Ready for the snapper
  |  First Published: November 2007

All those late Spring/early Summer sessions I love will be pursued this month: Prawning in Narrabeen and Dee Why lagoons, scouring beaches for worms (more on that next month), fishing for whiting, getting into the first of the offshore snapper or looking out for the arrival of kingfish in Pittwater.

I already have mashed berley concentrate, frozen in ice cream containers, ready for the snapper onslaught. Unfortunately the snapper usually coincide with the mutton bird invasion.

These short-tailed shearwaters fly all the way from northern Asia to breed and feed and are ravenous when they hit our shores. Because they can dive down more than 60m, baits get savaged and there have been times when they are in their hundreds. When that happens I’ve just pulled the plug and gone home.

Back to snapper: Getting right over the spot is important. A drop-off, shale grounds, boulders and the like are all home to snapper.

First thing is to drop at least two berley bombs to the bottom and repeat this every 15 minutes, supplemented with cubed pillies flicked off the bait table every couple of minutes. Rig an 8/0 tarpon or O’Shaughnessy hook (no offsets, just a straight eye and shank so it won’t spin in deep water and produce horrific line twist) directly onto the line. My reel of choice is a Shimano Calcutta 400 overhead clamped on a short, flexible custom stick.

After a great deal of experimentation, I have found fluorocarbon to be the best string for floating baits. It has a slow sink rate (in concert with the berley) and is close to invisible underwater.

I rig at least three pilchards through the eyes on that 8/0, tying off their tails with a half hitch. This big bait attracts the larger of the species and will deter pickers.

I use no weight, just let the bait slowly slip down and exploring the whole water column. In 50m of water it might take 25 minutes to hit bottom if I haven’t had a hit on the way down.

There’s no feel when baits hit the ocean floor. I let it bounce about and there’s no shade of grey on a take. The reel spins, haemorrhaging line. I click it into gear and lift the rod to set the hook. Hard head shakes transmit up the rod and the drag reluctantly yields line.

Large snapper pull hard; be patient and let the big fish run. As the shakes die down, start the pump-and-wind routine. After a while the fish ‘pops’ and will circle up from the depths.

When the bite gets hot, remember to keep the berley going, otherwise it will shut down quicker than a returned cheque. Good luck and let me know how you go.

Unusually high Winter rain has kept offshore temperatures well above average for this time of year so those that venture out should be in for a bountiful harvest. After trying East Reef and West Reef in his brand new Whittley for nil result, Evan Williams drifted off the front of Lion Island and boated a 65cm sand flathead.

I’ve been told by Japanese visitors that the best fish for sashimi is our common silver trevally. We have these fish in numbers right now and if bled immediately and put on ice, thin slices dipped in hot wasabi sauce makes for a delicious, healthy meal.


Big seas have carved out new beach formations and fish can’t wait to explore this fresh food source. Proof of this is from fishing guide Alex Bellissimo, who took client Louise Clarson to South Narrabeen and scored her a 10kg jewfish. Alex landed a 7kg jew and was delighted when Louise released hers.

When the sea gets up, sensible anglers steer well clear of rock platforms and thank God there’s been no repeat of the tragedy which happened a few months ago. I hate quoting statistics but nearly 100 people in NSW have been killed rock fishing in the past 15 years. Now you know why fishing off the rocks is The most dangerous pastime in the world, bar none.

Pittwater is home to some unique fish at the present. I had an email about a 2.6kg cobia taken at the entrance to Careel Bay by a couple of out-of-towners. I received another report of two grinners coming in from The Basin. Not hard to identify, these fish have a toothy smile like a split watermelon and are not a common catch in these waters.

Steve Halpin picked up good flathead drifting west of Flint and Steel. There’s a deep hole at the west-south-west) end of the reef. He drifted from the hole west along the drop off. They were not huge fish, but quite aggressive, Steve said, and took pilchard pieces.

Fishing with mate Jimmy Dalgleish, Mick Bowley scored a 75cm flathead in Narrabeen Lake shallows. This was one of just six fish landed. Jimmy also did well on plastics with a bream estimated to be over a kilo.

At Roseville boat ramp, one angler who wishes to remain anonymous forgot to apply the handbrake, got out the car to remove the boat tie-downs and watched car and trailer slowly reverse into Middle Harbour. By the time he grappled with the door, jumped in and slammed on the brakes, the water was past the rear doors. Driving out, no one was hurt but look out for a second-hand 4WD which I’m sure will have horrific rust problems in the not too distant future.

Love a job on the water? There’s a range of quality courses offered by the Maritime and Marine Studies section of the Northern Beaches TAFE College at Brookvale, which provides training for those seeking employment as a general purpose hand/deck hand, coxswain and marine engine driver III. For more information contact TAFE Northern Institute on 131 674 or visit www.tafestudy.info .

Monthly tip: It’s all going bananas and you have a bust-off – bloody annoying. Having a few traces made up and stored in bags or wound around styrofoam will get you back into the action quickly and with little fuss.

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