It’s all about snapper
  |  First Published: December 2008

Finally, the summer season has begun to take its usual form in the south of the Bay, and for the next few months it’s all about snapper. In the previous couple of years, we have had a much earlier run of fish, and much warmer water temperatures. This season is following a more traditional path, which should lead to some great fishing for snapper over the warmer months to come.

Snapper are the backbone of our sensational Bay fishery, and with good reason. They are a hard fighting fish, can be caught on relatively light tackle, and will respond to a wide variety of techniques. They are also an impressive fish to see up close. It is very pleasing to hear that many anglers are releasing the lion’s share of their catch these days. I reckon we’ve got the big fella with the beard to thank for that.

The lack of rain, and very settled water conditions has meant that a large portion of the schooled snapper have been milling around the north of the Bay, especially in shallower water. More recently they have migrated to the southern areas of the Bay, to take up residence around the more prominent areas of structure and feed amongst the fertile reef and shellfish beds.

Many of the popular marks are now producing regular captures. Most fish are in the 2-5kg range, although there have been some larger specimens around to keep anglers honest. The best general area is between Chelsea and Mt Eliza, in depths between 11-19m. Sounding around and locating fish is always recommended, and my advice would be to concentrate your efforts in depths of 15-16m. Best baits are pilchards, silver whiting and yakkas, as well as fresh squid and fish and tuna fillets. A lightly or unweighted twin 5/0 hook rig is preferred, and 10-15kg trace should suffice.

Another trend that has taken a firm hold on the snapper fishery this season is the use of soft plastics and hardbodied lures as an alternative for bait. These techniques can be deadly effective at times, and allow anglers to cover wider areas of water.

It’s worth noting that when fishing with plastics at anchor, it is still a good idea to employ a nice trickle of berley to keep the fish in your area. Also, it’s probably a good idea to drop a couple of baited rigs down as well, particularly with big fish baits like squid and garfish. Often the interest of the smaller fish will trigger a response from Mr Big.

As far as reports go, I have too many to mention, but some have really taken my interest. One was from a long time customer of Billfisher Tackle, Henry, who landed a massive 10.2kg snapper on a 5” Gulp jerkshad. Henry proudly released his prize, after it was carefully weighed, to fight another day.

Another report was received from a local kayak angler who has been having a ball trolling deep diving lures around the shallower reefy areas. He has taken some ripper fish to just over 5kg recently. Rapala Tail Dancers have been the gun lure, and the prime areas have been the Frankston Wreck and Hospital marks.

Finally, Mitch Chapman and his father Jeff also had a ripper session recently, fishing shallower rubble bottom with a combination of soft plastics and bait. Mitch landed some great fish of 2-3.5kg, casting 110mm Squidgy flickbaits in the pillie color.

My arms are twitching, and I bet yours are too. Why not get out on the Bay and have a go for yourself. Nothing gets the heart racing more than the sound of a screaming reel.

Mitch Chapman caught these lovely snapper during a hot session on the Bay recently. The fish were taking both soft plastics and bait (photo: Mitch Chapman).

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