By Jesse Rotin
Spring, the time to put the winter blues behind us, soak up some sun and get stuck into the variety of new species on offer. Being a Victorian, you could say we’ve been struck with the short end of the stick.
Ongoing lockdowns and heavy rainfalls have wreaked havoc, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and its red. Snapper, could you find a fish that drives Australians and especially Victorians crazier, boat ramps about to burst and reels screaming!
Where do I go? This is probably the most frequently asked question and it’s a bit of a tough one as snapper have the tendency to show up on a range of bottom types. A good place to start your search for snapper are reefs. Reefs can consist of rocks and broken ground or even wrecks and bommies. These bottom types can be highly productive, due to the growth and shelter they offer to baitfish and crustaceans alike and in return provide plenty of tucker for those big reds.
A high-quality depth sounder/GPS is vital in finding these areas and once a location is found, mark it on the GPS. Of course, finding fish on the Sounder is important, however just because you’ve marked fish, doesn’t always mean they’ll chew. It’s not hard to get carried away on the Sounder but never forget that while you’re driving around, you haven’t got a bait in the water and the best chance you have is to stop and try.
Bait-fishing for snapper has been around for decades and still continues to yield fish time and time again. Snapper are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will take just about anything that crawls, swims or even lying dead on the bottom. Pilchards and silver whiting are the most readily available baits used by anglers chasing Reds.
There are times where snapper, due to weather or maybe even spawning can prove difficult and usually slow down on feeding, however just like everything, they have to eat to survive.
The key to this is to keep a variety of baits on multiple rods and as always, fresh is best and quite often tempts those bigger, more weary fish too. Garfish, salmon, mackerel and calamari are top fresh baits and although it takes time to collect them, they’re worth their weight in gold when snapper are proving to be a challenge.
When choosing an outfit on snapper, look for something strong enough to cast medium sized baits, allow for heavy sinkers if needed and quickly dispatch of any undesirables like rays and sharks. Now you certainly don’t want a game-fishing outfit but 4-8kg rods paired with 3000–4000 reels are perfect no matter where you fish without being an over kill.
Monofilament mainline is most common when using multiple rods as it can save time if a tangle occurs. Braid is another productive method and used more often in areas with strong current. 15-20lb mainline is run of the mill no matter the line of choice and leaders in the 30-40lb range. You may need to up your leader size in certain locations but I’ve found 40lb still gets the bites and holds up when a big one jumps on the end.
A running sinker rig with the addition of a sinker will help your bait get to where the fish are, especially in current. You may need to alter your sinker sizes to suit the location and at other times using no weight at all can see the bait free fall naturally, tweak things up to see what brings the best results. The two most effective styles of hooks are octopus and circles. Both can either be rigged on single or twin hook setups and depending on your bait, generally a hook in the 4/0-6/0 size. To increase your chances, adding a lumo bead to the rig can act as an attractor and give snapper something to hone in on after dark.
Outfit 1 Outfit 2
Beefstick 701M/BG 3000 Beefstick 701M/Exceler 4000
20lb J-Thread Nylon mainline 20lb J-Braid multi-colour mainline
40lb Saltiga Type N Nylon leader 40lb Saltiga Type N Nylon leader
Preparation is important and having gear at the ready will save you less time stuffing about when the bite is right. Whether that be spare rigs, leader or just having some extra bait on hand in case pickers like juvenile snapper show up. A key piece of tackle I never leave home without when chasing snapper is the Daiwa Worm Holder Case.
Although it’s designed to keep soft plastics packages, I use it for a different purpose and instead store an array of spare and separate rigs. Inside are a variety of rig setups to suit any location and conditions and if I happen to get snagged or cut off, I can quickly tie a new rig on and be back in action.