It’s all about snapper
  |  First Published: December 2013

After a slow and cool start to the season, summer is now definitely upon us in a big way.

While some of the usual expected fish activity has been a little slower and later than usual, this should mean a more prolonged season for many of the bay’s target species, particularly the mighty snapper. And if you listen to weather predictions from the ‘Old Salts’ around the place, many believe we are in for a long, scorching summer in the New Year. I guess the best thing to do is see what happens.

January is the peak month for many of the bay’s anglers and, just like the months before and after, it’s all about snapper. The best thing about those fishing our part of the bay along the eastern seaboard is that the bite has really only started to fire up over the last few weeks or so. Normally, late October and early November can be manic times, but this season saw the lion’s share of the snapper action taking place north of the bay.

As the water temperatures along our shores continue to rise, the snapper fishing will continue to go from strength to strength. The snapper will move into our areas to put on condition before they spawn later in the season.

Specifically, the shallower marks from 13-15m have been very productive of late, and many anglers have been reporting good success using larger baits and targeting more solitary fish. Time spent studying your sounder can be very valuable, as these fish will tend to graze over wide expanses of water, making them a little tricky to find at times. In particular, baits of scads, yakkas, red rockets and fresh salmon have all been doing the damage of late.

Many anglers have also reported that the bites on these larger baits have been very timid, and sometimes there has been a need to feed a fair chunk of line to the fish before they will take the bait properly. Also the common trend has been that peak bite periods have been heavily centred on the change of tide, and also the change of light at the start and end of the day. Also interesting has been that the snapper have been consistently firing in shallower water, and then deeper marks on different tide changes. Nobody said it was supposed to be easy, my advice is to stay flexible and keep abreast of current reports via your local tackle store, and other anglers on the water.

Other areas that have recently turned over some good snapper are the deeper marks straight out from Mornington around the yachting course, wide out from the Hospital and Canadian Bay at Mount Eliza, and several other areas further south around Mount Martha. The great thing about these areas is they are in very close proximity to some productive reef areas where you can easily obtain fresh baits (or a feed) of squid and other desirables, like salmon and flathead.

While we are talking about squid too, don’t be afraid to try smaller, single strip baits rigged on a single hook, especially if the bite is a little timid during quieter times of the tide. Sometimes these humble offerings can account for the best fish of the day, and will also take care of flathead and other fish you may want to target too.

Hectic bite times have meant that many anglers have been catching their limit quickly, and during these times is a great time to experiment with different techniques. Trolling can be a deadly (and fun) way to catch snapper, and it’s also a great way to sound for fish, and have a line in the water as well. Aided with the use of a downrigger is best, but there are definitely lures that will run at 8-10m on a flat line straight out of the box.

Other techniques, like plastics and the very popular micro-jigging have their followers as well, and can be devastating at times. Keep in mind that snapper spend a lot of their time traveling near mid water off the bottom, which is why your baits are often taken a long time before they reach the bottom. Any technique that covers the entire water column can be deadly for snapper, and also the gear that is used for these specific techniques makes landing snapper even more fun.

Once again the land-based boys have got amongst the action in the past month with some great snapper being landed off Mornington Pier in particular, and also some of the nearby rock platforms. Fresh squid has been a gun bait, as well as salmon fillets and the good old pilchard.

If you’re fishing pillies, it pays to salt them up before you fish so they hang on a little better, especially when you’re punching out long cast on the surf gear that is necessary in these areas.

My apologies to our readers that this column has been entirely devoted to snapper, but that’s easily done at this time of year.

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