Snapper shine
  |  First Published: August 2005

August is snapper month on the Sunshine Coast. The temperature starts to climb slowly out of its winter slumber and along with this warming process we see the lowest rainfall and afternoon humidity for the year. The reasonably stable weather in August combined with the minimal influence of tourists means that it’s a great time to get out there and have a go.

I have caught a few snapper in my time, however I’m yet to land one of those horrendously knobby creatures that could only be loved by their mother. As they age, these magnificent fish develop a rather knobby lump on their forehead, and sometimes on their nose. As grotesque as this may seem, it must be assumed that these knobs are a symbol of seniority in the school. The bigger the knob the more superior you become, if you know what I mean!

These fish can purportedly attain weights in excess of 20kg! Not many of that size are landed, quite possibly due to their bulldozer-like propensity to run for the nearest pile of boulders as soon as the sting of the hook is registered. 20kg of charging snapper at depth is difficult to stop in its tracks.

Pilchards and whole squid seem to have become favoured snapper baits over the years. I have seen a few quality fish caught off the rocks with crabs as the number one item on the menu, and I think that crab baits offshore would outfish squid and pillies any day! The convenience of block pillies and squid has led to them being the bait of choice for just about everything these days.

Some anglers claim great success on knobbies using a hook threaded with soldier crabs, while others prefer a livebait. Octopus, mullet and mussels also rate a mention, as do tailor fillet, hardyheads, herring and trout lollies. Take your pick – it seems that old man snapper eats just about anything!

Ardent lure anglers are once again persevering with targeting snapper. The results so far seem to indicate that success diminishes as the noise level of the lure increases. In other words, lures with built-in rattles seem to attract far less attention from snapper than solid body, non-rattling minnows. This has been the case, on the Sunshine Coast at least, on many occasions.

The exception, and there always seems to be at least one to every fishing rule, is the Spaniard Special. This lure is reminiscent of a bass-style spinnerbait on growth hormones. Rigged with a small bonito, gar or pilchard, the lure swims its way through the water with blades a-spinning. It must be assumed therefore that spectacularly sized spinnerbaits such as this unit create plenty of noise, and flash as well. Have a good look at fishingnoosa.com if you find this a little hard to swallow.

Fishing soft plastics on or near bottom structure is also a good way to boat a few snapper. I suppose the theory is that if the object is moving, it is alive and therefore edible. Good colours have been pale pinks and white. Take your pick in my opinion, as at any reasonable depth they would all look pretty much the same!

Other worthwhile targets on just about all Sunshine Coast reefs during August and into September include the tastiest fish in the ocean. Along with squire and snapper, the close in reefs will deliver good numbers of the exceptionally good tablefish, sweetlip. Heaps of parrot fish and the occasional red emperor turn up as well at this time, as do pearl perch and cobia.

A cobe turning up just about anywhere at this time of year is no surprise. Smaller specimens even make their way into the lower estuaries from time to time to the great surprise of anglers who hook these fish. Rarely landed, cobia hooked in the rivers play up big time; they are generally seen near the boat once or twice and that’s about it!

Coral trout are caught during August as well, with Sunshine Reef a great place to chase a trout or two. While I acknowledge that they are very good eating, their status as the best tucker that swims is nonsense as far as I’m concerned.

Further afield at Double Island Point anglers can expect a feed of red emperor, amberjack and perhaps yellowtail kingfish. There will still be a few serious northern bluefin tuna about and maybe even a monster Spanish mackerel or two. By this time of year most of the Spaniards will have moved north, and those few that remain will be serious fish!

The estuaries will be full of bream, with plenty of flathead and whiting as well. The lower reaches of the river systems will be the go, as the run off from the June rains will take some time to clear. During early July major catches of bream were made in many Sunshine Coast estuaries. Bait anglers achieved the best results with bonito flesh coming in as one of the gun baits.

While these fish are still vulnerable it is important to remember that you should only take a few for a feed. Huge bream massacres will be a thing of the past soon when the fishing bureaucrats finally decide to impose an ‘in possession’ limit on the most sought-after fish in the country.

Lure fishing for bream is becoming more popular, and it must be said that catching a fish on a lure is far more satisfying than achieving the same result with a baited hook. Small minnows, soft plastics and the tiniest of poppers all catch plenty of bream every year on the Sunshine Coast. Casting towards structure such as under jetties, around moored boats, snaggy riverside banks and along rock walls is the go.

The upper limits of some of the smaller creeks on the coast offer excellent luring opportunities among tall grasses, reeds and other vegetation. One of the more astute anglers that I fish with is so switched on that any movement amongst the bankside vegetation is keenly observed. A small lure cast towards this subtle disruption is often rewarded with a good hook-up on a bream or mangrove jack. The message is clear – stay alert and keep a careful eye on your surroundings. Your results will improve and as you learn to ‘see’ evidence of active fish, these clues become easier to spot. A good pair of polarising sunglasses will assist no end with these endeavours, as will a quiet and co-operative fishing partner!

Unfortunately, the freshwater scene is a non-event at the moment. Let’s hope this changes for the better soon.

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