Reds reach peak before spawn
  |  First Published: December 2015

As an angler, nothing is more pleasurable than chilling out in the boat as the sun rises above French Island during a blissful summer’s morning. Rods in the holders awaiting a bite from a big red, nothing can get you’re blood boiling more than the anticipation of waiting for the rod to load.

It’s the moment the rod buckles and the reel screams that sends anglers knees into an out of control tremble as they rush to grab the rod and attempt to set the hook. When the battle begins, aches and pains rush through biceps and the lower lumbar region. It’s a tug of war, but who will win? The angler that has everything in check, sharp hooks, perfect knots and well maintained gear or the one that hasn’t a real care in the world and just stuffs all the gear in the garage and grabs it to go fishing at any chance he gets. You know what, it’s both, and that the best ting about fishing, especially at this time of year. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are or of what level of experience you have as an angler, at the end of the day it is the person that has their bait in the water the longest that will ultimately catch themselves a fish.

Sure, snapper are tricky in terms of fishing tides and time of day, barometric shifts and moon phases but a lot of the time, it does come down to luck and being in the right spot at the right time. That’s especially true when a 10kg fish is caught because you can never predict the size of the fish that you can see on your sounder. Luck sure does have a lot to do with it.

That aside, for a lot of anglers, just getting out on the water can be tricky enough with juggling work and family commitments and when you do get the opportunity, often you have to just do your best on that particular day.

Though we have just come off an extremely successful November, being the peak of the season, the next four weeks will continue on just as strong. The reds might begin to slow around Christmas Day, but this is the text book pattern that follows suit year after year. On Christmas Day, it is like the reds flick the ‘horney switch’ on and totally go off feeding and begin their mating. This usually takes a few weeks and by mid January they come back on the bite spasmodically.

Over the past few weeks, local charter operators such as Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters have been right in amongst the fish without a hiccup. Shaun has been spending almost every day on the water with his clients, putting them onto some memorable captures.

In recent weeks, captures include 4kg, 4.6kg, 5.2kg, 5.5kg, 6.7kg, 6.8kg, 7.2kg, and a 7.95kg. Mind you, that’s amongst a host of other fish in between and below the 4kg model.

A lot of these fish have been scattered around from Corinella to the North Arm, Rhyll, Cowes and the Western Entrance. Of all the fish caught, there is one single standout, fresh calamari baits.

What I have found throughout December is that there is huge congregation of snapper in the Corals Area.

Though the snapper in this area rarely exceed 5kg, the abundance of fish ranging 1-5kg is astronomical, but you still need to be fishing the tide changes as this is when the best bites occur.

Nearby at Coronet Bay, Observation Point, Elizabeth Island and in the Mosquito Channel larger fish are caught. Though this is fact, there is a ‘ninja’ type approach that needs to be adhered to in order to be successful. The larger fish caught in these areas over past seasons have two similar influences, fishing a high tide change at night and in shallow water ranging from 3-5m. The reason being is that larger snapper are quite cautious and are easily spooked by boat noise. Fishing during the night, there is less boat activity so they are more likely to get up into the shallow on a high tide and search for food.

Keep in mind the setup required too, as with big fish, you only get one chance at getting a solid hook set and if missed, it’s gone. Eliminating the possibility of losing a fish relies heavily on using circle hooks. If you’re fishing a paternoster rig, Mustad’s Demon circle 5/0-6/0 is ideal, while if you’re using a running sinker rig, stick to a Mustad Octopus Circle 6/0. Regardless of which rig you use, you’re sure to get the desired result, a solid snapper on the end of your line.

If it is just a feed of snapper you’re after, you’ll notice that those in tune with snapper at this time of year begin to focus their attention on the Western Entrance. Though fish can be caught right throughout the area, some of the best fishing is around McHaffies Reef. This section of the Entrance is like a washing machine, even on a calm day so you must pick the right conditions to venture here. In calm conditions, the water surface will ripple and drifting with paternoster rigs and squid baits is the best technique.

Always keep an eye on the depth being fished, but if you concentrate on drifting between the red and green channel markers, you’ll stumble across some decent fish, especially an hour before and after the slack water.

Snapper aside, many anglers are choosing to make the switch over the whiting. This time of year divides anglers into two groups, those who went hard early and now are interested in other species such as whiting and those who started late and are still content on catching quality reds.

At the end of the day, December is a great time of year for whiting as the focus is still mostly on snapper and the whiting have been left to roam free amongst the shallow flats. Unfortunately for them, things are about to change.

If you are set on targeting whiting the Tortoise Head Bank, Balnarring, Somers and Middle Spit have been producing some sensational models of late. Most of the fish are in the high 30s, with at least half of anglers’ catches having fish over 40cm. This has been a great start to the season with a lot more focus put on whiting next month. In saying that, if I was a betting man, I’d hedge my bets that the first few whiting this season measuring 50cm or greater will be caught from either Balnarring, Somers Cleeland Bight or Cat Bay.

Just like snapper, big whiting only allow you one chance as well. Removing all the possibility of missing the fish from the equation relies on using Mustad Demon #4 circle hooks on your running sinker or paternoster rig. Using circle hooks eliminates any hook setting issues allowing the fish to hook themselves 100% of the time.

I can’t believe we are at the end of 2015 already! Next month its going to be all about whiting, gummy sharks, school sharks and, of course, the highly prized mako shark.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere from Think Big Charters.

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