Commonly referred to as Jacks!
The mangrove jack is a member of the popular lutjanid family which are famous for not only their powerful sporting capabilities but also their flavour and texture when eaten. They are a magnificent species to look at especially when encountered over offshore reef systems where they grow to be extremely large and powerful. As their scientific name suggests the mangrove jack is an immaculate version of the prized lutjanid species!
Mangrove jack can be located from as far south as Ningaloo reef up into the picturesque Kimberley region in W.A. and also throughout most northern creek and estuary systems in QLD and the N.T.
Mangrove jack are a relatively slow growing fish species that spend the early stages of their lives in shallow estuary systems and inshore reefs before spending the later stages of life out wider on deeper offshore reefs where they grow to over 11 kilos in weight. A truly awesome fish and angling opponent indeed at this size!
Mangrove jack prefer rugged habitats of reef and mangrove system with water depths ranging from 2 – 120 meters. Larger jacks will often take up residency in deeper reef locations and smaller fish inhabiting areas that most anglers find too difficult to extract them.
Mangrove jack can be easily identified by their deep bronze to red metallic colouration and large menacing teeth. There are really only two other species that could possibly be confused with a mangrove jack and they are the fingermark bream and the red sea bass. Fingermark bream as their name suggests posses a dark thumb mark towards the rear of the fish’s body which jacks do not and red sea bass have black fins unlike that of the mangrove jacks which are similar in colouration to the rest of the fish.
Mangrove jack are exceptionally good eating.
Not many fish can pull harder than a big, mangrove jack headed for cover!
Light graphite and fiber glass rods that will cope with gel spun and braided lines rated from 4 – 10kg are ideally suited to targeting Mangrove jack and when coupled with quality overhead or spin reels in the 4000 – 6500 class make excellent outfits for throwing both baits and lures for most northern creek species. Larger outfits spooled with heavier 15 – 20lb nylon line can also be used when targeting larger fish around heavy cover with baits but will struggle to cast small hard bodied and soft plastic lures. Fluoro carbon leaders with breaking strains of 15 – 40lb should also be joined to mainlines via an improved albrite knot and not only prevent the fish from seeing your brightly coloured main line but also help from being chaffed of on rough underwater structures.
As Mangrove jack are typically encountered throughout Australia as a by catch rather than an intended target species most northern estuary baits such as fresh fish strips and cut pieces of squid are suitable for most situations as are also soft plastic and hard bodied lures. Live mullet are also a great option for targeting larger jacks as are surface lures during bait school bust ups and bright moonlit nights.
Keep an eye out for salt water crocodiles whilst landing and releasing fish by hand in northern estuary systems!
Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting spotted grunter around most areas although some deep water locations will also produce good numbers of fish during low and falling tides. New moon phases are also preferable for most fish species including jacks.