By Nabeel Issa
Living in Brisbane, the season change always brings about thoughts of a different species to target. We are spoiled for choice and if you are like me, you will have a different favourite fish species throughout the year. As I write this, the weather has cooled, the bone-chilling westerlies have made their presence felt and I am battling a cold. All signs that point to one thing – snapper season! Although snapper are a year-round target species here in SE, when the water cools the masses move in for their annual spawning run. Winter provides an increased opportunity to find some good numbers of snapper with a great chance of getting a big ‘trophy’ fish.
I predominantly fish offshore from the Gold Coast, there are plenty of in-close options a few kilometres off The Seaway that make it an attractable area to fish. Snapper in this area are typically targeted in depths between 30 and 100m. My preference is to fish the shallower water, which still holds big fish, but maybe not as many fish as you would get fishing deeper. The bigger congregations tend to prefer the deeper cooler water. Any rocky/reefy structure in these depth ranges will hold snapper, there is no shortage of it out there and it pays to have a good knowledge of your sounder to help maximise your chances of finding good ground.
Stealth is a big part of successful snapper fishing. They can be a very weary fish and outboard motor noise, boat traffic, etc, can put the bigger and smarter ones off the bite. When approaching an area I would like to fish, I pull up at least 100m before the mark and either drift in or use the electric motor to get closer. I fish lures predominantly, and with soft plastics and crab imitations being the two most common choices. Soft plastics around 4 or 5 inch work well. Match your jighead weight to the depth and current, use as little weight as possible as the slower sink will trigger more bites. Another good option is the larger Cranka Crab which sinks quite slow, but can attract bigger fish. A natural presentation is critical to fooling the bigger fish.
For me, deciding when to go snapper fishing is heavily dependent on the weather. So if the weather is playing the game, I will go regardless of the moon or tides. If you are able to pick and choose when to go, low light periods and tide changes can provide good bite times, as well as moon rise and setting times. It's not often we get the opportunity to line up all of these though, so get out when you can.
The last piece of the puzzle is the gear. I fish quite light for snapper. Going lighter line and leader enables a more realistic and natural presentation of your lure. Snapper can be leader shy so a lighter leader will provide more bites. Of course this is to be taken into consideration with the kind of structure you are fishing. I fish 16 and 20lb leaders mostly, if desperate for a bite I will go down to 12lb, but with the chance of a 90cm+ fish being quite high, you are rolling the dice on that one. My favourite rod for this fishing is the TD Hyper 701MFS (3-7kg). It almost feels as if it were designed for this style of fishing, a nice light tip for long casts, but also plenty of power down low. Match this to a 3000 or 4000 reel with 15lb braid and you have a deadly set up for snapper.
Fish light, fish slow and be stealthy. Doing so will help increase your Snapper catches! Also keep in mind that we have a closed season this year in July/August to help give these awesome fish a chance to spawn in peace.