Written by Luke Ryan
During the past few months we have been lucky enough to experience some sensational local snapper fishing off Perth. Cockburn Sound and the Five Fathom Bank are holding a large amount of schooling fish. Charter boats and private recreational boats have been doing extremely well this season and it seems every year the schools of pink snapper seem to be increasing.
Marco (left) and the author Luke (right)
Although the weather has been very average this year, there has been a handful of days when the winds have eased enough for my crew and me to head out and chase the prized fish. The snapper have been plentiful, with the majority of the fish being of good size. I found the schools have been quite easy to locate with fish stacked on top of one another. This has been making it easy to determine what my sounder has been relaying to me when seeing typical “arches” on my screen.
One tip when looking for potential areas to fish, make sure you mark on the sounder good looking lumps. Try to get a heap of lumps marked so that when you head out offshore instead of wasting time looking for ground that fish might be on you have a heap of pre logged marks you can check. Having a log of spots has helped me greatly when the fish haven’t been sitting on spots I would have expected them to be on.
Some trophy fish can be found very close to shore
This year I have found that the ocean side of Garden Island has been producing well for me with most of my fish coming from ten to fifteen meters of water. Generally, the fish have been sitting on small lumps and rises. Most of the spots I have caught fish on have been in areas with a cluster of small rises close by, be sure to look out for reef bottom when searching for spots on your sounder.
Try when anchoring to position your boat in front of the ground you intend to fish, making sure the drift and wind are playing to your advantage. If where you have anchored doesn’t line up with where you want to be fishing then take the time to reposition the boat. You want to have your baits sitting just in front of the lump, close enough to the fish yet far enough away so you don’t continually get snagged.
Local snapper fishing is not overly difficult, with the right setup and a little bit of persistence you should find yourself getting stuck into some fish. Having a quality sounder capable of side and DownScan will help you locate more fish. When looking for potential spots to fish I will use my Downscan imaging as a reference to my standard sonar. It helps greatly when trying to determine if it is in fact snapper that you are looking at.
The frequency that downScan uses is much higher and field of view is narrower, giving you a much more defined image of what you are looking at. I find that you don’t tend to get too many arches while using structure but more blobs and marks, when you get a really good reading you can make out parts of the fish’s body like heads and tails. Downscan imaging is a great tool for marking fish and is an added advantage when chasing snapper.
When targeting snapper bite times are critical, you really want to have located some fish prior to setting your anchor on a spot, or at least find a spot with decent structure. I would recommend getting out on the water early so you have adequate time to locate some fish and get your burly trail going.
The best times for targeting snapper are first light in the morning and late afternoon during sunset. The fish generally come up from the deeper water during low light periods to feed, during the hectic crayfish run is when early morning fishing is at its best. It is very common to have snapper follow up your craypots when pulling so always have a rod ready. Generally, the prime times for targeting snapper in the morning are from 4am to 8am with first light being the hot bite.
Personally I prefer to fish the afternoon session, ideally I like to be on the water around 3:30 -4pm and at my spot around 4:30. This allows enough time to set anchor and start a light burley trail, the last 45 minutes prior to sundown is the prime bite time however you will catch them earlier if you have been able to locate fish on your sounder.
Finding fish using your sounder is a key aspect to coming home with your limit of snapper, I have found using my normal 200khz in conjunction with my DownScan view to be Ideal for locating fish. Trial and error is the biggest learning curve when using your sounder to locate fish, you need to spend some time on the water and really get to know what you are looking at on the screen. Once you start catching some fish you will then be able to recognise what you are actually looking for on the screen.
The tackle we use is fairly simple and is not complicated to set up. In fact the rigs and gear that we use for snapper fishing in shallow water is probably the simplest rig of all. As most of the fishing I am doing for snapper is in shallow water I tend to fish my baits unweighted on a snelled rig. If there is a bit of current it is easy enough to add a small running bean sinker just above the rig for a little extra weight.
I normally opt away from ganged hooks as I prefer to offer the bait as natural as possible. Generally I use 60lb – 80lb black magic supple trace, this leader line is among some of the best I have used and is super easy to tie knots with. Over time I have experimented with a variety of different hooks and have found for myself that the black magic C-Point and DX hooks in 5/0, 6/0 and 7/0 to be my favourite choices. Depending on the size of the baits I am using as to the size of the hooks I tie on. The new DX hooks also feature a rust proof coating over the hook, this dramatically increases the life of a hook were it is not uncommon to get a couple of sessions out of a rig.
Black Magic hooks nearly always find their mark
Choosing the correct bait and burly is also a must as you need to use what is going to be the most effective for catching snapper. The best burly I have used is the shorecatch shred that comes ready to go, available in a tuna and mulie blend I have found mixing the two together creates an awesome burly trail.
Pink snapper absolutely lover fresh bait and if you are able to catch some before getting to your spot it is well worth the effort. As far as frozen bait goes the best baits I have used have been scalie mackerel, sanmar and blue mackerel, mulies also work fine but they tend to come off the hook too easily. I always try to use baits with a lot of oil in them, these help in attracting more fish to your area and help the fish local your offering easier. At Bluewater we regularly stock fresh bait every week so pop in for all your bait and burly needs.
The author Luke with an average sized pinkie
For any more info on targeting snapper drop into a Bluewater Tackleworld store for all the advice you need.