Plastics under our cape: Part One
  |  First Published: July 2007

There are some things that are iconic for Queensland anglers. Geographically, Cape Moreton at the northern end of Moreton Island is certainly one of them. And for pure bragging rights, big snapper is probably the most sought-after fish for any angler who’s ever wet their line offshore. Combining the two will give you stories and tales to regale from dinner parties to barbecues.

So would you like to fish the patches close to Cape Moreton? Would you also like to catch a brace of snapper averaging over 10lb on consecutive casts, boast a PB over 15lb and throw some mixed reef fish into the cooler such as a couple of double-figure spangled emperor? Then read on for some helpful advice.

A friend of mine, Deb Peters, has accomplished all this and more in the past twelve months. Starting with a fairly basic knowledge of fishing, Deb has continued to stick to and refine the basics, and now has a catch record that anyone would be proud of. Keeping it simple is her secret.

The last edition of QFM showed a photo of her first ever longtail tuna, a monster of over 20kg. More photos of her support this article – all caught on her one and only outfit, the heart of which is an S10 spin rod built by Bribie Island based craftsman Eric Grell. It seems everybody just loves these S10 rods and so many people are using them. Her reel is a Daiwa Certate with a line at 30lb braid with 40lb fluorocarbon leader. The jigheads used weigh 3/8 to 5/8oz and her favourite lure is the Gambler Super Stud 5” Shad in a variety of colours. Deb’s two big snapper caught in May 2007 on consecutive casts were both taken on the 5” Gambler Super Stud Shad in bleeding crystal shad colour.

I hear from the tackle industry that the biggest selling colours in soft plastic shads for snapper, such as the Gamblers, are the green watermelon varieties, as well as the whitish varieties. Deb advises the bleeding crystal shad out-fishes the crystal shad, but I encourage you to test this out for yourself. I’ve taken my advice on this matter from the local tackle stores. Buy a few packets from them and pick up a few tips at the same time.

My favourite colours are the watermelons: watermelon red, watermelon gold, watermelon candy and watermelon pepper. The new bleeding watermelon colours should also work well. Deb insists on bleeding crystal shad, but why wouldn’t she!

Of course the good oil on how to catch them comes from the anglers out there doing it, but how does the reader get access to this top-secret information? Fortunately, I’ve fished with Deb so here are her tips in her own words with a few of my own opinions mixed in. If you see Deb on the water or at the boat ramp (Spinnaker Sound is her local) go up and have a chat – she’s very approachable!

The Spots

While there’s a lot more to be written about reefing under the Cape than I’ll cover in this article, this can be considered as a starter. Each of the many spots is justified with an article of its own so expect more news in the future.

The natural spots include Smiths Reef, Brennans Shoal and Roberts Shoal and the three wrecks of the St Paul, Marietta Dahl and Aarhus around Smiths.


Theory has it that the big snapper move around the Cape from offshore in the month of May and they come through in waves for at least all the months of winter. After the Cape, the snapper move along the inside of Moreton Island and spread out around the reefs and wrecks of Southern Bay.

As the water temperature dips towards the low twenties (which is now) then it’s time to launch from either Redcliffe/Scarborough or Bribie Island at the top end of the bay and head to the Cape. Water temperatures of 21 degrees signal prime time. Winter means you don’t have to get up as early to catch dawn, the currents are slower so lighter jigheads work best, and winter days with lighter winds are very comfortable to fish.

Narrowing the Spot

My advice is to be very cautious about putting too much faith in published GPS spots – too many seem to be bogus. I’ve included some vicinity marks here, but you can work these reefs out yourself from any map. By looking at a map you’ll learn more about the Cape region than any set of numbers will tell you.

Why do I suggest giving the GPS marks the flick? I believe that tying yourself to a GPS mark can mask the real secret which is to hit the general vicinity and then start looking for baitfish on the sounder. Sometimes snapper can be caught from the faintest shows. You’ll catch a million more snapper off baitfish than you ever will off a ‘blind’ point on a map, and the deeper the water the more I believe this to be a law of fishing. There’s more to the use of sounders, that I hope to cover in the future, but the basic principle is to go looking for baitfish. Apart from that, you must believe that there is no such thing as a secret spot, only baitfish.

