Top 10 Snapper Tips
One of the best tips I have received over the years is to fish unweighted baits, were possible. There are a number of advantages to this type of fishing method. Firstly, it will help to present your bait more naturally in the water column. Another advantage, is this method allows your bait to float down at a slow rate, and cover the water column, which is good when the fish might be feeding higher in the water table.
When snapper chase whitebait or pilchards they usually hunt them at the top or the middle of the water table, so fishing unweighted is a great way to target them when using whole bait fish as your bait. Additionally, if you are fishing rubbly bottom fishing unweighted will also reduce the amount of snags and lost gear, especially if you are drifting for snapper.
Sound Up Your fish
Taking the time to sound up your fish will pay dividends in the long run. You may fish the same spot, but it always pays to put the time into locating the fish. Alternatively, if you don’t have a sounder, then you can always use land marks to ensure you are on your own hot spot. The key thing to remember, is that snapper are continuously on the move. So it is hard to project where they will turn up next. Having knowledge of your local area is critical.
When you do sound them up, use your GPS to mark the general area. Try keeping a fish diary so you can start to track the movements of the snapper in your area. Over the years a fishing diary will give you a good idea of where to fish at a particular time of year.
One trick we use is a half brick tide to a large float. As we spot some decent marks on the sounder we drop the half brick down and then circle back and cast toward the float, so we know where the fish are holding.
Time your tides
Although there are so many ways of finding out the tide times in your area these days, such as digital apps, and you have the ability to work out the tide at the click of a button, even whilst you are on the move. However, it’s still worth applying a few old school principles. Back in the day, you would either buy a tide chart, or you would get the tide times out of your local paper. Something worth keeping in mind is that strong winds can bring a tide in a lot quicker than predicted, and adversely can impede the ebbing tide, which can make the high water period longer than predicted.
Snapper tidal feed behavior is different around Australia. For example, in my local area the fish feed better on the incoming tide, as the incoming high tide floods in over otherwise exposed rocky areas, where there is an abundance of food. Now this natural occurrence is purely based on the environmental factors of my local beach. This is why it is paramount that the angler understand and get in touch with the movements of the fish in their chosen area.
The running sinker rig is most universally used in the deeper areas with a trace one meter or more long with a suicide hook between 3/0-6/0 size being determined by the size of the bait being used. Your sinker weight should be determined by the tidal flow in the area. If there are strong currents in your chosen location, you could use a snapper sinker up to 1kg in weight. How long your leader should be will be dependent upon the type of terrain that you are fishing in. If you are fishing areas of long heavy weed, then it is best to keep your bait above the weed. So you have to make a judgment on the size of your leader.
Most anglers in the bay use line of 10-15 kg (20-30lb) but occasionally even heftier line is adopted. The main motives behind the stronger line are the dangers of nicking or fraying the line on a section of shell or jagged rock and the difficulty of bringing a big fish up from the bottom. In the deep water sharks can also be problematic when connected to a good sized snapper.
When choosing your gear for snapper fishing, it’s a good rule of thumb to work your way back from the hook up to the rod. First look at the baits that are commonly used in your local fishery, this will help you figure out what size hook to start with. The hook size could also depend on the time of season too, for example in our local spot the small snapper seem to come on the bite early in the season, so I would fish with a size 4/0. As the season moves into its peak and the bigger fish move in, I then start to use the 6/0 hooks. The breaking strain of your set up should be a close match to your size of chosen hook. My set ups tend to be pretty light in first half of the season and then they gradually get heavier as the season goes on.
If you are fishing slack water, you will notice that the fish will just about stop feeding altogether, 'no run no fun'. The best strategy to combat this issue is to deploy a flasher rig. Flasher rigs have that extra element of visual appearance enticing snapper to feed, even when the water has stopped running. Many anglers have adopted this strategy to great effect.
Expert and pro snapper anglers often will have the majority of their rods set up with traditional rigs and have at least one rod in the water with a flasher rig, during a running tide. When the tides stops running they will exchange their traditional rigs and predominately fish with flasher rigs.
Given snapper are more inclined to be taken during low light or during the night, the best rig that has become proven are the Super UV Snapper Rigs. These rigs use material that glows in low light conditions, once they are charged up. This additional feature allows the snapper to visually see your bait under tough circumstances. These rigs are a game changer and will improve your catch rate.
