The jungle perch is a charismatic and captivating little species. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for with aggression, tenacity and supreme predatory ability. Couple this with the remote and wild rainforest streams the better fish tend to inhabit and you have a challenging and rewarding target species that is incomparable to any others.
As we neared the end of 2019 and the onset of the big wet approached, the decision was made to go after jungle perch one final time before the inevitable rain and associated flooding locked us out of the better JP water for a few months. We eyed a set of creeks we have been meaning to fish for a while. These creeks fall into what we would describe as “big fish country”. While there are a lot of factors that led us to this judgement, the biggest factor to consider when targeting large JPs is the remoteness of the water you are fishing. In general, the more remote the water, the more chance of larger fish. Of course, there are many other variables in play, and exceptionally large jungle perch don’t exist in every remote rainforest stream, but this hard to access water is a great starting point. While this is all well and good in theory, remote water means a lot of walking, and some creeks can be exceptionally tough and often dangerous. A personal EPIRB or similar safety precaution should be considered in this difficult country.
We headed off early Saturday morning to allow ourselves maximum daylight to access the top section of at least one of the creeks in a day. We had rough estimates of where the fish would stop from Google Earth imagery, and knew we had a lot of water to cover in the first creek. As better fish tend to be higher up in the systems, we barely cast a lure for the first couple kilometres of walking, allowing us to get up into the upper country quickly. Soon after we got into a section of the creek we were happy with, Darryl spotted a large fish cruising the shallow end of its pool. It quickly saw and raced to his 5” soft plastic, spectacularly crunching it on the water’s edge with most of its body exposed. We gave it a quick measure to make sure our size estimates were accurate and released a nice fish of 41cm. After this fish, we managed a few more out of consecutive holes, including another of 40cm. Over the next hour, the fish seemed to thin out a little and we pushed through into high boulder country. Nonetheless, we managed a nice pair of 42cm perch near the end, before getting dealt a surprisingly barren top hole, which we didn’t pull a fish from. It is always disappointing to hit an empty top hole, particularly given the quality of the fish in this creek. Despite this, we had made really good time in this long creek, turning around at lunchtime. This gave us time in the afternoon for a quick shot at a smaller creek. We saw potential in this second creek early on and ended up with a couple more 40s from it, including a 43cm fish for Darryl. Returning to the car well and truly battered from a long day, we cooked a quick feed and heading to our base camp to try recover as much as we can for the following day.
The second day of a two-day JP mission is always tough. Your body doesn’t really come close to recovering overnight, and it definitely takes some warming up in the morning. We pressed through a few sore muscles to knock over a side creek early before 9am, landing a single good fish of 41cm near the top. As soon as we finished, we rushed to get to the next creek, one we knew was going to be a hellishly long mission after a day and a bit in the bush. Again, we kept our lures hooked up to our rods for the first couple of kilometres so we knew we could get into the proper water and hopefully towards a nice top hole. This particular creek was a strange one, leading us through wildly variable sections. Once we started fishing, we saw plenty of fish and we both landed a 40cm fish each. The consistency in size wasn’t quite there yet but we pressed deeper and deeper into the creek. There is sometimes a point when you feel the creek is just never going to end, but we kept pushing on with that top hole fever well and truly niggling away at us. After countless kilometres through some challenging country, we finally started to see a light at the end of the tunnel, with the rock canyon sides closing in on us. This is always an exciting time, and we started to put some really nice fish on the brag mat, including one just short of 44cm. Turning a final corner, we saw waterfall, marking a clear end of the jungle perch’s plight up this creek. Darryl was nice enough to let me have first cast in this hole, and we were both treated to an awesome visual eat right in front of us by a big jungle perch. Knowing this fish was a 45+ model, we coaxed it into shallow water where we got a quick few photos and a measure. At 46cm, this fish was the undisputed king of his river, and we were relieved more than anything to land a fish of his calibre after a long two days. We enjoyed our moment for a bit as he swam away, before the dreaded walk back to the car begun. We finally made it back with darkness approaching and storms looming overhead. Overall, we landed 14 fish over the 40cm mark, with the 46cm fish being the icing on an adventure filled weekend on the jungle perch.