Snapper circus comes to town
  |  First Published: December 2007

Port Phillip Bay is well and truly in the grip of snapper fever. Working in the fishing industry, you get a true appreciation for the popularity and pulling power of the elusive ‘big red’. Many Victorian anglers live for this time of year, and gear all of their fishing around the yearly snapper migration into both of our bays.

For the uninitiated, a look at the annual Tea Tree Festival will give you an idea of the mayhem that surrounds snapper fishing on the bay. Massive boat ramp queues, early morning starts and general chaos are the order of the day. Full credit to the Snapper Point Angling Club, who turn this around into a well organised tournament. Fish numbers were slightly down on previous years, but still over 1500 fish found their way to the scales. The winning fish was 7.5kg, and a fish of over 8kg was caught in the catch and release section (see tournament pages for a full report – Ed.).

The most pleasing thing about this year’s snapper season so far has been the quality and size of the fish. Most anglers are reporting that even the smaller fish of 1.5–3kg are in peak condition and full of fight. The larger fish are also in top nick, and if you’re lucky enough to get onto these fish they are typically in the 5–7kg range.

Bait selection seems to be fairly critical this season – not only the type, but also the quality. There have been some cracking pilchards available this season, some which are caught locally, and these are accounting for more than their fair share of fish. Other good baits are slimey mackerel or yakkas, silver whiting, squid and tuna fillets.

Most of the favourite marks are producing plenty of snapper, but the trend for many anglers has also been to explore shallow water, especially at night.

Another trend that has gripped the Victorian scene has been the use of Black Magic Snapper Snatchers. These pre-tied rigs are snapper magnets straight out of the box, and are very effective, especially when fished with your rod in a holder and the reel in gear. Most anglers sweeten the KL circle hooks with some bait to add some scent appeal. I would also suggest the use of a Berkley Gulp grub or minnow in a bright colour if you don’t want to use bait.

Enough about snapper, the bream fishing around the entire bay has also been excellent. The bream have finished their spawning movements by this time of year and are feeding aggressively. A good mate of mine, Brad Hodges, snuck into my home water the other day and caught plenty of fish on Ecogear SX-40s in the dirty water, including a few of over 1kg. Another lucky angler tasting success in the Patterson River was Shaun, who landed an absolute cracker of a bream, which pulled Trevor Hogan’s scales down to a whopping 1.85kg. That’s a genuine trophy, and the fish fell to a lightly weighted scrubworm bait fished right at the top of the system, near the freeway bridge.

There are already good signs for the summer whiting fishing season too, with some nice fish being taken around Wooleys Reef off Frankston, and around the Bird Rock area off Mt Martha. Fresh pipis and mussels are the ‘go to’ baits, and sharp hooks on light line will increase hook-up rates. Early morning and late evening are the best times, as most of the fish will be feeding in shallow water. Pay close attention to your sounder, especially if the fishing is a little quiet, as the whiting may have moved location – but they are likely to be in the same general area.

The south end of the bay is producing a few whiting too, as well as a few jumbo squid. Steve Brown, from JV Marine, has been doing very well lately around Sorrento using Ecogear Dartmax jigs in neutral colours. Anglers fishing the southern waters of the bay have also been hooking a few smaller gummies lately too, much like those fishing the northern end.

For the land-based crew, Mornington Pier is still the best bet for variety and reliable fishing. Garfish, snapper and some jumbo salmon have all been caught lately, with a few barracouta thrown in for good measure. If you’re serious about a snapper, plan your trips around the rougher weather and westerly blows. Mt Martha Rocks and Frankston Pier are also worth a shot as well.


In mid-November a mulloway was caught off Carrum at the Outer Artificial Reef. An angler by the name of Mark was fishing with his son, Jai, and a friend, Alle. At 8am one morning the fish took a pilchard bait that was meant for snapper and presented on a 20lb line. The fish weighed 30kg and measured 1.5m. What an awesome fish, possibly the catch of a lifetime!

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