Snapper Fishing Tips

Few fish stir the imagination of Australian anglers more than a crimson-flanked, big, hump headed snapper. The fish’s appearance, its dogged determination when hooked and its superb eating qualities, make Snapper one of our most popular angling targets.

The term ‘big’ is indeed a relative one when applied to snapper. A 5 kg red may be the catch of a lifetime to a New South Welshman, while a fish of this size would be something of a disappointment to a South Aussie snapper fisho anchored in the upper Spencer Gulf.

Large reds are reasonably common around the continents southern coasts. with the densest populations of truly big fish located in South Australia and, to a lesser degree, Victoria and southern Western Australia. It isn’t difficult to appreciate why fish as impressive as giant snapper have developed a cult following among anglers right throughout the southern states. Some specialise in this species exclusively honing their tackle and techniques to the point where a brimming fish box is the usual outcome of a sortie to a favoured location.

Big snapper are normally ravenous feeders, scarcely leaving a stone unturned in the quest to keep their stomachs full. When a sizeable school of fish is located and they are really on the job, the action can be nothing short of mind-blowing and it becomes a mere formality to pull as many reds as required. lt is when the fish are not quite so enthusiastic however, that the tuned-in big snapper specialist will score consistently, while others operating in the same water miss out. Attention to detail in several areas can really turn the trick where giant reds are concerned, regardless of whether the fishing is offshore or land-based.

Rock Fishing for Snapper

Snappers from the shore rarely come easily, irrespective of location. The degree of difficulty is doubled when a rugged rock platform is the chosen fishing spot. Those anglers who score 10 kg-plus snapper consistently from the stones are among the most astute and persistent fellows ever to wet a line.

Giant reds just love to fossick in close around the ledges and shallow reefs, particularly during, or immediately after a good blow. The dedicated rock fisherman will treat an approaching storm as the sign to break out the long rods and wet weather gear.

Turbulent seas take a heavy toll on most of the shallow-water creatures that are high on the big snapper’s list of favoured foods, so old man red is at his most vulnerable to the rock fisherman when the inshore water is stirred up.

The big fish/big bait connection is not always valid in all snapper angling situations but it appears to apply perfectly to the rock fishing scene. Large baits which are highly visible and strong in smell will emerge as the ultimate offering in discoloured inshore water.

Best Baits for Snapper Fishing

Fresh squid heads qualify in both departments and these can be used whole if not too large, or cut in halves. Because such a bait is quite bulky, it needs to be rigged thoughtfully to facilitate both casting and hooking-up. A pair of Mustad Suicide hooks in sizes 7/O and 5/O tied on heavy monofilament will hold a squid head securely. The 7/O is pushed right through the head, backwards of the eyes, then several of the tentacles are threaded on to the ‘5/O, leaving the barbs and points of both hooks clearly exposed. When rigged in this manner a squid head rarely misses scoring a solid hook-up.

Octopus also lures its share of big snapper from the rocks, but it seems to lack many of the aromatic juices of the squid and cuttlefish. Ocky is extremely resistant to the attacks of unwanted pickers, which ensures that it will always have a place in some rock fishing situations.

Although fresh fillets of salmon, tailor or similar fish are sometimes prone to breaking up when casting with heavy tackle, they often rival squid heads in effectiveness on giant snapper. The ideal sized fillet bait for the rock fisherman is around 16 centimetres long, 4 centimetres wide and a couple of centimetres thick. It should be tapered toward the bottom and threaded onto either a pair of 6/O Suicides or three 4/O s. To provide plenty of flexibility the hooks should be tied on nylon trace material, rather than linked. Whole, small fish, such as mullet, gar and whiting will also be taken eagerly by monster snapper, and these can be presented well on a couple of 6/O s. WA pilchards can be deadly too but are a bit fragile for use in turbulent conditions and don’t stand up at all well to the attacks of pickers.

