When it comes to fishing in Australia, snapper are easily of the most popular and readily accessible saltwater species. When the end of July is marked off on the calendar, we begin to see posts on social media of keen anglers holding up beautiful winter reds at their favourite pier, rock platform or breakwall. Snapper are widely targeted by boat anglers, but that doesn’t mean the landbased fishermen can’t get in on the action! By spending the hours, doing your homework and observing weather patterns, landbased anglers are also able to join in on the snapper fever to land that trophy red.
Without a doubt, timing is one of the most essential pieces of the snapper puzzle, if your rig or bait are a little off the mark, the impact will be much smaller than if you’re fishing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Snapper are readily catchable (with great effort and tenacity) from late July through til March, with the warmer months being the most productive. As a general rule, snapper like to feed closer to shore during low-light periods, this doesn’t mean you won’t catch them during the day, but fishing for them during sunrise, sunset or through the night will often produce better results. Aside from lighting; tide, barometric pressure and water temperature also play major roles in snapper feeding patterns. Generally, the idea is to look for the following:
TIDE: 2 Hours either side of high or low tide, depending on location. If a low tide pushes food into a channel or a deeper patch of water, low tide will often produce more. If a high tide allows fish to access otherwise inaccessible reefs and feeding areas such as rocky bottoms or crab holes, then high tide will be the most productive.
TEMPERATURE AND PRESSURE: Snapper feed more during a high and rising barometer, their digestive system and swim bladder adapt to the changes in pressure, allowing them to eat more and therefore encouraging them to look for food. Water temperature ties in with this as the warmer water speeds up metabolism processes and increases feeding, snapper will still feed in colder water, but again catching them will be more of a challenge.
Finding snapper can take time, don’t expect hard earned spots to be given away easily either! A little homework and a lot of persistence is the best way to find these fish, a spot that you and few others know about will be much more enjoyable than the Mornington Pier parade that begins at the start of August every year! Whilst starting off, locations like Mornington, Brighton, Black Rock, Mordialloc and Stony Point can be great starting points, but don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track when you gain more experience. Look for rocky areas, or locations adjacent to deep water, snapper are a schooling fish and thus need a bountiful supply of food to sustain their populations, areas where food is readily available will often draw in these fish. On the note of drawing in fish, weather plays a big role in choosing your location, ideally you are best to fish just after a few days of strong wind blowing in the direction of your chosen spot, if the bottom has been churned up around Mordialloc Pier after strong winds, then that is the place to be! Don’t be afraid to change your plans if the weather turns.
Rigs and Bait
There are two rigs I will consistently recommend for snapper fishing, the first is the Black Magic Snapper Snatcher. The name says it all, this handy pre-tied Paternoster Rig comes ready to fish with flashers to attract fish. The snapper snatcher is also great for all the exciting by-catch to be had when snapper fishing such as gummy shark, flathead and salmon. Our second rig of choice is the running sinker rig, running sinker rigs are great for fishing around structure or when you’re fishing bigger baits for those XXL landbased fish, we find Black Magic 30 – 60lb supple trace to be the best choice for this rig, line strength should be closer to the 60lb mark if you’re fishing in heavy structure, this is not because we need 60lb line to be able to reel in a snapper, but because the thicker line will give us much more abrasion resistance in rocky areas. Because snapper are often found around heavy structure, it is best to tie a loop of 15lb line on to your Ezi Rig to attach your sinker, you can change this to a higher or lower strength, as long as it remains lower than your main line and leader, there is nothing worse than losing a good fish because your sinker got stuck in a rock, this way we can keep the fish and rig at the much less heartbreaking cost of a sinker.
Many baits are effective in catching snapper, pilchards and squid are among the most popular due to their availability, but fresh baits are often even better. I personally can’t go past a good Australian salmon fillet, or a fresh cutlet of slimy mackerel. The biggest snapper I have ever seen (caught by my uncle, John Webster) was taken on a live slimy mackerel, and came in at just over 30lb! Go Uncle John! Regardless of what bait you use, ensure it is fresh and well presented, pilchards should be half hitched and are best fished on a snelled rig, I personally use 4/0 Black Magic C-Point hooks for this, whereas cutlets and squid rings will present beautifully on a single 6/0 circle hook, with Black Magic again being our choice, this time in the KLT pattern.
If you’re keen enough to try your luck at landbased lure fishing for snapper, you will often find good success with soft plastics. Anything from 4 – 6 inches is a good choice, but it won’t be easy! With patience and perseverance you will catch snapper on lures, however this is much easier do from a boat than the land. If you’re still set on landbased lure fishing, I recommend fishing from rock platforms, these often offer the biggest local ecosystems, and you will find a variety of species to imitate, metal lures and hardbodied lures are also popular, but I find they are not as easy to keep in the strike zone as plastics.
A snapper outfit generally consists of a medium weighted rod of around 4-8kg, higher weights are also appropriate if your rod is 12ft or longer, longer rods are often needed when fishing from certain piers and rock platforms, and a higher weight class comes with a heavy cast weight, allowing for greater distance and heavier sinkers. A great beginner to intermediate outfit is the Rovex Specialist Surf 12ft, matched to Rovex Big Boss 3 6000. This combination will not break the bank but will provide more than adequate firepower for any sized snapper, as well as a soft enough and light enough action to still take advantage of pinkies and by-catch.
Snapper have long been an extremely popular fish for Australian anglers, with patience, perseverance and effort, you too can land one of these beautiful fish from the shore.