Reefies in the River
  |  First Published: March 2006

Overlooked by the majority of snapper fishermen, the Brisbane River is becoming the most consistent all year-round light tackle, inshore snapper fishery in southeast Queensland.

Snapper are a sought after sportsfish for many reasons: their excellent eating quality, hard fighting nature, eagerness for a well presented soft plastics or a small live bait and the fact that they inhabit most of Moreton Bay, including the mouth of the Brisbane River.

Unlike Moreton Bay where the majority of snapper are caught around the reefed fringed islands and artificial reefs, most of the snapper in the river are caught on rocky structures that have large amounts of water flow with adjacent deep water.

Brisbane River snapper can be caught on a variety of methods and in plenty of locations from sight fishing along rock walls at the mount in 4ft of water to vertically jigging deep holes in 60ft of water in the city reaches. They will feed wherever the food is but the larger concentrations of fish are found from the mouth to the city reaches. There are probably fish further up the river but I haven’t caught a snapper much past the William Jolley Bridge.

Like all fishing, being in the right location is half the battle and this is no different when chasing snapper in the river. Narrowing down likely fish holding spots is as easy as keeping your eyes glued to a good quality sounder and being aware of other boats in the fishing area. I use my sounder to find drop-offs and hard rocky bottoms rather than initially looking for fish.

Once I have located the spot where I am going to fish, such as a rocky bottom with good tidal flow, I start to fish whilst also looking at the sounder for fish.

After the fish have been located I try to keep on top of the fish with the electric motor giving my particular soft-bait the best possible chance of a snapper eating it.

After drifting a particular spot a couple of times with no bites or seeing fish on the sounder it’s time to move to your next location repeating the process until you have line emptying from reel at a rate of knots. You’ve probably hooked that pesky US submarine that hangs around the mouth of the river. Refer to the map for likely fishing spots.

The tackle that I use in the river is the same whether I am fishing for snapper or jew. I use Egrell S47 with 2500 size spinning reels, 10lb Yamayoto for fishing soft plastics. For the use of vibration baits like Masks or Tranzams I use Egrell B47 matched with a range of Daiwas low profile reels, 11kg Yamayoto jigging braid and leaders to match.

The technique that I use to catch snapper on artificial lures is the same for vibration baits or plastics. Basically cast the lures up-current allowing the lure to hit the bottom. I have my reel on free-spool while the lure is descending to keep it as close to the structure I am fishing and to compensate for the flow. Watch your line entering the water and be ready to engage your reel because snapper will hit on the drop. Then with the use of the rod tip lift and drop the bait in 4-6ft intervals, feathering the bait on the fall with the rod tip back at the bottom. Most snapper hit on the drop so by feathering the plastic on the fall you keep in contact with the bait and stops slack line and the chance of not feeling bites or setting hooks. Make sure you set the hook on these fish as they have a tendency to throw baits even after taking a 50km run.

Vertically jigging plastics is best done in deeper waters (40-60ft) where fish have been identified on the sounder. Small lifts and hopping the plastic in the face of the snapper generally gets the bites.

Baitfishing the river for snapper is much the same as fishing for jew under anchors. But snapper prefer smaller baits live live hardiheads, small potty mullet, frog mouth pillies or strip baits like gar or mullet. Due to the decreased size of bait from jew to snapper the mount of tide that can be successfully fished is also increased. When using berley to attract fish go sparingly because too much berley in the water attracts catfish and sharks.

Baitfishing the river can be very rewarding If the right location is selected. Unlike plastic fishing where you are constantly moving trying to locate catcheable fish bait fishos are under anchor with baits generally in the immediate area with fish having to move to the bait rather than the plastic fisherman tacking the bait to the fish.

The other species that is worth chasing this month is XOS summer bream. The river see large numbers of quality bream move to the mouth to coincide with the prawn migration. Due to the amount of prime breaming areas being made exclusion zones, the actual number of areas to target 1kg+ bream have been greatly decreased. Try fishing along any of the rock walls at the mouth with small plastics like Ecogear grassminnnow small on 1/16oz jigheads or anchor as close to the wall as possible and fish unweighted or lightly weighted baits.

For the best results, take the time to gather yabbies as they seem to outfish any other bait in the river for large bream.

For the tournament angler this is one time of the year when it is possible to catch a five fish 5kg bag in southeast Queensland.

Fishing is a great leveller, it takes a lot of time on the water to understand all the factors that go into actually catching a fish. Fortunately I have had the privilege to fish wit and discuss the issues that arise in my day to day fishing with a couple of Queensland’s best.

Thanks to Laurie Evans, Neil Carstens and Paul Cade for letting us all know that fishing in the river is starting to fall into place.

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