Nightime Snapper
  |  First Published: September 2007

Clean, clear water is one of those great inshore winter phenomenons. Little to no tidal movement around the Bay quickly settles any sediment suspended in the water. This is by far the best time of the year to be out on the water enjoying life. The near perfect conditions allow you to discover shallow reef systems that you have fished all year yet not laid your eyes on.

I am pretty sure that every angler has at one point of time wondered what their sounder sees as opposed to what the bottom really looks like ­ what is really down there? Well, stick your head over the side of the boat and discover. I was quite amazed at the abundance of small wrasse, pike and other reef fish that actually hang over relatively small patches of reef around Mud Island. It’s no wonder that this is such a great place to fish during the different seasons.

Year after year, large snapper stalk this area as it’s an easy feed for these big powerful fish lurking and striking at these abundant sources of energy.

The clean water does have its downside, it tends to hamper fishing during the day, especially in the shallows. The rising morning sun’s water penetration zenith happens very quickly due to the lack of particles that are suspended in the water at this time of the year. This actually shuts the fishing down earlier in the winter than during summer.

Fish such as snapper are very sensitive to light in the water and can virtually go from feeding frenzy to nothing in a matter of a cast. As a result, the better fish have been caught during low light hours. To plan your fishing trip for the best results you will need to incorporate at least one trip in dark hours. This can be a risk that some fishermen are not willing to take. However, an understanding about your surroundings and a few practice trips will soon build your confidence ­ just be cautious and go slower than normal.

Flotsam and crab pots are probably the two biggest problems that concern boaties with motoring at night. Driving at speed just enough to plane is usually a good guideline. I have also found that the crab pots set around the Islands usually do not have a lot of rope attached, so should alleviate the problem of fouling the propeller.

snapper on the bite

On to the fishing, inshore has been hit and miss at the moment with the water clarity. Early in the morning has yielded a few nice fish before the sun gets up. Average sized snapper have been around 40cm with most of the fish all being over legal size.

This time of the year is good for those learning to use soft plastics as the fish are eating anything so long as a few basic rules are followed. Use light weighted jigheads or centrally weighted jigheads on any baitfish profile. I have found that stick baits (the plastics with a straight tail) have better results than paddletail or curltail baits. I choose semi-see-through plastics or darker colour plastics as they silhouette better against the surface when there is less light. Anything from 3" to 5" in length works well. Cast it out, let it sink, and give a short flick of the rod tip occasionally as the lure wafts to the bottom, then retrieve and start again. Just about every cast converts to a fish and casts don’t have to be a half a kilometre away from the boat.

Tailor fight

Tailor have also really begun to come on the bite with good fish making a mess of finesse plastics as they smash everything that splashes down. I was dusted several times recently by what I put down to a good school of kilo plus fish in the vicinity. My 12lb leader was cleanly cut off with about 6" of extremely frayed line above the cut off point. Each short tussle had the fish fleeing back over the shallow reef without getting a chance to recover any of the line that rapidly peeled from the reel. Unfortunately I didn't get to land one of these fish but I did land about eight snapper in the same area.

On a recent return trip back to the mouth of the Brisbane River I witnessed a school of at least 80 fish averaging 50cm working along the end of the reclamation area. Most fish were beyond the ‘chopper’ size and I would have put them down to being young "greenbacks". This was about 9am, and the water was crystal clear. The fish were once again fickle to catch.

Try setting a strong berley trail around the rocky headlands just on dark and you should be in with a ripper session. Get the tailor straight on ice as the adrenalin released when these fish are caught can virtually cook them from the inside out and make their flesh mushy.

To extend fishing sessions on snapper and tailor move to areas of the bay at sunrise when the tide-run creates dirtier water. I have heard that some of the other islands further south in the bay are holding these conditions and producing fish throughout daylight hours. Northern Bay anglers should look at areas around the mouth of the Brisbane River, Pearl Channel, the Bulwer ledge or deeper sections of Scarborough and Scott’s reefs.

mullet, jewies and bream

The annual run of mullet is well and truly underway since last issue and the migration of inshore jewie has followed the mullet. Jewies will often only come out to play as the tide is at ebb; this stage of the tide stops the mullet from using the current flow to get around and is perfect ambush time for the marauding fish.

As the bream (which like tidal flow) begin to ease off the bite this is a good time to target the deeper holes by casting baits or plastics over the shallow side and working into the deeper sections of the hole. Use big bulky curltail or stick baits if artificials are your interest.

For bait fishing there is nothing better than 5" long mullet that can be caught with a cast net in the shallows. Do not anchor it to the bottom as it is restricted from swimming naturally. Allow at least 1.5m of monoleader between the sharp bit and the weighty bit. Resist as hard as you can to strike when the fish initially hits the bait, they tend to hold the bait in their mouth and roll it around before swallowing. Then lift the rod tip and slowly increase pressure until the fish takes a screaming run, if the fish drops the bait, let go of the pressure and start over until the fish is hooked. Fishing these same waters after the tide turns and runs out will also produce jumbo flathead. Weigh up your options at any stage of the tide and good fishing can be had right throughout the day.

On another note, the time has finally come for my 4.1 tinny to be upgraded to a larger model (to accommodate the family). So if anyone is looking to buy a boat that has been fully fitted out "bass boat" style drop me an e-mail at --e-mail address hidden-- Some of the features are as follows: Fully customised layout with raised casting deck and inlayed carpet. Underfloor storage, including 70L under floor esky, 40L underfloor fuel, new bow-mount electric motor and 110amp battery, 2 pedestal padded bucket seats and 1 adjustable casting seat; 3 position and wide side decks. Colour Raymarine sounder and separate GPS (negotiable). Control console and switch panel. Full Nav lights. Side pockets. 30hp Yamaha capable of 23-knots fully laden. Galvanised trailer and mag wheels. All 2005. $11,500.00 ONO.

Have a great months fishing and see you on the water.

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