At some of the spots the best baitfish shows might be far enough away from the reef itself, or the reef too big in size, that the GPS spot coordinates are no more than a red herring. Sometimes, especially when the tide turns, the snapper may be on the northern edge, next time 100 yards away on the southern edge.

The Drift

Once you’ve found the baitfish, motor up current, ensuring that you don’t drive over the area where you intend to fish, then cut the engine and drift back through the fishy spots.

The Technique

Deb likes to fish the lure behind the boat’s drift, dragging it about mid-depth while tapping the rod with her finger to vibrate the lure. Deb has refined her technique based on free falling the lure over the side of the boat. In one session, Deb’s 5kg PB lasted less than one cast. Her very next cast went off big time. Here Deb describes the story.

“The second fish in a row was the 7.4kg version. It was a great feeling getting those two fish. These ones came from Smiths on a small rise that went from 20m to 14m. They were both caught on the same lure too – a Gambler 5” Crystal Shad using the Egrell S10 Rod. That’s one thing about the Gambler lures – they often stay on the hook fish after fish and are great value for money. I guess you could say that lure caught 25lb of snapper.

“I was using The Egrell S10 Rod with my Daiwa Certate 4000 spooled with 30lb Spiderwire and 40lb Black Magic leader. The jighead was 1/2oz with the 5” Gambler in bleeding crystal shad.

“We were off Cape Moreton, drifting in 20m of water. I was using my usual technique, letting it drop down so that as we drifted my lure swam away from the boat. I always have my lure sitting 4-6m off the bottom as the bigger fish tend to sit a bit higher in the water column, and I was out to get a big one.

“I was simply tapping the top of my rod, which is very effective with the EGrell S10 because of the blank’s light tip. Occasionally, I just lift the rod tip up about 6-7ft feet so that the lure comes back towards the boat, and let it drop again – this enables it to swim away again. At the same time I continue tapping the rod to keep the lure working the way I want. Once the slack has taken up after lifting and lowering the rod, I let it pause for a moment before starting the tapping motion once again.

“After lifting the rod three times, I slowly start to wind the lure back up, while still tapping and lifting the rod up and down (multi tasking – a woman’s advantage). It was while I was reeling in that I got my first 5kg snapper.

“Next cast I felt the 7.4kg fish nudge the lure while it was just sitting there as I was tapping. I had just started the slow wind to bring the lure in – and bang, it nailed it. Whether he was eyeing it up as it sat there or got excited as I started to wind, I'm not sure. All I do know for sure is that I just kept on winding because I knew I was going to upgrade my PB with this one.

“I knew they were both snapper as the trademark headshake gave it away. That’s what got me so excited, knowing that I was about to land my first BIG snapper. I usually only get the pan-sized ones between 40cm and 50cm. It was quite funny as I had just finished complaining about the pan-sized ones, because my first fish for the day was a 43cm squire, and then next moment I'm filling the esky with two beauties. It was a great day out – my day for the big snapper for a change.”

Spangled Emperor

The Cape and its spots, especially Brennans and Roberts, are well known as prime country for the bigger class of spangled emperor. Trophy-sized spangled emperor are often caught in this region.

You can fish for them the same way as the snapper, but generally you’ll need to let your lure get deeper into the water column. Spanglies will take a moving lure too. Deb explains her techniques.

The Cape

The Cape is easily accessible, even for smaller boats such as the 16’ to 18’ alloy types that are so popular. Lures are better than smelly baits, the fish are there at this time of year and the scenery is pretty nice too. Head out to the Cape, and then invite your friends around for a barbecue so you can impress them with your stories of big snapper and mixed reef!

Handy GPS Marks

SmithsS27 00.250E153 29.800
BrennansS27 01.210E153 29.140
RobertsS27 02.200E153 29.000
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