Fishing for snapper is a lot of fun. They are a good fighting fish especially when taken on light line in shallow water & a great table fish too. The species has been depleted a lot through commercial fishing with traps etc but there are still plenty about if you target them. Hopefully the information on this page will help you get your first big "red". Your first big snapper is something you never forget & well worth the effort.ÊThis article will cover the techniques I use for fishing the close in reefs for big snapper with light tackle. I know a lot of people like fishing out wide , drifting & using deck winches to catch pan size reds. If that is your thing go for it. I will cover the other end of the scale.
Snapper are about off Sydney all year round. Generally speaking the larger fish are caught from late summer through to spring. My largest fish have been taken in May / June. Summer is the time for those nice 1/2 to 1 kilo fish for the plate. There are still a few fish about in the middle of winter but generally they will be out in deeper water & a bit harder to find.
I generally fish the close reefs between Palm beach & Mona Vale. The well known spots like Bolton's , Trawleys & Reggie's ground are all good spots & only a short run out. I also fish out of the northern end of Whale Beach only a couple hundred meters offshore. There is a lot of reef from Avalon down to Mona Vale & anywhere along the edges of it will produce snapper. A couple other spots that produce well are Esmeralda & the wreck of the Birchgrove Park. I know I have not been very specific here but in the next week or so (14 to 21 /11 01) I will be adding a page to this site with GPS co ordinates on it & these areas will be listed.
I will be honest here I prefer hand lines for most of the time as they are very practical for the methods I use plus if you have never had a big red on a 6 kilo hand line in 10 meters of water you have not lived! Its great. Any good quality threadline or overhead tackle spooled with 6 kilo line on a suitable 2 meter rod is all that is required. As with all tackle it needs to be in good nick with smooth drag & bail roller working properly. As far as line goes on rods I use Berkeley Fire Line in 6 kilo. It can really take a bit of rubbing on rocks without being damaged. On my hand lines I use Tortue in 6 or 8 kilo breaking strain. I find 6 kilo ample for snapper fishing no matter how big they are but if you are not confident in your tackle or ability go to 10 kilo it wont hurt.
The method I use for snapper fishing is simply fishing floating baits down a berley trail with minimum weight. I keep it as simple as possible & most of the time its just a hook tied on the end of my line. If really needed I will add a small running sinker on the line but that's it. I do not use a trace of any type just the main line through to the hook. As far as hooks go I prefer Mustad 540's in XXX strong in sizes 4/0 through to 8/0 . The chemically sharpened Mustad "Big Red" in the same size range are another good choice. Large snapper have extremely powerful jaws & will send back small weak hooks bent & twisted in seconds. You may land the odd big fish on a fine small hook but if you want big reds on a regular basis stick to large strong hooks. Even the large strong hooks are not enough if the fish gets them in the wrong spot as I have had a couple 6/0 's come back like pretzels.
Snapper will eat just about anything. Squid & Octopus , Pilchards , Prawns , Tailor the list goes on & on. I have caught good fish while rock fishingÊ on bread. They are not fussy eaters. For the method I use I prefer Striped Tuna or Slimey Mackerel as my first choice with bonito & pilchards as second.Ê A point to note is you need plenty of bait & plenty of berley. In an average 3 hour session with 2 of us fishing I would get through 7 or 8 average (3 kilo) Striped tuna no problem at all so don't leave yourself short ,Ê with pilchards 3 or 4 blocks (bait shops will love you).
I generally fish along the edges of a reef where it drops off onto the sand or rubble & anchor my boat accordingly. I prefer to fish the evenings & the first hour or so of darkness if conditions are suitable, however I must stress here being offshore of a night is NOT the place to be for the inexperienced. I have caught some of my best fish early mornings so if you are not confident being offshore at night stick to early mornings. I find I get my best fishing on the rising tide & at the top of the tide as well. When I am anchored up in the right spot I start the berley going fist up. I fillet my tuna & keep the fillets & heads for bait (yes heads for bait). The frames split up with some going in to the berley pot to produce a fine stream of berley & the rest are chopped into cubes & fed over the side regularly. The size & weight of the cubes is about that of the baits. The fillets are gut into LARGE strips & to get you an idea of the size I use my average bait would be as long as the distance from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger. I cut them in a long triangular shape with the base being about half the width of the palm of my hand. This sounds large & it is but by the time the pickers (yellowtail , mado etc) have been at it for a few minutes there is not a lot left. If the pickers are really thick go to even bigger baits. I hook my bait once through the tip of the triangle & just feed it slack so it floats down the berley trail with the cubes of berley. When it hits the bottom I leave it for a couple minutes then bring it back in & start again. This is where hand lines come into their own you can just toss the bait over & it will take the line from the deck itself & you can have a couple going at once. Using rods you will often need to manually strip the line to make sure it it does not drag & lift the bait from the berley trail. No matter which tackle you use make sure there is some slack between the bait & you so it floats down naturally. I mentioned using heads for bait & they are excellent. Split them in half & put the hook through the tip of the jaw. Big red loves them! Snapper hit these baits hard & 99 times out of hundred the line just starts pouring out. Just come up tight on him as fast as possible & that is all there is to it. You will not mistake a snapper bite once you have had one. Once hooked a big red will normally make a couple strong runs so don't try to stop him too quick. Keep even pressure on him & he will tire out & he is yours. I prefer to gaff my snapper but if your not confident a large landing net is the way to go. The whole key is a constant stream of berley with large baits floating naturally to the bottom in the berley stream. Stick at it as some days are better than others & it wont be long before you score a "big red". Good luck.
A couple of tips here. I prefer not to use chain on my anchor as I think rattling chain spooks fish. My reef anchor is made from 4 prongs welded into a tube which is filled with lead to give it weight. My sand anchor has a lump of steel tied into the rope 6 feet up from the anchor to help it bite. Another little trick is get a ten foot length of heavy rubber cord ( I use 25mm diameter) & make a loop in either end by folding the rubber back on itself & clamping it with a hose clamp. When I am anchored up I tie my anchor off to one end & put the other end over my bow cleat . Then it acts like a big shock absorber & makes sitting on the anchor in choppy seas a lot more comfortable. Try it you will never regret it.
Here are a couple snapper pictures unfortunately I am too lazy to muck around at night offshore with cameras but these are a few nice fish taken of a morning. (good fish, bad photos)
A nice snapper of 6 kilos
A fat 5 kilo snapper (full of my berley)
My only (bad) picture of my best fish. he was 7.2 kilo