Why Jungle Perch?
The allure of fishing for Jungle Perch (JP) is not just in the thrill of the fight or the unique colours of the species. JPs are generally isolated to the far north of Australia. Most people in pursuit of catching one of these fish might not have them on their doorstep. The preparation for the trip rarely comes down to the fishing equipment and more so the choosing of unique destinations that are removed from society and involve a bit of a mission. Quite often the further away from anyone else you are, the more likely of catching a JP because they have not seen a lure. These remote locations can be spectacularly beautiful and untouched. In between casts, an angler might need to grab the pliers out and pinch themselves to remind them they are truly in fishing paradise.
How to find them?
JP are a tropical freshwater species that can be caught lurking in stormwater drains through Cairns or at the bases of magnificent waterfalls with gin clear water in the Daintree. Be aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for crocs, especially in the lower reaches where JP’s might be found. The more popular spots to target JPs are usually above croc country in skinny water. Go on google maps and find waterways, follow them with your finger to look for sections that could be of interest. Usually, deeper holes amongst running water.
The species of fish has been so successful in the far north due to their vigilant and attentive nature. Quite often an angler will become aware that there are jungle perch in the area by sighting fish free swimming. Generally speaking, the fish sighted are smaller than the potential of the water hole, creek or fall. The bigger fish are more aware of their surroundings and have deliberately hidden from potential predators. This is one of the reasons that casting accurately can improve the size of your catch in flowing and longer creeks with plentiful fish.
Here is a tip that I have found of particular use and tend to abide by as a rule of thumb. Bigger fish hold at the base of bigger falls. They tend to head upstream, when they can no longer get any further because of a waterfall they concede to perching up, pardon the pun. This is not to say that big fish cannot be caught elsewhere. Some great fish can be pulled out of small holes or under rocks only just covered by the depth of water. The fish are hiding, you will catch them when you find them and put the time in.
How to get ’em
When you have found a likely waterway, it is important to complete some reconnaissance to ensure that you know the most suitable ambush points to wet a line. The term ambush needs to be applied in a unique way when targeting JP’s. The crystal clear, skinny water that they quite often call home has allowed the fish to maintain a high alert to any potential predators. Any added disturbances in the water, vibrations, poorly sighted or violent casts or lures or even shadows that show movement on the banks will potentially shut the bite down. Try not to wear super bright clothing that sticks out against the lush green backdrop. When approaching creeks always be mindful that they are on the lookout. If wading, minimise disturbances and look to start downstream casting up. Try to make sure that the first cast at a snag or hole is accurate. Always remember to wear sneakers so that you can sneak up on these awesome little creatures.
As JP’s are a tropical species, one theory is that they fire up later in the day once it has warmed up. Lower light periods are effective, late afternoon is prime time. This goes against the stereotype of ‘first light bite time anglers are familiar with for other freshwater species.
Lighter outfits will mean that less pressure is needed to cast lures, and less splash will follow as the lure hits the water. It will also mean that smaller lures can be used without risking wind knots. The Atomic Arrows 6lb skinny water outfit or the Samurai Cruisers are the perfect length and weight for JP’s. The shortened length will allow an increased range for casting among trees without having to get too out in the open which could scare the fish off. A 2500 size reel will do the job, using 6-8lb Dangan Braid by Majorcraft. The advanced 8 carrier or weave technology in the braid will allow for longer casts with a greater sensitivity to lure action and bites. Unitika 8lblb FC Rock fluorocarbon leader is abrasive in the snags whilst providing the necessary shock for a high impact bite.
Most of the time JP’s will be looking to the skies for a feed. Any bugs that are falling out of the thick canopy are gorged upon. In the crystal-clear waters, there is simply nothing better than experiencing the fish launch themselves out from snags to thump your lure. The Atomic soft pop is a new lure that has come onto the market. The action of the lure can be subtle or emphatic depending on the intensity of the rod twitch. JPs prefer less vigorous popping action, using even the index finger knocking the base of the rod to work the tip. Another tackle box favourite is the Bassday SugaPen, with such a great reputation for a variety of species, its walk the dog action in 70mm is prime. The Atomic K9 comes in some small sizes, representing small minnows darting across the surface. These are great in ankle-deep water; you would be surprised what size fish you can pull out.
JP are a fish that should be on every fishos bucket list. They will take you to extraordinary locations and provide plenty of fun along the way.