Snapping up snapper while we wait for pelagics
  |  First Published: February 2017

Unlike last year, the run up to Christmas and New Years saw plenty of unsettled weather with limited opportunities to get offshore. When we did manage to get a charter in, good snapper kept us busy, but unlike the previous year, the fish were caught in the 60-70m of water and not out wide on the 90m line.

We had a look out there on several trips and there was no shortage of fish on the sounder. Getting the bite was another issue. Not spending as much time out wide meant we didn’t have the chance to catch a few bonus mahimahi. Lately, mahimahi just turn up around the boat and we’d quickly toss them a half pillie or livey, if we had any on board. The size of the mahimahi has been good with many 8-10kg fish.

We caught most of our snapper in 60-70m, starting on the mid to northern 29s out to the broken bits of ground on the back of the 33s. Between the 29s and the 33 fathom line, there is also a number of isolated bumps that quite often hold good numbers of fish and will fire up when other areas are quiet. These isolated bumps are quite small, so if you see another boat working one of these, leave them to it, as a second boat with a sounder running will most likely shut the fish down.

It will pay to try and find a lump to yourself and if you don’t have one in the GPS yet, make sure you’re keeping a close eye on your sounder while travelling between the main lines of the reef. Snapper and squire will continue to be a viable option this month, east of the south passage bar and along with the deeper reef areas like the Shallow Tempest will hold good fish as long as there is plenty of bait holding there.

Over the next couple of months, bottom bouncing the shallow ground around Point Lookout can produce good mixed catches of tuskfish, Moses perch, squire, pearl perch and other colourful species. I’ve found fresh strip baits such as mullet, tailor, and tuna work very well and resist the pickers better than the softer baits.

Being pelagic season at this time of year off the South Passage Bar, you’d think this report would be all about mackerel and wahoo. Recently, there’s not a lot happening. I’ve spoken with a few mackerel fishos and they’ve been putting in the hard yards for only a fish or two at best. The old mackerel pros always spoke of seven-year cycles and after a few very productive years, we are probably getting near the bottom of the cycle before they build up to peak years again.

In saying that, we could still end up with a reasonable finish to the season as March, April and early May might see some late season action. Here’s hoping!

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