Mangrove Jack (Lutjanus argentimaculatus)
Also known as Mangrove Red Snapper, Siakap Merah (in Malay)
Affectionately called MJ by passionate anglers
Family: Lutjanidae (Snappers) subfamily: Lutjaninae
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Identifying the Mangrove Jack:
MJs and snappers look alike. They have two conspicuous canine teeth at front of it’s upper jaw. Coloration ranges from burnt orange, to copper, to bronze and dark reddish-brown, depending on its age and environment. Younger fish caught in estuarine areas are often darker than older fish taken from offshore reef areas and exhibit lighter vertical bands down their flanks. Average weight ranging from 1 – 5 kgs.
Serving justice to it’s name, both juveniles and young adults can be found in mangrove estuaries, the lower reaches of freshwater streams and tidal creeks. Adults are known to migrate to offshore reefs in order to spawn. As ambush predators, they often dwell around structure (e.g. mangrove roots, fallen trees etc.) where source of food in the form of smaller prey reside for protection. Mainly nocturnal, this species feeds mostly on fishes and crustaceans. MJs are a highly regarded table fish with firm, sweet tasting, white flesh. In reef areas, MJs are sometimes confused with red bass (Lutjanus Bohar).
For a brackish water-estuary angler, the MJ’s explosive run for cover once the bait (or lure) is taken is the thrill well worth waiting for. Many lures are lost once they reach the protection of the snags as a result of their initial burst of speed. A good lure retriever and a hell lot of patience is required. Swimming lures from Rapala, Duel / Yo-Zuri have been proven effective on this species. Choice of recommended lure colours are of natural bait colours, green and orangy red.
Please practice catch & release whenever possible :)
Out in the reef, the larger MJs are caught by bottom-fishing technique with heavy tackle. They still remain difficult to land due to their speed and proximity to sharp reef bottoms where heavy thicker leader usage is recommended. Squids, mantis shrimps and live octopuses are the best baits to be offered. Catch & release is not advised for fishes caught from bottom fishing techniques as the fish might not be able to adapt to the extreme change in water pressure. Of course this is very much depended on the depth of where the fish is being pulled up from.