After a very mild Autumn, Winter has finally hit. I never used to mind those early mornings heading off to work or fishing but I have to admit that a warm bed feels pretty good these days.
Of course there are other options during Winter if you get up early during the week and would like a sleep in on the weekends. Over the past few years I’ve been spending the odd afternoon out fishing and still catching fish so don’t for a minute believe that you have to be up at sparrow fart to be successful or catch a feed.
Fishing the tides and moon, rather than just getting out there on sun-up, can catch most species available during Winter. This includes reds, bream, jew, drummer, blackfish and even kings.
Some of the best snapper sessions I’ve experienced over the past few years have been in the afternoon so let’s look at how to catch a few Winter reds and still enjoy a sleep in on the weekend.
It’s long been a misconception that you can only catch reds early morning or late afternoon. Frankly, that’s a load of crap! The trick is to fish the tide changes and moon phases and totally ignore the time of day.
Knowing where the fish are also helps. For someone who’s been in the ritual of early morning starts for years, that’s not easy but good reds can be caught at any time of the day.
The first step to enjoying those sleep-ins is to get yourself a tide chart and check when the tide changes are on your chosen fishing day. If there’s a low tide at 7am then you may need to get up early but if that tide change is at 10am, you may as well enjoy a sleep-in because getting there early may not be of any benefit anyway.
Anyone who’s done a bit of snapper fishing will know that an hour each side of a tide change, high or low, usually sees a flurry of activity or at least a few fish caught if things have been quiet.
Don’t ask me why reds (and many other species) feed actively around a tide change but they do and knowing how to capitalise on this is a big bonus. As far as reds are concerned, this means being in place with the anchor out and some berley drifting down an hour before the tide change.
If you prefer to drift for reds, rather than anchor and fish floaters, then be in place before the tide change with your gear and baits ready. That way you are ready to make the most of any increase in activity around the tide change.
My favourite tide changes at this time of the year are late afternoon. Somewhere around 3pm or 4pm is perfect.
Another factor to consider is the moon. Down our way you can catch reds on most moon phases but within a few days of a full moon and just after is usually a waste of time. By concentrating your efforts around moon phases and tide changes you catch more fish and spend a lot less time doing it. I’ve gone over fishing floaters for reds before but let’s just do a quick recap for the newcomers.
I much prefer to anchor and fish berley and floating baits for reds, as opposed to drifting. You can cover more area by drifting but if you get in the right place and fish with berley you’ll usually catch more fish.
Find some hard reef that comes up out of gravel or mud and anchor up-current so that your berley and floating baits are drifting back down to it. I like to fish in water anywhere from 10 to 40 metres deep. Any deeper than this and it can be hard to get lightly-weighted floating baits down deep enough. In deeper water you are better off fishing more lead and going up and down rather than trying to fish floaters back in the current.
I normally fish 8kg handlines for reds these days but a 6kg to 8kg threadline outfit is also very effective. I fish the 8kg line direct to a 2/0 red chemically sharpened Octopus pattern hook. Straight on top of the hook goes a small ball sinker just big enough to get the bait down.
Depending on the current and water depth this sinker may be as small as your little finger nail or as big as your thumbnail. You’ll need to experiment a bit with lead size until you get it right and then it may change as the conditions and current vary so don’t think it’s set-and-forget. If your lead size needs to change, just do it and don’t keep fishing with something that not right. It’s only one knot and less than a minute to change and get it right.
For floating baits I prefer half a pilchard, small squid, cuttlefish or fresh strip baits. Use something about the size of a finger – 2cm by 7cm. I just put the hook through one end and make sure the point is well exposed.
Drop it over the side and just feed out a heap of line so that it sinks slowly down and back through the berley. When it reaches the bottom, wind in and start over again. You’ll know when you get a bite because the line will tighten up and most times the fish will be hooked by the time the line is straight.
If you are serious about chasing reds, get a bait freezer and use it for your bait and berley. I keep squid, cuttlefish and pilchards bagged up for bait and old pilchards, slimy mackerel and prawn heads for berley. I also use chook pellets soaked in tuna emulsion for berley if muttonbirds are a problem.Reads: 622