First Decent Mangrove Jack
Growing up as a young fella in the country there wasn’t much time for fishing. My passion was always there, but unfortunately life just didn’t allow for it. Times were tough growing up experiencing Mental Health issues was always a concern for me. You would have really good days and then when you had the bad days, and it just felt like your world was turned upside down. I would always try and keep myself occupied with sports, but sometimes that wasn’t enough. Even years later you still have the occasional off day. It wasn’t until recently over the past 18 months that I’ve really been involved in fishing that has really helped me. There’s just something so relaxing about being around water and for me that’s fishing and it has helped me come a long way mentally.
When I moved to the Big Smoke (Sydney) I was able to spend a little more time enjoying what I love, although the 12 hour shifts at work, and the 2 hours travel each way took up the best part of each day. What downtime I had remaining was spent relaxing with family and friends. Most of the fishing that I did do was from wharves, and consisted mostly of your bread and butter species. I found this pretty tough at times, and it took me a while to get the hang of it, but my love for fishing remained.
My wife and I moved to the Sunshine Coast 18 months ago, for a change of pace and lifestyle. The water that surrounds this beautiful place is incredible! Having a friend who had lived here for years was great, and he was able to introduce me to some great people, and steer me in the right direction – as far as fishing was concerned haha. It was crazy following his socials, and seeing the variety of fish available in our own backyard. I went all out, and started buying everything I could, from rods and reels, lures and soft plastics, a kayak, and then our very first boat. The level of excitement being able to spend as much time as possible on the water was unreal. But where to fish first? I had absolutely no idea!! What species am I targeting? What rod and reel? What jig-head and plastic? How to read the tides? I just wanted to fish, and didn’t realise any of this came in to the equation. To start, I mostly set out to my local – Pumicestone Passage. I had a few luck-less trips and thought what am I doing wrong? I persisted. It was another 2 trips before I bagged 4 bream in a matter of 5 casts. The more I fished, the more confident I was in doing the right thing. I spent many days trying to catch the infamous Red Dog, with not much luck, other than the odd flatty, or bream. Occasionally the wife even out fished me.
Eventually the time came for our long awaited honeymoon, and we needed to sell the boat – but not for long! 6 months later and we upgraded the rig. We snagged a fully decked out Quintrex 390 Explorer, for an absolute bargain. The guy I had purchased it from had put so much time and effort in to the boat, for it to sit in his shed. Full casting deck, full electronic set up with lights, electric motor and sounder. This is when shit got real.
After the boat purchase it was time to upgrade all of my equipment. Summer was approaching and we all know what the most popular fish to target in SEQ is – the Mangrove Jack. After hours and hours on the water, fishless trips, different approaches and no result of a Jack, I was fishing in Noosa with a couple of lads. We weren’t targeting Jacks on this day, however we found a school of jewfish, and myself and the young fella both scored our PB’s. After a few snaps of the jewfish I had caught, back in the water it went. A couple of casts later, I got another hit. I was keen as mustard to reel this one in, to find out what was on the end of my line. As it got closer to the boat and my mate had the net out, I had seen a bright red flash. I thought no way.. A jewfish now a Jack.. What a day! But I hadn’t set the hook properly and when he surfaced he threw the plastic, and off he went. From that moment, my love for chasing these fish grew. People would always say how exciting they are and they weren’t wrong. It was time to upgrade to a new rod to chase them. That’s when I had my custom rod built by the guys at Dusk Custom Rods. A 10-20lb Samurai Blank. I paired it with a Shimano Sustain 4000 XGFI, with 30lb Sunline Siglon and 30lb Sunline FC Rock Flurocarbon Leader.
I set myself a goal to get out on the water as much as I could to catch my first Jack. Within 2 weeks, in the same stretch of water that I had lost the first Jack, I fished the early morning. A few hours went by with not much luck. Then, BANG. I had been hit pretty hard again. My mate had the landing net ready, and you wouldn’t believe what surfaced. A Jack. The adrenaline hit was incredible. It was only a pup, but none the less, I was stoked.
More time on the water was spent, and more fishless trips. I decided to do an evening session with the wife in the Pumicestone Passage and decided to explore some new areas up creek. I had been fishing with my heavier gear, and decided to change it up to my lighter gear. Just as the sun had started to slowly set the mozzies set in. We hadn’t packed repellent in the boat. I was spending more time slapping mozzies than fishing. The wife said “you’re not even fishing, lets go before you are eaten alive”. I said the famous last words “one more cast”. I threw my line out which I had a Smiths Cherry Blood on at the time, and that was it for me. I couldn’t handle it the mozzies! I cranked my line back in and BANG, I had been hit like a train. Once again the adrenaline kicked in and boy did I not want to lose it, considering I was only using 6lb braid and 6lb leader. I knew I had to be careful. My wife got the landing net out and when I saw that red flash, I was pumped! I had just caught another Jack, and hit a new PB. Let me tell you, the 50+ mozzie bites I had was worth every moment.
This is when I decided to get some mates on board, and start getting some footage and videoing our fishing sessions. Summer was coming to an end, and we were out fishing the Maroochy River for Jacks. Hours went by and no luck for any of us – not a single fish for any of the guys. We weren’t having a good time, but we were not giving in. We continued on, and weren’t far off calling it quits when we decided to try one last spot before we head home. I had done everything right on this cast – got the plastic in the zone, paused perfectly, and the slow roll retrieval. Then whack, my plastic had been smashed. At this point we had no idea what it was. We were calling it for a Trevally. I was using my heavy gear, and was nearly on locked drag, but it just kept running. Taking it easy I fought this fish for a few minutes. It had me under the boat a few times, running laps around the boat. The lads had the landing net out and thankfully my other mate had caught the whole catch on Go Pro. Finally the fish had surfaced and I saw the flash of red. When I saw the size, I thought I need to get this in the boat now. He was 48cm. I could hardly hold him up for photos as the adrenaline was still pumping. Then he was straight back in to the water. The power when you release them and they take off is crazy.
Now summer is over I don’t know what I’ll be chasing next. What I do know is that I’ll be looking forward to next season. With a little bit of experience now, I’ll be chasing them as soon as season starts. What I learnt from chasing this amazing species is, don’t give up! They are hard to catch, and some guys take 3 years before catching their first Jack. Don’t let that worry you, just be persistent and get out on the water every opportunity you can. Throw your lure/ plastic at every drop off, snag, and pontoon you can. Throw it where you wouldn’t normally throw it, be prepared to lose some gear, and also lose some great Jacks. But that’s what keeps you coming back. And don’t forget that just because you’re out targeting Jacks, doesn’t mean you cant catch other great species too. There is always opportunity for some great by-catch also.