When you think fishing in Cairns what comes to mind? Is it Black Marlin, Sailfish, Barra, Jacks, Fingermark, GTs, Macks, Coral Trout, Red Emperor, Queenfish, Tuna? The list could go on forever! There is one little cracker that should be a part of that list and they are certainly one of my favorites.
Jungle Perch are truly a beautiful fish ( they remind me a lot of the Aussie Bass ), not only a spectacular little fish that go hard , but it’s also about the area’s that you go to to get them. Hiking in and along gin clear creeks and rivers, amongst beautiful lush tropical rainforest, it doesn’t get much better than that! Jungle Perch or JP’s as they are commonly known as will readily smash small poppers, plastics, flies, spinnerbaits and small hard body lures. Casting lures towards, snags, tree overhangs, rocks, heads of pools, rapids, eddies, undercut banks ( especially with foliage ) and shaded areas, are great places to start casting and if you’re lucky enough you will have all of the above. Sooties are a regular bycatch and are also great fun on light gear. JP’s are by no means an easy target, they have truly incredible sight and a stealthy approach with precise casting will see you land a lot more fish. Its not uncommon to see JP’s follow the lures whilst its in mid air! You have one strike to hook these fish, as once spooked you won’t see them again so you might as well move right along. Also the areas that your fishing, whilst amazingly beautiful, can be pretty hardcore hiking. Hiking in and along rivers, up and over boulders, busting through rainforest full of things that sting, spike or tangle you (wait-a-while & the stinging tree) and not to forget humidity which can get pretty taxing on the body. But hey, its all part of it and that’s what I love!
A simple 5 – 6 ft spinning rod & 2500 reel loaded with 4 lb or 6 lb braid is all that’s needed (I use a simple Berkley Dropshot JP 5.4 Ft/ Shimano Nexave 2500 combo). You don’t need to spend a million bucks to target these beauties and with the likelihood of getting your rod tangled in vines or bashing guides on rocks, the last thing you want is to be hiking out with expensive rod thats damaged or even worse in 2 pieces. I like to use a fluorocarbon leader on the business end, using something in the 8-16 lb range with the lighter end of the scale being the better option. The reason for a shorter spin setup is the environment you are fishing, with a longer rod you will be constantly tangled in rainforest vine and it will make for harder casts in tight tricky spots. A good selection of small poppers, plastics, spinnerbaits and hard bodies should be carried and the same lures usually used for Bass or Bream are great choices, with choices like the Stiffy Popper, Custom Crafted Baby Extractor, Zman 2.5 GrubZ and Squidgy Wrigglers are among my favorites.
If you’re heading north, pack the bass and bream gear and give these little Aussie legends a go. The Cairns area has so many creeks and rivers to explore, you won’t regret it for a minute.
One last thing, Crocs inhabit the lower sections of far north rivers, so make sure you do your research! One of the many local tackle shops in Cairns will be sure to point you in the right direction.
These two beauties were caught casting under overhanging branches hard against the bank. The lures used were the Stiffy Popper and Custom Crafted Baby Extractor.