As is the general norm for this time of year, the chaos of the snapper season has well and truly set in.
The only difference at the moment to previous years is the patchy and unpredictable nature of the fishing. Changing weather conditions and some serious rain have changed the game somewhat this year, but all the early signs are pointing towards the best snapper season for many years.
The annual Tea Tree Snapper festival has been run and won for another year, and I must say that the level of organisation and participation is a real credit to the member of the Snapper Point Angling Club. A record number of anglers and boats found the going tough in Port Phillip over the festival weekend, with more fish coming from Western Port than last year, including the biggest fish 12.2kg from the north of the Port.
The inconsistencies in the snapper bite has been the trend right throughout the last month with anglers reporting finding plenty of fish on the sounder, but have been finding them tough to tempt at times. Most of the success at the moment seems to be come from concentrating on a common depth line, and also moving locations, sometimes several times, in the search of hungry fish.
These decisions are sometimes hard to make, especially if you’ve got plenty of marks on your GPS, but I reckon the simplest approach is always the best. The snapper will still be holding pretty close to structure for the next month or so, until the really begin to graze and build up their condition before spawning.
Look for active fish on your sounder in these areas that are moving through the water column. The nearby presence of baitfish and forage food is also important.
Target these fish with the best and freshest baits you can get your hands on, and don’t be shy to chuck a few plastics and vibes around for good measure. These can be great to stir the fish up, and will often cause a rod to off in the holder!
As far as reports go, the bulk of the action seems to be in the 18-20m line at the moment. Typically, most fish caught have been between 2-3.5kg in weight and snapper for this size have seemingly been travelling in large schools.
As usual, both tide and light changes have been the key factors, as well as bait choice and presentation. Many anglers have commented on the peak condition of the snapper at the moment, as well as the presence of some serious choppers on this year’s run of fish.
This may indicate a more fish-based diet over the past few months and would also explain their preference for fish baits like pilchards, sauries, couta and garfish.
The wider marks out to 21-22m of Mornington and Mount Martha are very popular early in the season, and have also been producing some nice fish around 3-4kg. I spoke with a couple of anglers the other day that swear by fishing light line in these areas and used exclusively 2-3kg outfits.
Good thinking I reckon, a sport fishing approach definitely does justice to the fighting qualities of our great snapper, and the will really pull the kinks out of light line.
The bigger and better quality fish seem to be in the shallower marks around 11-12m. Many of the areas between Carrum and Frankston in this depth line contain plenty of scallops and soft shell beds, which the bigger fish like to munch on.
These are great spots to fish from a drifting boat, especially with lures and soft plastics to try and intercept these more solitary, nomadic snapper. Baits can be fished this way too, although best bet is to fish them unweighted so they spend maximum time wafting through the strike zone.
Trolled lures on down riggers and flat lines is also good in the shallower areas, and much of the pioneering work on this technique for snapper has been done by anglers like Lee Rayner and others.
My good mate Adam Royter and I used to troll the inshore reefs to a froth in the my little tinnie many years ago, and I am looking forward to doing some serious work on this technique this year. Lucky I know a bloke who has two downriggers on his boat ready to go.
At this time of the year it’s all about snapper, but remember to put the time in to gather the best bait available, and seek the right advice when trying a new location or technique. Good preparation will see more reds on the end of your line this summer.Reads: 1126