Know Your Location’s Migration Patterns
Generally speaking, snapper migration patterns are dependent upon the size of the fish. The fish usually spawn in shallow water, and juvenile fish are usually prolific in sheltered bays and estuaries. Where larger fish a normally found in deeper water. All this tied together would lead us to believe that the gradual movement of adult snapper is based around their spawning patterns.
Studies have shown that snapper either stay around a particular are all year round, or they move away and then returned to the same spot to spawn. The tagging of fish has shown that the majority of fish do not move more than 50 kilometers away from their spawning ground. However there is still a lot of evidence that snapper movements track a lot further than 50ks, and make long coastal migrations. So we know they move around a lot, looking for food and their patterns are for the most part driven by their instinct to spawn.
We also know that they are a foraging fish, and spend most of their time with their nose on the bottom of the sea floor, looking for their food. The fish will also look for the warmer water earlier in the season, so you will most likely find them at the top end of the bays where the warmer waters is, as the season goes on the water heats up the big snapper will retreat into the deeper water.
The best advice we can give you here is to talk to your old school local anglers as they generally know the snapper’s movements in your local area. I picked up a few good tips from local guys in my area, regarding snapper movements. For example, I was talking to a local spear fishermen one day, and he told me that schools of snapper swim in a direct pattern every day on the high tide roughly at the same time each day, during the snapper season, and that he had been observing this habitual behavior for a number of years. I applied this information, to the times that I was hunting and my catch rate went through the roof. You will be surprised what tips you will pick up from local seasoned veterans, regarding the movement of snapper in your area.
There are few different techniques use to hook snapper. What is important is knowing when to employ each technique. For example, early in the snapper season the fish may have swam a long way to get to their spawning grounds and they are usually pretty hungry. The fish will then normally feed up hard for a few weeks before spawning commences and in turn will be become more finicky to hook, the closer they get to spawning. It is knowing this pattern that will determine the best method of hooking the fish.
The Sudden Death techniques is done by having you reel in gear with about kilogram of resistance on the drag system, this will ensure that the snapper hooks itself when taking the bait. The Sudden Death method is best used when the fish are feed hard and competitively on the chew.
The opposite of the Sudden Death is the Free-Spool method. This is when you leave the spool open and let the fish take the bait for a while prior to striking the fish. This is the best method when the fish are finicky. Alternatively you can use a bait-runner reel with the drag set to no resistance. This is also a good time to deploy a flasher rig to help entice them into taking your bait.
Adapt to the Conditions
No matter what the conditions you must learn to adapt to them on the fly. I have gone out fishing with a plan and stuck to that plan and failed to adapt to the conditions. I think this has cost me dearly over the years. So one thing I have learned is that you must be prepared to change it up if required.
Using berley can often increase your snapper fishing results radically. This can range from odd offcuts and scraps of bait thrown into the water to a relentless trail of minced fish flesh, bread, or soaked chicken feed pellets released into the water from a berley bucket or a loose weave bag hung from the boat or bank. Never waste your bait scraps when snapper fishing. Always throw them into the water allowing for current and drift to ensure they reach the seabed somewhere near your bait. You may need to throw the scraps well up-current.
Understanding of Feeding Habits and Spawning
Understanding spawning patterns plays a crucial role in the angler’s success in landing a few good big reds. Studies have shown that snapper make seasonal migrations into shallow water to spawn. Each State has its own spawning patterns. So the angler needs to familiarise themselves with those patterns in their local areas. The best way to do that is to talk to your local tackle store owner or go have a beer down your local angling club. These guys will usually give you a good indication when the fish are moving in your area.
It goes without saying that fresh bait is better than frozen, however, it’s not always possible to collect your own fresh bait. We have tested a lot of baits over the years, and what might be the best bait at one part of the season can easily be replaced with another bait that snapper might favor by the end of the season. So it’s important to ensure you take a few different baits out with you and alter your rods with an assortment of options, until you find what works. In my local area I have found that a fresh piece of flathead strip to be the most effective bait on snapper, followed by a fresh piece of squid. The best way to collect bait such as pilchards or bonito is to use a sabiki bait rig. These rigs are designed to catch small bait fish by using small hooks with a piece of material as attractant.