Shallow Water Snapper Fishing Tips
At some point the majority of anglers will be drawn in by depth deception when chasing snapper. It’s a fairly normal perception that the snapper are sitting out on the outer deep reefs. On the way out to the deeper reefs, think about how many quality fish you might be passing by?
In my local area, you can watch the patterns of local anglers (boats) and their movements. For example, during the light of day the boats will be sitting out in the outer reef systems. This is because the snapper are seeking a little extra cover from the light of day. During dusk and dawn the boats will be either fishing the shallow reefs or the outer reefs, this is all dependent upon the tide cycle the tide. If the tide is incoming or full, you will see the boats congregating in the shallow reefs, the reason for this is because the snapper will come in to the shallow reefs when there is more water coverage, and also they will come into feed on rocky areas that become more accessible due to the water flow. The trick here is to work out when the snapper are sitting on outer reefs or the shallow reefs in your area. Then fish the shallow reefs when you know they are likely to be there, and don’t get tempted to just head out to the outer reefs.
Strategy is the Foundation of Success
Fishing the shallows for snapper means you may need to change your strategies from those strategies you might use whilst fishing the deeper reefs. Any angler who has caught a decent size red knows how strong and powerful they can be. As we have discussed in previous blogs, we know that snapper love a little bit of coverage, so they feel pretty secure around reef or structure. Generally, when snapper are hooked they will tend to swim deep and head for the bottom. Obviously, the risk of hooking snapper in shallow water is the snapper snagging or cutting your line of connection off a lot easier, as the swim to the bottom for the fish can be done in a lot less time.
The best tip we can give you to overcome this issue, is the obvious one, fish with heavier gear. Try increasing the poundage of your leader or mainline and thicker gauge hooks are also a good start. If you hook a fish in the shallows that contains a lot of snags, then your job is to get that fish off the bottom as quick as you can and guide the fish to safer water.
I personally don’t like fishing with braid, because I find it tangles too easy and find rigging up a lot more difficult than mono (especially in confined space). However, from my research it seems that when fishing the shallows 15 kilo braid is a good start. It’s good for casting because of the lightness of the braid, it also has the advantage that braid is good for detecting bites. Nevertheless, 15 kilo braid will not be strong enough to stop bust offs on rough ground, you will need a strong leader, to solve that issue. When it comes to mono, I usually fish 20lb mainline with a 25-30lb leader.
Heavy gear is not the only one strategy you will need in order to be successful in the shallows, you will need a stronger game plan. You need to adopt a good fish fighting strategy as mentioned earlier, if you recognise early that you are on a good fish you need to put pressure on the fish and get it off the bottom. The angler needs to get up behind the fish as soon as he/she can, by doing this it will allow the angler to lift the snapper and your line off the bottom.
Go Full Commando
Going full commando means making your fishing mission, one that deploys stealth mode. Full commando requires you to use your basic instinct and hunting skills. You wouldn’t walk through the bush making noise when hunting a deer or pig, would you? You sneak up as quite as can be, to give yourself the best opportunity to get your prize, so why should fishing be any different? So in a nutshell it basically means you should keep as quiet as possible, when sounding up fish do it with the lowest of revs as possible, try to cut you motor well before you reach you target zone. Drifting on to fish is great way of ambushing your prey, this will reduce the chance of spooking the fish. Another tip is to try to be the first angler to your chosen spot, as the more anglers that descend in one spot the louder it gets and the fish may move on or stop feeding altogether.
As we know snapper are a reef fish so we know they love to hang around reef, although they are found on reefs we also know that they are rarely located on the peaks. You will find them on the edges of reefs, in the gullies, on the broken area with crevices and large, as well as gravel beds. By plotting your local reefs with your GPS/Sounder you will overtime know where the edges are to your local reef and ultimately where the snapper often congregate.
