With the weather taking a turn in a cooler direction and the Snapper ban coming to a close yesterday, what better excuse to get out chasing snapper again? Plenty of bait schools have been witnessed working close reefs and bays along the coastline with circling birds as a telltale sign.
New lures and tackle rigs for snapper are usually released around Easter so keep your eyes peeled in tackle stores over the next week or so. Bouncing a 6-8oz snapper lead with two big suicide hooks in a paternoster rig is great for deep water fishing at The Barwon Banks for instance. If you have never heard of the term ‘paternoster’ before, it is any style of hook rig where the leader is tied to a fixed lead/sinker; the hooks then are on droppers above the lead. Usually one to three hooks are used on a paternoster rig depending on the species you are after. The droppers can be either blood loops tied directly in the leader or more often a stop knot, bead, swivel, bead, stop knot arrangement is used. This rig is used around the world on pelagic species where a decent depth is involved.
Unfortunately this kind of set-up doesn’t really cut it on the local inshore reefs. More finesse is needed to land the big one in the shallows. The fish tend to be much more finicky on the local shallow reefs. Sweetlip, parrot and snapper will often pick at the bait until there isn’t any left on the hook when you have heavy lead. You occasionally feel the fish pulling away with the bait in their mouth, but generally once you apply pressure, they drop it. In this situation you either need to be really good at knowing when to strike or change your tackle to a lighter running sinker rig or floater.
Floated baits are un-weighted and usually suspend in mid water or slowly sink to the bottom. If the current is strong, then a small ball sinker can be put above the hook to help it get down deeper. Baits generally get smashed on the way down or when the boat jerks up and down with the wave action. After casting the bait out, you need to set the bait run bottom drag as light as you can without have major over runs. When the reef fish picks up the bait in its mouth it can swim off without feeling any weight. Once the fish does so, the angler winds the handle and engages the top drag, which is set somewhat tighter and as a result set the hook in the fish’s mouth.
Apart from being hard fighting fish, snapper are one of the best eating fish in the sea. If bled and put in ice slurry soon after capture,snapper fillets are delectable.
The best times for snapper fishing are dawn, dusk and over night and around the bottom or top of the tide. Drifting is a particularly good way to find snapper. Once you get onto a hot bite, anchor and berley up. Otherwise look for a rise in depth and try to anchor so that your bait ends up on the edge of or on top of the rise.
Soft plastics: The 4 inch Berkley Power baits and Gulp 5 inch Jerk shads are always a mainstay to have on hand in the tacklebox. The whole range of colours work, but I have found the best to be glow, smelt, nuclear chicken and chartreuse pepper neon. Jig heads with heavy gauge 3/0-5/0 hooks are needed to avoid losing the fish through straightening or crushing of the hook. Jig head weight can vary depending on depth, but in most cases a 3/8 to 1/2 oz will do. Start a berley trail and cast the plastics out as far as you can. Let the plastic work it’s was to the bottom then jerk the rod upwards a couple of times, letting the plastic sink back down. If you don’t receive a strike then wind it back up and repeat these steps over again. Also try drifting over a rise in the bottom working your plastic up over the bottom in an upward jerking motion.
Hard bodied lures: The use of metal slugs and deep divers are not uncommon in coastal waters. Trolling along rocky coastline at dawn and dusk can produce good snapper. Close in deep water off the rocks at Coolum, Noosa National Park, Point Cartwright and Caloundra are very productive areas. A range of deep divers made by Halco and RMG in a variety of colours have proven popular over many winter seasons to date. Snapper will feed in mid to deep water, so once you know the depth try to work the lure around half way down and you should be within their strike zone. The Scorpion Crazy Deep by RMG dives to 8 metres and would be perfect for working areas like Currimundi Reef and the Inner Gneerings. Also, try to look for baitfish, structures and spots that show on the sounder and drag your lure past in the hope of hooking up.
These big pink knobbies of the sea are well worth a try during the winter months and considering we are already a third through winter – you better get your skates on! So be sure to take the boat outside and chase these fun, tasty fish.
Spanish mackerel have been in great numbers so far this season and have provided a great alternative to snapper during the closure. Young Blake caught this solid fish with his dad up off Double Island Point.
Michael Wilkinson and his mate Blair fished the reefy areas around the Blinker for parrot and spangled emperor during the closure.
Snapper like the pan sized specimen Gus caught last year, also love to eat soft plastics, when jigged on shallow inshore reefs.