The Search for Jungle Perch

Trekking for countless kilometres through steep and unforgiving terrain, you push through dense vegetation and climb over large, slippery boulders. It’s hard country for anyone, even harder when you find out the bushwalker is loaded with a spin rod, compact tackle box and daypack.
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The large snag on the opposing bank was loaded with small jacks, but unfortunately they were very flighty and did not bite.

The prize! Although being a beautiful jungle perch...the goal is one from mackay! This fish was caught in Cairns at Easter time last year.

The prize! Although being a beautiful jungle perch…the goal is one from mackay! This fish was caught in Cairns at Easter time last year.

The arduous task that lay ahead of the adventure enthusiast is now transformed into a scenario of epic potential. The anticipation is compounded by the thrill of the unknown. As piscatorial hunters we crave this, and for me there’s no better sensation than donning the trekking boots and walking up a meandering river bed into the wilderness. I’m not denying this is not exhausting, it seriously is. However the time and effort an angler spends on ‘the search’ is justifiably worth the blood, sweat and tears endured through the process.

What are your fishing goals and dreams?

How do you measure the pinnacle of angling achievement or accomplishment? I’m sure if you asked 10 anglers you’d receive 10 different answers. With individual goals and milestones, everyone’s dreams differ. But the underlying element is the fact that goals give us a purpose and are engrained within us until they’re ticked off the bucket list. Forty kilogram GTs, dog-tooth tuna, 1000-pound marlin, metre-plus barramundi, Papuan black bass, rooster fish, tigerfish, arapaima, Cuberan snapper and Florida tarpon. All would feature prominently among the responses and all represent holy grail captures in their own right. For me it’s a much smaller fish that ticks all the boxes. It’s the rarity of this species in my home waters of Mackay that has kept me awake for countless hours analysing Google Earth.

Seeking Mackay Jungle Perch

The search for a Mackay Jungle Perch (JP) is one of the core reasons I have dedicated so much time to donning the trekking boots and walking our rainforest streams. Sadly, I’ve not yet found one in local waters, but good things come to those who wait. Jungle perch are relatively common in rainforest streams north of about Townsville. Historically, their extent spanned down the eastern seaboard into northern New South Wales, however, significant man-made interference such as urbanisation and barriers to migration have dramatically reduced their southern distribution. If you take a look at most of the towns along the Queensland coast, much of the natural flood-plain has been filled in turning productive riverine habitat and riparian revegetation into the coastal communities we live in.
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Tarpon provide hours of fun on surface poppers and light gear. They always have a go at whatever swims past their nose but will often throw a lure as they jump from the water

Urbanisation has a dramatic effect on the natural water-cycle. By creating roads and associated infrastructure we dramatically increase the amount of impervious/sealed-surface area. Storm water that would have once evaporated or infiltrated the soil under natural conditions is now expelled, in greater volumes and far more frequently into the environment. This storm water contains a broad range of pollutants, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and nutrients which has a detrimental impact on the receiving waterways. This obviously has an impact on water quality but there are also impacts from water quantity that needs to be considered. The increase in impervious area, expedites unnatural volumes of water entering the receiving environment. This may cause erosion, resulting in increased turbidity, infilling of habitat and can also inhibit predator-prey relationships. Algal blooms and associated fish kills are regarded as direct flow-on effects from nutrient-rich urban storm water. Barriers to fish migration, spawning and recruitment is another massive reason why JP populations have dramatically dropped. When people think of jungle perch many associate these fish with living high up in the headwaters of a rainforest or jungle stream. Although this is true for the most part, jungle perch actually need access to the estuary to spawn. Bridge crossings, road culverts, weirs and barrages are all massive impediments to a JP’s migratory needs. They move to the estuary in the wet season and will have no trouble getting over a weir wall or road crossing as they move downstream due to the masses of water moving down, but by the time they go to move back upstream at the end of the wet, they often cannot go any further than these barriers and get picked off by other fish, birds or fisherman (illegally) at the base of the weir.

Barra, jacks and assorted extras

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A feisty little mangrove jack taken from a gin clear sweetwater stream

These are genuine reasons why JP stocks have dwindled along the eastern seaboard. Despite the fact I have not scored my ultimate prize, I’ve caught a lot of sweet water mangrove jacks, barramundi, sooty grunter and tarpon in the process and have seen some scenery that wouldn’t kook out of place in a National Geographic documentary. This in itself has been worth the blood, sweat and tears endured throughout the process.
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Sooty grunter are a real handful on light tackle and will often straighten out lighter gauged treble hooks intended for jungle perch.

Given the fact that on these missions an angler walks through dense vegetation, I thoroughly recommend only taking one combo with you. Otherwise it just gets too hard and rod tips can be easily broken. A light to medium spin combo is ideal. I choose to use either a Samurai Reaction 203 Estuary (2-6lb) matched with a 2500 sized Shimano Ci4 spin reel such as a Stradic or Rarenium or a Samurai Reaction 302 Bluewater (6-12lb) matched with a 3000 Shimano Saros. The beauty about the Ci4 range is that they have the ‘finesse factor’ and can be cast all day without causing RSI. Spool up with some 6-10lb braid, throw in a handful of topwater lures, some hardbodies and a sense of adventure and your ready to embark on your own fishing mission in pursuit of a goal.      

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