail has pointed tips).
These fish can reach 45cm long, although the average length is around 20cm. In Queensland there is a combined in-possession limit of 1 jungle perch or spotted flagtail, and a maximum size limit of 35cm.