Springtime snapper get mouths watering
  |  First Published: October 2016


Breaking news – barrels are being caught in Melbourne! Every good report kicks off with a bang and what’s better than a few keg southern bluefin tuna, caught off the coast of Flinders. How very exciting for Melbourne Anglers with what seems to fast becoming a regular occurrence around late August/early September each year.

Firstly I want to say big congratulations to Tam Missen, Glen Palmer and friend Stuart Millsom for their catches of tuna in the last week of August. On August 28, local anglers Glen and Stuart headed into 40m of water just out from Flinders, where they were trolling a Pakula Lumo skirt. They were specifically targeting SBTs, because last year Glen nailed a solid tuna over a 100kg from the same area. After launching from Stony Point, they worked the area for only five hours, returning to the ramp with a tuna of 125.7kg.

The very next day, local angler Tam Missen went on a solo mission, wider out from Flinders in 60m of water. Trolling another Pakula skirt, Tam hooked up to a lovely tuna that weighed in at 78kg – talk about epic solo tuna fishing. Tam was fishing the area of S 38 34.346 E 144 59.865.

If you can hold out for next year, put late August in your diary to rig up and search for barrels.

I feel like doing the happy dance now, as we’re well into snapper season. Winter and its after effects have passed. From now, it’s onwards and upwards with all things red in sight! So far, there’s been no shortage of snapper caught, especially around Spit Point, Lang Lang, Tenby Point and the Corinella area, where the shallow water temperature is higher than the main channels.

Fish are still not in full feeding mode. Prime fishing times in these areas have been the last two hours of the flood tides, and first two hours of abating. During early spring when fish are still doughy, feeding up on the shallows where food is abundant, it takes much less effort to find them in their lethargic state. As the season progresses and the water temperatures increase, you’ll find fish in every nook and cranny of the port.

In quieter times, fishing the flats is a reliable starting point. In the flats, it’s important to keep noise levels to a minimum. While the reds are sluggish, they’re also easily spooked. A single ball sinker dropped onto an aluminium hull will pass through the water columns, scaring any timid fish in the immediate area.

This is the time many big snapper are caught. When the weather is good with a slight chop, heading out during the night to catch a rising tide can be the key factor that leads to success. Reports of snapper filtering through have been quite comforting these past few weeks, with some fish well over the 7kg mark being caught on a weekly basis.

Baits have also been important and the freshest available is best. Locally caught calamari used as rings are the kicker. Just ask local angler Adam Mitchelton, who managed a cracking red of 5.6kg out the front of Cowes Pier. Other successful baits have been whole garfish, barracouta heads and big whole pilchards. Bigger sized baits have been catching the majority of fish and are best on a running sinker rig with a snelled hook setup. When setting up the rig, two Mustad Big Red or Octopus Circle hooks in a 6/0 size set around 8-10cm apart will have the hook points exposed at the right distance apart for when a fish swallows the bait to ensure a clean and solid hook set.

Over the next few weeks, reports of snapper will become much more common, especially on Facebook and Instagram. If you’re new to social media, be sure to check with your local fishing tackle store for the latest up to date reports. That way, when you’re thinking of heading out for the weekend, you can pick your location based on where the reports are coming from.

Snapper aside, Shaun Furtiere has been dominating the gummy shark scene in the lower section of Western Port with some real impressive catches plucked from the turbulent waters of the Western Entrance. Shaun reported that despite the snapper on everyone’s minds, gummy fishing has been sensational.

On a recent trip, client Sid and his dad, along with friends, hopped aboard. With the weather gods not playing the game, they tucked into some cover against French Island. Having a blast of a day, they managed plenty of smaller gummy sharks, which provided high pitch squeals amongst Sid and his friend Oliver. During another trip, Shaun had clients keen for an early red. After securing fresh bait, they headed off in search. Although the reds didn’t want to play, they ended up with a nice gummy shark.

Furthermore, the Western Entrance has no shortage of nice fish to be caught. Providing your can hold back the overwhelming call to target snapper, spring is a good time to catch many things until the reds really come on the bite. Another species often forgotten, is the humble King George whiting. Western Port whiting are not a year round affair, if you care to focus your attention on them anyway. Anglers keen on searching out these little spotted critters should go to locations where there is very little boat traffic.

This is no easy thing, but in locations such as Tankerton, Tortoise Head Bank, Ventnor and the Rhyll Channel, you should find them in some respectable numbers. Of course, berley will be necessary to bring them to your immediate fishing location. When you get them on the bite, they’ll hang around for quite some time. Pipi baits are also the gun bait, but don’t go just armed with one. Freshly caught calamari turned into tenderised strips is also top notch.

Whiting are fewer in numbers, unlike the summer months, so they tend to be a better class of fish, but they’re finicky to hook. This is where you’ll need to ensure you have the best tackle in use. Shy fish, regardless of species, are always a challenge. In shallow water, whiting are no exception. In this case, drop your leader down to 4lb fluorocarbon to avoid being seen, and then try a multi-coloured camouflage material that blends into the environment. This is new to the market and has been outstanding on finicky fish like whiting, calamari, snapper, and kingfish amongst a plethora of others. It’s a huge standout.

Overcoming finicky fish has always been a challenge until now, but even using such a product, whiting can and will bite timidly. Your running sinker rig should contain either a stainless offset long shank size, or Mustad size #6 Bloodworm longshank. When whiting are finicky, it’s time for a hands-on approach. You’re best to use a running sinker rig, or extended paternoster rig, and strike to set the hook. Unfortunately, circle hooks don’t always work 100% and if you want to catch those bigger better quality fish, striking to set the hook is your best chance.

This is undoubtedly my favourite time of year, purely because we’re rid of winter blues, and can head out in search of Western Port’s more prized, even though snapper are arriving in droves. Which will you target – snapper, whiting, calamari or a solid gummy?

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Furtiere.

Photo courtesy of Glen Palmer.

Photo courtesy of Tam Missen.

Photo courtesy of Alex from Prestige Fishing.

Photo courtesy of Alex from Prestige Fishing.

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