Catching a large Snapper is a goal of many local fishers and a highlight for most anglers. Any Snapper less than 3kgs will gain a smile from most fishermen and those more than 5kg will gain a broad smile. A Snapper weighing 10 kg or more is classed as a true trophy-sized fish and will the pride and joy of anyone who catches one!
Snapper Fishing Around Australia
Without doubt the Snapper is the most prized fish in Australian waters. Snapper is heavily targeted from shore and even more so by boat. Each Australian state has its hotspots where smaller Snapper have a myriad of local names – such as squire, pinkies and a whole host of others – and the fish attract armadas of boats.
Overfishing has seen big drops in both fish numbers and average size. As a result, size limits have been raised and bag limit numbers reduced dramatically in all states. The staggering growth in people owning sea going-boats, the introduction of cheap, good quality electronics such as GPS and fish finders, and the quantum leaps in tackle and artificial baits technologies have seen enormous pressures put on snapper stocks as very effective, specifically-refined techniques are applied by almost anyone who can hold a rod.
For all the mystique that surrounds them, Snapper aren’t a particularly fussy species when it comes to food and habitat. Smaller school fish can be found in numbers in shallow bays and clean rivers over broken reef and shale grounds. In deeper water atop solid reef is a preferred location where they will rise readily toward the surface when heavily burleyed.
While it’s not uncommon to find larger fish in the depths as little as 5 metres and less, however they do seem to favour depths of between 12 to 25 metres much more in larger bays. Offshore Snapper are more usually found at depths from 20 to 70metres with some still being captured as deep as 120 metres and more.
Ideal Baits & Lures
Food-wise, Snapper seem to target whatever is available at the time, making them to catch. They seem to be just as comfortable playing the role of foraging scavenger as they are at being aggressive predators. Large live baitfish such as Yellowtail Scad and Blue Mackerel (slimies)are quickly pounced offshore, while easy meals such as frozen pilchards and squid are also taken. Inshore waters fish seem to prefer dead baits and their stomach contents often reveal hints of the variety of things that form their diet. All the usual suspects such as bait fish of every kind, shellfish, squid, whiting, tailor, octopus, mullet, crabs and prawns can be found on dissection.
With the above in mind it should not come as any surprise that the occasional very big snapper is caught in hard fished waters on an old dry piece of bait by someone fishing the wrong tides and doing everything wrong or a very patient bream fisherman who manages to succumb a big guy when heavily under-gunned. Some Snapper just seem to be suckers, but if you want to consistently catch good snapper then it is time to get serious and target them.
Smaller fish in particular seem to be very sensitive to line diameter, line type and colour. If fishing in shallower waters 10 metres or less I would suggest lines of 6kg or less. For 20 metres and more, a 10kg line is usually sufficient unless you are expecting species such as kingfish to crash the party. Snapper are reasonably clean fighters and bust offs attributed to snapper are more likely to have been dirtier fighters who just wandered in to see what was going on.
Depending on your experience and ability, tackle for Snapper fishing can be surprisingly light. However I would recommend a good reel capable of spooling 250 metres of 4 to 6kg line on a light, but strong boat rod in shallow areas and suitable 10 kg outfit for deeper areas. Sinker size should be matched to conditions with only enough weight to just get to the bottom. Hook size should be targeted to the average fish size in your area, 3kg and less fish are easily caught on 3/0 singles, gangs and snooded rigs. Specifically targeting larger fish requires larger or more to the point stronger hooks in the 6/0 to 7/0 range (J style) to resist the crushing power of a big snapper jaws.