Winter Snapper Tips - How to Catch Snapper During the Cooler Months

Winter Snapper Tips - How to Catch Snapper During the Cooler Months

By popular belief snapper are viewed as spring and summer fish to hunt and catch. However, more and more anglers are starting to take advantage of the favorable winds of the cooler months of winter in Melbourne and take to the water in the pursuit for big red. The snapper metabolism begins to slow down as the water temperature starts drop off and cool down. At the point of this occurrence there is a few things the angler can do that will help in their quest for a prized winter red. Such as using a fish finder to locate snapper, keeping an eye on bite times, choosing the right baits, and deploying the right rigs. So let’s dive right in and look at a few of those aspects now.

Feeding Window

As we know snapper migrate in and out of the bays' during spring and summer. We also know that there are a number of fish that choose to stay in the Victorian bay systems', rather than migrating back out after spawning. This obviously means that the bite ratio will somewhat dissipate after the final migrations. One of the effects of the fish’s metabolism slowing down is that the fish tend not to move around the bay as frequently as they do prior to spawning. Another effect of the slowed down metabolism is their need to feed as frequently, this radically reduces the bite window for anglers to capitalise.  

Like most fish species the best time to catch snapper is on dusk and dawn, so this factor becomes even more important for the winter angler. The other element that will work in the favour of the angler is fishing the change of the tide. If the angler can combine both the change of tide or dusk and dawn, when fishing the bays' they will improve their chances of hooking up a nice big red.

From a land based perspective, the best conditions to catch snapper are during or soon after strong prevailing onshore winds. The onshore winds cause wind swell and chop up the bay, which stirs up the sand. This occurrence creates murky water conditions, which gives snapper coverage and can make them more active throughout the day.    

The angler will find more success when fishing the shallows (around 4-5 meters) under an incoming tide. This is when snapper move in to feed on reefs and otherwise exposed rocky outcrops. If you are fishing the outgoing tide, head for deeper water as snapper push out deeper, waiting for their food source to be pushed out from the shallow water.

As always it does pay to keep up-to-date with the movements of the barometer, equally important is the water temperature. As a rule of thumb, if the barometer reading is above 1030, then it is optimum for snapper. Having said that, we have caught many a good fish below this reading, so don’t let that barometer reading be the one condition that stops you getting out there and having a crack. During the cooler months there is no magic water temperature number that will produce a good winter haul. However, what the angler should be looking for is warmer pockets in the water. You will find that the fish will hold in those pockets and they are also more likely to be feeding more steadily. A change in even one degree can make a huge difference in the amount of fish you catch, So keep your eye out for those warmer patches.   


The art of catching snapper relies heavily on the angler’s ability to offer the fish a well presented bait on a rig that is suitable for the right situation. This is especially imported during the winter months as the bite window gets shorter.

Frozen pilchards or squid will get the job done, but nothing beats fresh bait. So if you have the time to hunt for some fresh squid prior to targeting snapper, it will definitely make a big difference to your catch rate. Both Port Phillip and Western Port bays' are full of pilchards, yakkas and a wide variety of small bait fish, for the angler to target. A quality fish finder will help you round up a nice bait ball. Sabiki rigs are the best way to get yourself some nice fresh bait and we highly recommend loading your tackle box up with a few of these little gems.

10 x Sabiki Rigs on $15 Normally $25

If you don’t have time to chase down some fresh bait fish, the other option is go to your local fish monger and buy some pilchards directly. These pilchards are fit for human consumption, and as a result are often far fresher than pilchards bought from the servo or local tackle shop. So if you want to beat the odds and come home with a trophy sized snapper, it will pay to spend some time chasing some fresh bait. Make sure you have some bait gathering time planned in your next winter session.  

The angler doesn’t really need to change the rig type irrespective of cooler or warmer months of the year when fishing Western Port. My go to rig is the humble running sinker loaded with a twin snelled hooks. I use the ezy rig slider, running down to a swivel on the main line. The only thing that I do change during winter is the leader and hook sizes. I move down to 40lb leader and also drop down my hook size down to 4/0 circle hooks. I find the smaller hooks better for two reasons. One, because the finer gauge hook will penetrate better given their thinner gauge. Two, because I generally prepare a smaller bait during the cooler months.  

3 x Snelled Twin Circle Hook Rig only $15 Normal Price is $21 (one week only sale)

Port Phillip bay is much the same as Western Port with the only things changing is the downsizing of the hooks and leader. I still go with the running sinker rig, however, in this rig I use a ball sinker running down to the first hook, as the tidal flow is a lot weaker than that of Western Port.

One of the other rigs that works really well during the colder months is the snapper snatcher flasher rigs. These rigs really come into their own during this time of year. As the flasher rigs have that additional attractant material, which can really pull a shy fish out of its shell and temp it to take a well presented bait. The Super UV rigs work like dynamite, as they use a relatively new material that has ultra-violet properties, similar to the new technology seen in UV squid jigs. So many anglers are tuning to these rigs due to the proven catch rate. They also work exceptionally well when the water conditions are murky or during low light situations.   

Locating Snapper

The last part of being successful at catching winter snapper is a pretty critical element, which is, locating the fish. Let’s face it we’d  all rather just roll up to a spot drop your lines and be onto some good fish. Without a doubt locating snapper in the winter is more challenging than in peak season, but is totally worth the reward. Yes, you will need to put the time in sounding up these fish, as annoying as that can be, but it’s all part of the journey. All the effort of hunting fresh bait, personally enduring the cold conditions, must be worth your wild, so don’t just roll up to your favorite mark and drop anchor and throw away all your other effort. Ensure that you put in the required energy to sound up some good fish. One of the best winter tips we can give you is this: Never anchor up until you have found some decent marks on your sounder first.  

After you have found some good marks circle back cut the engine and drift back onto your mark in a stealth like fashion. This is the advantage of kayak fishing no engine noise can make a huge difference in catching some good fish. Try to anchor up so that the fish are behind your boat roughly about 15-20 meters or at least casting distance. To minimise movement try using a bridle.

Another tip is to invest in some good wet weather gear and some thermal clothing to keep nice and dry and warm, so you can stay out there longer and get on to some fish. 

Without a doubt winter snapper fishing is not as action packed as in mid-season, but there is nothing more satisfying than deifying the odds and catching a big red in the middle of winter. The ability to do this can set you aside from an average angler and elevate you to urban legend status.  

Now is a great time to get some new snapper gear to use during winter and the lead up to the new season. Check out our deals on rigs and tackle perfect for targeting big snapper. Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this blog please remember we have plenty of other blogs on our website covering many different species and specialising in snapper and whiting.  

4 x Super UV Paternoster Rigs Only $28 (one week only)


10 x Snapper Snatchers - 3/0 Circle Hooks on 40lb - Normal Price $34.99 Sale Price $22.50 (One Week Only)