Top 10 Early Season Snapper Tips
Snapper Season in Victoria kicks off in September and usually goes through until March. So, the months of September and October is referred to as "Early Season". In August and September schools of snapper congregate outside of the Port Phillip bay heads, waiting for suitable tides and weather conditions for their dash into the bay. The fish come into the bay fully loaded with milt and roe and their main desire is to spawn to ensure the survival of their species. It is also know that there is a second run of snapper into the bays around December.
10 Early Snapper Season Tips
- Fish Unweighted - Water temperature plays one of the biggest roles next to the availability of food and the snappers desire to spawn. Snapper are particularly sensitive to changes in water temperature. So, having an understanding of how the bay temperature works, can help you to catch more fish. For example, on a hot sunny day the upper and middle layers of the water become much warmer than those layers deeper in the water column. Therefore, it makes sense to fish unweighted in order to keep your bait where the fish are likely to be feeding. Additionally, fishing without sinkers offers the fish as little resistance as possible. Early season snapper can be a little cautious, at least until they settle down.
- Fish At Night, Dusk & Dawn - Some species of fish are better targeted during the day, however, snapper bite better after dark. It's a fact that species that bite well on dusk and dawn also bite better after dark. We know that snapper can be a shy fish and that light and clear conditions often create a challenge for anglers, so, it makes sense to fish for snapper at night. The fish have a little more confidence to attack a bait in low light conditions.
- Adjust Your Drag Settings - Fish with no drag! Understanding the way snapper feed will assist you in with your overall set up. (See Blog on How Snapper Feed) One of the most frustrating bites of the snapper is a series of short, sharp, fast runs that result in the fish dropping the bait (usually when they feel tension). The way to overcome this is to back your drag right off. If you have a Shimano Bait-runner or equivalent then you will be positioned well to catch a fish in the early season. The bait-runner allows the fish to run with the bait before the angler clicks the drag system into gear and sets the hook. The bait-runner is designed with a primary and secondary drag system which allows you to free spool then click over to your desired tension. If you don't have a free spool reel then you can simply click the bail-arm over and let the snapper take your line until you are ready to strike the fish.
- Collect Fresh Bait - Get out and catch fresh bait such as squid, garfish, flathead, pilchards or yakka's. Ultimately, the best bait of the season will be whatever bait is in abundance in your local area. This is because most likely snapper will be feeding on them. In my case Port Phillip Bay over the winter months in 2023 has produced a lot of garfish. So, over the next four weeks I will target garfish and fill my freezer. Additionally, don't forget the humble flathead as bait, snapper love a nice strip of fresh flathead. The fresher your bait the higher your chances of scoring a big red this season will be. Whilst you are hunting for bait fish, scout out possible locations that snapper would likely congregate, like rocky bottom drop-offs or channels. Once you locate them, be sure to mark them on your sounder.
- Use The Right Rigs - This time of year when the fish are a little harder to capture I use Flasher rigs. If you need to entice the fish to take a bait, one of the best methods is the use of a flasher rig. Flasher rigs have been designed to attract fish with iridescent material. You can use a standard flasher which uses tinsel like material or you can use the more modern version with Ultra Violet properties. These rigs work extremely well in low light conditions which snapper love. If you need some assistance in how to set up a flasher then check out our Youtube video on the subject: https://youtu.be/0Oc9XgHiwlQ
- Locate Fish Using A Sounder - Snapper usually feed whilst on the move making them a foraging fish. This applies when they are feeding on crustaceans or octopus on the bottom of the sea floor or feeding on small fish in the upper parts of the water column. We know that snapper travel around the bay moving from reef to reef looking for a feed, so therefore, we need to do two things, move around until we find the fish or in simple terms get on the drift. The alternative is to anchor up where you know the fish will at some point come into feed and burley up and bring the fish to you. It is worth taking the time to locate the fish if you have a quality sounder. Obviously this is a bit harder if you are on kayak as you can't cover the amount of ground that a powered boat can. If you are fishing from a kayak and have a sounder look around for bait fish or drop-offs where snapper may come in to feed. Or if you are land-based, then you need to burley hard and bring the fish to you. "How to Locate Snapper Blog"
- Fish The Top Of The Bay - Fish the shallow waters or near river mouths, as discussed in my previous blog "Snapper Season Preparation" we know that the snapper migrate to the top end of the bay because of the warmer water outflow from river mouths. So this is a great time of year to fish in those areas. In the early season we definitely see anglers taking good size reds on the shallow reef systems. Altona is great example of that, the Altona reef holds good numbers of snapper this time of year which is perfect for anglers who have kayaks and those who fish land-based off rock-walls etc. Fish the high tide when the snapper come into feed on the rocks. There are a number fish this time of yegfdszvar pushing into the river systems to which opens some great opportunities for land-based anglers also.
- Experimentation - Try different things such as soft plastics or different rig set-ups until you find what is working. This time of year I will often run three different set-ups off my kayak. Rod 1 will have as discussed above, a flasher rig either as an unweighted paternoster or a lightly weighted running sinker. Rod 2 will have an unweighted twin snelled rig and Rod 3 will have a soft plastic. Once I figure out what is working I usually then change the majority of rods over to the setup that is working on the day.
- Lower Your Expectations - Be patient stick to the course, expect there to be sessions when you yield no quality size snapper, the fish could be there but they may not be settled into their summer feeding patterns yet. At this time of the season its all about exercising your patients and being persistent. Move around try different locations try different baits and rigs just mix it up until you hit some nice fish.
- Migration Patterns - Learn you local snapper migration patterns, snapper are habitual creatures so it pays to learn their movements. The more time you spend on the water the more you will learn the snapper's movements. There are a number of ways to learn about the snapper movements in your local waters, the first strategy I would recommend is to get involved at your local angling club. The angling clubs are full of fishermen with copious amounts of snapper knowledge. Another strategy might be to make friends with a hardened snapper angler and pick their brain. Youtube is a great source of knowledge when trying to understand your local area's snapper movements. Watch the water for a congregation of boat in your area, that sometimes is a dead give away too.
Well there you have it, there are my top ten tips on how to be successful in an early snapper season, now get out there and put into some practice some of the the concepts in the above article. If you improve you catch rate feel free to let us know. Thanks for reading and don't forget to check out our other blogs on Snapper fishing and also check out our Youtube channel for more tips and Tricks.