Catching Mangrove Jack – Lutjanus argentimaculatus
Hunting the Mangrove Jack in South East Queensland, Australia is the highlight of my fishing sessions.
Mangrove Jack fishing is a skill that will take time and patience to achieve that trophy fish.
Experiencing the moment when you land your first Mangrove Jack will be highly worth the wait and somewhat addictive.
My first encounter with a Mangrove Jack was when I was sitting in my boat just fishing for bread and butter species. I was up stream of a skinny Estuary on a nice quiet calm day when I heard a big splash in the water which startled me. Something big was smashing bait fish up against the steep muddy bank. Without hesitation, I quickly rigged up a hard-body lure and cast it into the vicinity of the commotion.
A flash of red was all I saw and with that flash, my lure was gone and my rod was bent from the butt to the tip. My reel was screaming with my line heading straight for the mangroves. I tightened up my drag and at the same time tried pulling the line away from the mangroves with tremendous force.
After a lengthy battle, I managed to guide the fish into my net and onto the deck of my boat. I stared with amazement at this huge, completely dark red fish with big black eyes and long sharp fangs for teeth, at that moment, I knew I was hooked for life. My body was shaking from adrenalin, disbelief and excitement all at the same time, I had caught my first ever Mangrove Jack, measuring in at a nice 58cm.
Since that day, I have spent countless hours, days and nights in all types of weather, in Estuaries, Rivers and Sea Bars pursuing the elusive Mangrove Jack, sometimes with results and at others none.
Whilst I have conquered that Trophy Mangrove Jack with a personal best of 66.5cm, I have learnt that during day light hours Mangrove Jacks like to hide from the sun’s rays by hiding in snags, rocky caves and mud holes on the sides of river banks and under jetties and pontoons, waiting to pounce on any food that might swim by, then quickly retreating.
Any type of plastic, hard-body lure or vibe to entice a reaction bite will do the trick. Hooks must be strong to handle the massive force of the bite and power strike the Mangrove Jack can produce. Weedless hooks for plastics are a must when fishing for Mangrove Jacks, with weighted hooks depending on the depth and flow of the current. Paddle Tailed Plastics are a favourite type of plastic I prefer to use ranging from 3"-8". Hard-body Lures, Surface Lures and Vibes that send out a lot of noise and vibration work as well. Accuracy from casting from a distance into, under or beside structure will better your chance of a hook up. If you’re not getting snagged you’re not catching Mangrove Jacks!
I prefer to use 30lb braid for longer accurate casts with a 1m-2m length of 40lb-50lb Fluorocarbon Leader for strength and to protect from abrasions. Getting snagged is a major part of Mangrove Jack fishing because when they smash your line they will take you to their haunt or the nearest structures within lighting speed. Making your drag pretty tight will prevent you from being entangled or being snapped off.
During the night, I like to change over to using Dead Baits and Live Baits. During these hours, Mangrove Jacks leave their shelter and hunt for prey, all the while staying close to structures. Oily dead Baits like Pilchards, Mullet or even chicken fillets that send a scent through the water will entice a Mangrove Jack. Live Baits send out destress signals through the water that also entice a Mangrove Jack to strike.
The line I use is a 30lb mono with about 1m of 40lb-50lb Fluorocarbon Leader with a weighted sinker and swivel to prevent twisting and tangling of the line. Using a 5/0 long shank hook for bait and a 3/0-5/0 circle hook for live Baits. Both the Hook-Eze and Magnifeye Hook Threader makes it easy to thread the line & tie hooks at night, when there is very dim light.
Mangrove Jacks can be caught any time of the day or night and on any tide. I like to prepare for and locate spots before I head out fishing by Googling Satellite Maps. Being prepared for all the snags I may encounter is a must and Hook-Eze helps retackle quickly. The more the line is in the water the more chance you have at catching that Trophy Mangrove Jack.
Other common names for the Mangrove Jack are Jack, Dogtooth Bream & Red Bream.
Written by Hook-Eze Pro Staff Member David Hopper, May 2017.
David resides on the beautiful Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.