Pier Fishing for Snapper

Pier Fishing for Snapper


It was rumoured that Capitan Cook himself gave snapper their name. It was believed that he may have named snapper after a fish that they resembled in and around the Americas. Is this really true? Well, I’m not sure but it is an interesting myth.

Without a doubt more snapper are taken by anglers whom are fortunate enough to have access to a boat or kayak, rather than off a pier. That being said, there are still some great opportunities to land some good snapper off the end of your local jetty. It should be said, that the accomplishment of catching a big snapper off a pier, carries far more prestige than that of the boat angler.  The angler who can repeat this feat deserves the utmost respect. The more hours spent on those cold, wet & windy days at the end of a pier commands the admiration of any angler. Furthermore, landing a big red from the jetty always feels more satisfying, than catching them from a boat or kayak in masses. The skill set and patience required by land based snapper anglers far outweighs that of a boaty.

The information in this blog can be applied to all types of land based angling, this includes rock-walls, wharves, and in fact any man made structure that is over salt water. For most cases this type of angling is limited the top end of the tide, of course that statement really depends on the structure fished.

We cannot predict when a nice size snapper will take a pier fishermen’s bait and there is a fair bit of luck involved. However, there are definitely strategies and tactics that the angler can deploy to ensure that luck is not the only factor to be relied upon to land a prize fish.  The first thing we should acknowledge is that there are probably not a lot of piers or structure that stretch out into the deep water.  So the angler should adopt shallow water tactics (Read Techniques for fishing Shallow Water for Snapper Blog here)  Snapper are a fairly shy fish and generally speaking are more incline to move into the shallow waters when the tide is high, which will provide them with more cover. A few other factors will see more fish move into the shallow waters such as the following:

  1. Chopy conditions – When the choppy conditions arise, they churn up the sand, which provides snapper with more cover and confidence to move into the shallows fairly unnoticed. Choppy conditions also helps to wash crustatioceans and other food sources into the water column. It is best to fish during choppy conditions or even a few days after it has been nice and choppy. As the water will still be murky.
  2. Overcast Conditions – We are not saying that you won’t catch a good red when it is a clear sunny day, from experience and the experience of others, we do know that snapper are more likely to come on the bite on an overcast day.
  3. Dusk & Dawn – The coverage of dusk and dawn will also entice the fish to come into feed in the shallow water that can be reached via a jetty.
  4. Night Time – We have had more success catching snapper at night time than during the day, from the end of a jetty. For every fish we have caught during the day, we have caught three to four during the night.

For all the years fishing from piers we have found that the fisherman who is dropping over the side of the pier will catch flathead, leather jackets, trevally, salmon, pinkies and mullet. Those who cast out to a distance will generally catch the big reds. This is why it pays to have a good fishing reel and rod combo, which will allow you to get a good casting distance. Most piers that were built back in the olden days, were built for mooring boats, generally speaking this means that those piers were not built near any reefs or structure. As stated above snapper are shy and will generally avoid noisy busy places, this is why we believe in casting further out for snapper.

Snapper will come in for a feed during the night time hours, the fisherman who gets up early will generally get about one hour of good fishing at dawn, where the angler who fishes the pier on dusk will be in for a much better chance at landing a few good big reds. Now we know that snapper feed over reefs, rocky grounds and mussel beds, so the rule of thumb is, if you’re not snagging up then you’re not likely to be catching snapper, as for the most part snapper do not feed across long patches of sand.

Rigs and Methods

As stated above if you are planning to drop a line over the edge of the pier or structure, your best bet is a light rod and reel combo utilising a fixed line float. Around a 10lb mainline and tie a small barrel swivel to the end of your mainline and then about 15lb fluorocarbon leader with a float at the top. Try using a small circle hook in the range of 1/0-3/0. This set up is for the most part used for those smaller pinkies dwelling around the structure. 

The angler should strongly be encouraged to adopt the surf cast method if they are serious about catching big red, as this is by far the most productive technique. The rod should be in the range of 10-12 foot with plenty of whip in its action. When it comes to the reel of choice, I’d go anything from a 5000 and above, it is worth noting that you get what you pay for when it comes to reels. I do find that the more expensive reels cast a lot further than the cheaper brands. At the end of the day you are looking to invest in a combo that has the ability to cast well. Fish anything around a 20lb mainline and utilise a 2-4 oz sinker.

Try to perfect your casting skill as you need to make every cast a winner. I find that the running sinker can be a little difficult to cast with at times, especially when you are going for distance, so I opt for a fixed sinker in this case. The best type of rig I have found over the years for landing big snapper on the pier, is the paternoster rig. I use two different sizes, the 6/0 and the 5/0 octopus beak hooks to get the job done. Try backing off your drag so that a big fish has time to run with your bait. I find pilchards and squid the most effective on the big boys. The downside to pilchards are that they are fairly soft and combining that with a long cast can sometimes be disastrous, so for the most part I opt for squid as it stays on the hook better. 

The other rig to adopt is the flasher rig. Especially rigs that have the advanced glowing properties. These rigs are prefect for those days where the water is murky, which is optimal for snapper fishing. The flasher rigs glow in the water after being charged with light, they make a very visible bait that the snapper find hard to resist, even on those days when the fish are finicky.  The Super UV snapper rigs are a definite game changer.   

10 x 6/0 Twisted Paternoster Rigs only $37.99


4 Packets of Super UV Snapper Paternoster Rigs only $28


3 Packets (8 hooks per pack) of DIY Super UV Hooks only $50 + you get a FREE UV Torch