Snapper on softies
  |  First Published: November 2005

Fishing in late spring and early summer is often a mixed blessing in the southern bay area.

Both southern and northern species are available at the moment; everything from snapper and tuna to bream and mangrove jacks can be caught.

On the other hand, the weather can be quite challenging for bay anglers, with winds possible from any direction. Finding a window of opportunity to fish is made easier by websites such as Seabreeze and Buoyweather (go to www.fishhead.com.au and click on weather for the links), which are set up to predict wind conditions right through the day. Often there are good weather periods available for a few hours either in the morning or afternoon of an otherwise windy day.

Soft plastic fishing for snapper can be excellent in November. The warmer water in Moreton Bay seems to make them much more active in the daytime and more aggressive in hitting lures. Having a soft plastic slammed by a 6-8kg snapper in only 6m of water is an adrenalin hit that everyone ought to experience in their lives, preferably more than once!

All of the shallow reefs in the bay can fire, with anything from school fish of 35-45cm through to monster 8-9kg snapper being possible. Productive locations at the bottom of the bay include Goat, Macleay and Peel islands. Further north, the drop-offs from Ormiston through to Wellington Point are good grounds, while Green, St Helena and Mud islands in the central bay have huge fishable areas.

All of this reef fishing is best done on the drift as the fish are scattered far and wide on some days, and concentrated around isolated patches of bait on others. They rarely stay in the one spot for long and drifting gives you the best opportunity to cover ground and locate the fish.

The first area to concentrate on is where very shallow rock and coral reefs drop into approximately 5-8m of water. The snapper hunt along these edges by day, picking off baitfish that have been pushed out of the shallows by other predators, such as birds and pelagic fish. Seeing tuna and mackerel working these same edges is usually a sure sign that snapper will be close by.

Slow hopping a soft plastic along the deep side of the drop-off is the way to go. By slow hopping, I mean casting in to the edge of the drop-off, letting the lure sink to the bottom and stay there for a few seconds, then doing a long slow lift of the rod. Let the lure sink back to the bottom for a few seconds, wind out the slack and repeat. Most of the hits come as the lure sinks back to the bottom, especially in the first two or three hops away from the edge. Strong jigheads such as Nitros and TTs in 1/8oz to 1/4oz weights and 2/0 and 3/0 hook sizes are ideal as they are weighted enough to cast on a light rod, but not so much that it interrupts the action of the plastic.

The second area to fish is where gravel patches, rubble grounds and isolated structure occur. These reefs are scattered randomly throughout the bay and can be found with some exploration with a sounder and GPS unit. Another way to explore is to look on maps that show where rocky points extend out from the aforementioned islands, and simply drift around in 6-10m of water offshore of them. If there is rock on land it will usually continue out along the seabed.

These reefs range from rough and snaggy to a flat, hard and almost featureless looking bottom. Snapper roam around on the open reefs grazing on a wide variety of shellfish, squid and fish. The same technique of slow hopping the lure across the bottom works well here, but when the water gets deeper and the current stronger, it can take a while to get to the bottom. This is not really a problem though, because hits happen on the drop, as they do when fishing the reef edges.

Cast upcurrent and let the lure drift down past the boat. Keep feeding out line until the lure hits bottom, then do a couple of lifts and drops before retrieving and starting again. It’s a little like fishing floater baits offshore for snapper. The other method for fishing the open grounds is to toss a heavier weighted plastic (around 1/2oz) out the back of the boat and just let it bounce along the bottom, while the rod is left in a holder. It seems to go against a lot of what I have just said, but there are days when this rod will outfish everything else on board.

A wide variety of soft plastics work on snapper but by far the most effective are fluke-tail or stickbait styles, roughly the size of a large hardihead. Gulp Minnows, Snapbacks, Zooms and Assassins are popular lures with natural colours being most successful.

Until next month, tight lines, or for more information on the southern Moreton Bay area, come and see me at Fish Head (Cnr Broadwater Tce and Stradbroke St, Redland Bay) or call me on (07) 3206 7999.

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