The Search for Jungle Perch

Jungle Perch are one of those iconic freshwater native fish which capture the imagination of many anglers. As Dan Kaggelis explains in this article despite the JP’s relative obscurity, they are a top sport fish and well worth getting to know.

Jungle Perch love a grub tailed soft plastic especially when they are fishing tough.

Jungle Perch love a grub tailed soft plastic especially when they are fishing tough.

Whilst many consider the Jungle perch endemic to Australia only, they are in fact found in many places all over the world with places like the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu being real hot spots for these fish. In fact in these more remote less populated countries, these fish tend to grow in much larger sizes compared to those found in the wild in Australia. Much like the mangrove jack and barramundi, Jungle Perch live in freshwater systems which find their way to the sea.
JPS love clear running mountain streams and don’t need a lot of depth either to survive.

JPS love clear running mountain streams and don’t need a lot of depth either to survive.

This is because they also migrate to the saltier brackish areas to spawn and breed before making their way back up rivers much like freshwater trout. 
Whilst many anglers consider the Jungle Perch or JP as a northern Queensland species they are in fact found right across Queensland with fish captures even occurring as far south as the Queensland New South Wales border.

Manmade Interuptions

The reason for this misconception is because many of the southern systems have lost their access to breeding grounds thanks to manmade river interruptions which prevent these fish from making their way to the salt. They are still found in isolated pockets however with many being on private property. In fact in an attempt to restore populations to these more southern areas the DPI has begun reintroducing fish to these southern streams which is great news for anglers. JP can also be found on Frazer Island as well and these populations are thriving due to national park protection.

Fishing The Far North

Even though JP can be found right across the state there is no doubt that that they are far more prolific in the far northern areas of the state between Tully and the Daintree Cape tribulation area. There reason for this is because of the multitude of river systems which are found in this area which are perfect for the Jungle Perch to thrive. This area is also perfectly suited to these fish as many of these systems are too small and mountainous for larger fish predators such as barramundi and jacks to live in which allows the perch to become the most dominant fish in the system.

A Hardy Species

The other reason as to why they are so prolific in these areas is because of the natural barriers such as dense rainforest and steep boulder terrain which keeps many anglers away. 
Jungle perch have adapted perfectly for their surroundings and with their silver tough scales they can easily blend into the crystal clear waters they live in as well as bounce off rocks when the flow gets too strong. Having to make migratory journeys from the tops of creeks to the brackish areas often sees these fish tumbling down fast flowing streams and even jumping back up them like trout when they make their way back up mountains after spawning and breeding. 
Jungle perch are omnivorous feeders and will feed on insects, small fish and crustaceans as well as berries and fruits which fall out of trees.

Opportunistic Feeders

They are opportunist feeders so they will feed on just about anything especially if it is on the surface. This is why anglers are best to target Jungle Perch on surface lures. Whilst you can target them on small soft plastics, spinner baits and even hard bod deep diving lures and even fly, they are certainly worth targeting on surface. They are a very aggressive fish and will take multiple swipes at anything which gets into their territory.
The author with his PB JP which was over the 50cm mark. Fish this size are very uncommon and are once in a life time fish.

The author with his PB JP which was over the 50cm mark. Fish this size are very uncommon and are once in a life time fish.

Packs Of Hungry JPs

In fact they are one of the most aggressive surface feeders in terms of Australian Native Fish and whilst only a small fish can really put a bend in the rod on the take. In fact they are commonly found in packs and it is not uncommon for multiple fish to strike at a lure and even follow hooked fish right to an anglers fish still trying to steal the lure out of a fishes mouth. 
These fish respond differently to surface lures depending on the water you are fishing.

Pop, Pop, Bang!

Sometimes poppers are an ideal lure whilst in other areas surface walk the dog style lures are a better option. In other areas slow swimming frogs are the best bet or alternatively they may only be biting on fast moving skimmers. You really do need to take a variety of lures with you when chasing these fish as they can be quite picky as to what they will bite on the day.
The yellow and black colourations of a JP are strikingly beautiful.

The yellow and black colourations of a JP are strikingly beautiful.

Tough Mouths

One thing is for sure it is best to make sure your treble hooks are sharp as they do have tough mouths and penetration is the key to success with these fish when taking them off the surface. 
If you are going to chase them sub surface then small grub style soft plastics are the best option. This will mimic many of the small worms and grubs which live in the rain forest and get washed into the water from the bank. Fishing these soft plastics is a good option when the fish get really tough which can occur for several reasons. Firstly it is mostly due to the fact that they have already seen fishing pressure in the last couple of days. JP are heavily susceptible to pressure and if they have been harassed recently they will shut down completely.

Smart Fish So Fish Wisely

This is even the case when fishing them for the first time. You often only get one opportunity to pin them before the whole school of fish will wise up to your offerings. Big long casts are often the best way to target these fish when they are spooked.
The second reason is water temps and any sudden drops in water temp can really shut them down. Like most natives they do tend to bite better over the spring months when they begin to spawn and like jacks love a moving barometer.

Going Light

When chasing JPs you are best to use as light as gear as possible and short spin outfits fitted with 4lb braid and 6 pound fluorocarbon is a good start. These fish will try and brick you but do respond well to angling with a bit of handy rod work. Good quality leader and braid is a must and I use Sunline Rock Fish as it is incredibly light but super strong and can take a fair bit of punishment. Fluorocarbon is also very important as the water you will chase these fish in will be crystal clear. Once again a Sunline Fluorocarbon is a good option as it is incredibly stealth and invisible underwater whilst at the same time it can handle being rubbed and dragged over the rocks and boulders between runs.
 Perch2: This JP was taken from the pool right above  the rapid in the background. This is the best place to target these fish in fast flowing water.


Perch2: This JP was taken from the pool right above the rapid in the background. This is the best place to target these fish in fast flowing water.

An Iconic Reputation

Jungle Perch are an iconic fish species and well deserved off their iconic reputation. They are a terrific fish to target on light gear and can be very challenging at time. Trophy fish are considered to be those over the 40cm with a 50cm fish being a fish of a life time. I myself have been lucky enough to land such a fish and if I wasn’t targeting barramundi I doubt I would have had any chance of landing it.

A Final Word ON JPs

The biggest thing to remember with JPs is don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are only a northern fish species. With a degree of investigating it’s not hard to identify systems which could hold perch and with a bit of leg work you could find yourself sitting on an untouched fishery right on your doorstep.
Take note of the black flecks and silver colouration, this is perfect camouflage for the crystal clear water they live in.

Take note of the black flecks and silver colouration, this is perfect camouflage for the crystal clear water they live in.

Dan Kaggelis

About Dan Kaggelis

Born in Tully, North Queensland, Dan cut his fishing teeth in the region’s freshwater rivers chasing the tropical triumvirate of sooty grunter, jungle perch and barramundi. With fishing running thick in the Kaggelis family, Dan was fortunate to experience many extended trips to the Western Cape and Gulf of Carpentaria from a young age. This instilled a deep affection for the sport. Living so close to Great Barrier Reef, offshore fishing was also very much included in recreational activities as was free diving and spearfishing.

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