Snapper also love to frequent kelp beds, the reason for this is because the kelp fronds give the snapper some coverage and additionally the kelp beds offer an abundant ecosystem. However, fishing kelp can be often very difficult from a snag perspective, and can make extracting the fish extremely hard. As soon as a snapper is hooked it will instinctively head back to the kelp fronds, the angler needs to be quick and pull the fish away from the fronds.
Bait fishing or soft plastics? I personally have been more successful with bait, but still ensure I throw out a plastic now and then, especially if I am not getting anywhere with bait. A lot of anglers have started to fish the lighter jig-heads opposed to the heavier ones, the reason for this is because the light jig-head has more hang time in the water and will sink at a slower speed. So try using ¼ or 1/3 size jig-head rather than ½ oz. You might find you get better results. When soft plastic fishing shallow reef. The down side of fishing soft plastics in shallow water is defiantly going to be the increased amount of times that you snag the bottom, you will find it happens more frequently than when fishing deep water. We suggest rigging your plastics on weedless wide gape hooks, to help minimise snagging. The hooks that have weight moulded mid-way down the shank of the hook assist the soft plastic to sink in a horizontal pattern, this can also minimise snagging.
Another good method of hooking snapper is by trolling hard-body lures. You can do this in full stealth mode, if you have a light boat by running an electric motor or by using a kayak. The great advantage of using a kayak is its ability to be as stealth as possible. For the most part if you are kayak fishing you will only have access to those shallow reefs anyway, with the exception of those serious offshore kayakers. Check out Yakass Kayak Fishing on YouTube for extreme kayaking adventures. https://www.youtube.com/user/yakabout
In terms of lure choice, it probably goes back to the location of your fishing spot, what might work in one body of water might not be as successful in another. But for what it’s worth here are my recommended hard-bodies: I like to use a Repla X-Rap Long Cast 12, this lure looks like a pilchard. I switched out the treble hooks for singles for better hook up rate. I also add a small size one or two ball sinker to my mainline running directly to the lure, this helps get the lure near to the bottom. By adding a sinker, I have caught many good flathead as by-catch. I always cast this lure out on my way to my chosen fishing destination and on the way home too. You’d be surprised how many fish I have picked up using this lure and this method of fishing. Additionally, not only is it a good snapper lure but this lure has also attracted many salmon and pike, which I have used as fresh bait and in turn landed good snapper on
To my surprise I have been able land far more fish in the shallows on a regular basis than I first expected. In my local fishery, the action shuts down through the cooler months, so nine months of the year I get to paddle around and enjoy the environment. . I like to fish from SOT kayak with a paddle, purely for the exercise benefits.
Vibes are an additional choice for the shallow water. Snapper react well to a slow rolling retrieve as well as a lift and drop kind of pattern. I like the blue to green colour scheme (like a pilchard – match the catch to the hatch), and have caught snapper frequently on these lures. You will be surprised how often snapper hit them as they drop. The soft vibes sink with plenty of action, so you should keep your eyes on your line carefully as the lure falls.
Dropping unweighted baits in the shallows is a method that should not be rejected. A pilchard or half-pilchard or a full squid used in combination with berley, I find the best approach. By avoiding a gang of hooks and using a single or at most two hooks, the bait will sink at a rate that lets a fish to get a good look at it before it vanishes between reef or kelp. I like to use a twin snelled hook rig for the big boys. I use a 40lb leader with anywhere between 4/0 – 6/0 octopus beak hooks or sometimes circle hooks.
Flasher rigs are great for shallow water, you can either fish them in a paternoster style rig or with a running sinker rig. In the shallows I like to fish them unweighted, with a chunk of pilchard or a nice piece of fresh squid. During the day, I use the standard flasher rigs as they reflect the light well and seem to attract snapper on frequent bases. Prior to dawn I will use the Super UV rigs which have glowing properties, this make for a much more visible snapper snack. I charge up the Super UV rigs with an ultra violet torch before dropping into the water, this makes a huge difference in catch rate. If you are fishing in the dark, you can’t go with a Super UV rig.
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