Snapper Fishing Rigs

Although threadlines and overhead outfits are used widely from the rocks by big snapper specialists; the Alvey sidecast and long surf rod is probably the most suitable combination for casting bulky baits and battling stubborn fish. The sidecast is also more robust and able to cope better with the knocks and brutal treatment which are part and parcel of hard core heavy-tackle rock fishing.

Ten-kilogram line will handle most big snapper found inshore. although it may be wise to go a little heavier if the desired location is strewn with an unforgiving reef or submerged rock ledges. Monofilament with better than average resistance to abrasion such as the Tortue brand is also a decided advantage for the rock snapper specialist, and is well worth paying a little extra for?

Offshore Snapper Fishing

Those who seek big snapper from the relative comfort of a boat. can usually afford to fish a fair bit lighter than their land-based counterparts. Baits and general techniques can also vary to some degree, with the trend toward a subtle approach.

Large WA pilchards are regarded by many as the best offshore snapper bait, particularly in relatively shallow water where the tidal run is not severe.

In areas where reds of up to and beyond 1O kg are likely to be encountered, a whole pillie rigged on two 6/0 Mustad Suicides is spot on. Once again, the hooks should be tied about 5 centimetres apart on a suitable length of 20 kg mono trace. The bottom hook is passed through the head of the pilchard immediately behind the eye sockets, while the other is pushed through approximately half way along the body. A half hitch in the trace is then placed around the tail to secure the bait for casting. The pilchard will then hang head down, which is the way it is likely to be inhaled by a feeding red.

Other popular offshore baits include fish fillets. squid (both heads and strips], peeled octopus’s legs, whole green prawns and fresh small gar. Regardless of the bait used, it should be fished with the minimum practical weight, which may mean no lead at all under ideal conditions. When weight is required, whether to fish with a fixed or running sinker is often a matter of conjecture, but it appears that a light fixed lead won’t deter many reds encountered offshore. and is less troublesome than a running version for casting away from the boat.

Baitcaster and threadline reels reign supreme for Snappers offshore. and lines from 4 to 10kg breaking strain should suffice in most locations. Dedicated sports fishermen will occasionally go lighter still but this approach is restricted to a small minority of anglers. Relatively short quick-taper rods with light tips and powerful butts are the most effective sticks for subduing monster snapper from a boat and these are now readily available in off-the-rack or custom-built options at prices relative to quality.

Berleying for Snapper

It is always more difficult to berley from the rocks than from a boat. but it can be done quite effectively with a little planning. Berley is largely unnecessary while fishing the stones during heavy weather as the water turbulence dislodges sufficient tidbits to entice big snapper within the range of the bait, in quieter conditions, however, a steady stream of berley may be a decided advantage and there are two effective ways of creating a suitable trail.

As there will almost certainly always be a backwash of varying intensity around the chosen rock platform, the frames of a couple of large fish (not snapper) can be tied off at water level on a stout rope, so that scraps of remaining flesh can be gradually flaked away by natural wave action. lt doesn’t take long for an enticing berley trail to work its way out from the rocks into the strike zone. particularly if the frames of oily-fleshed fish like tuna are used.

The heads of smaller varieties such as mullet, whiting, chopper tailor and small salmon also make top berley for the rock fisherman, and these can simply be thrown well out by hand, to lure Snapper into the desired area. Once again the boatie has it easy when it comes to berleying, and there are several convenient options open. Snapper simply adores the heads and backbones of any of the small table species. especially if some of the gut is still attached. These should be thrown in handfuls well up-tide of their desired target area, or loaded into an onion bag, which is weighted with a rock and lowered to the seabed on a strong cord. Either way the escaping aroma is often a fatal attraction for big, hungry snapper.

In shallow water, a transom-mounted berley bucket may be used to good effect. Scraps of tuna, salmon or other strongly flavoured fish make the ideal chum base for the bucket, and it may also pay to add some stale bread and chicken pellets.