Tis’ the season to be snappering; well that’s the general consensus anyway. , September is the month to blow the cobwebs off the garaged rods and reels and by the middle of the month, begin heading out in search of an early season snapper or two. However, snapper at this time of year aren’t always willing to take a bait, especially throughout the spring season.

unspecified-14Heavily affected by barometric pressure, the spring time snapper bite is dictated by pressure systems as well as tide changes. Get these in conjunction with one another and your in with a fair chance, get em’ wrong and its baked beans for dinner. As the season progresses into October and November, the bite times really ramp up with the fishery almost resembling a trout farm and off the backside into December and January; the bite times back right off again.

Throughout the season whether or not it is early, mid or late, different techniques somewhat depend on how the fish are feeding during that particular period. Knowing when to use the various techniques is vital in being successful throughout the season from beginning to end.


Snapper reports are quite thin throughout September mainly due to the cooler water temperature and consistent low pressure systems pushing over the state causing them to stay off the bite. This occurs because of a snapper’s lower metabolism due to the cooler water temperatures as well as a shrunken swim bladder with the consistent lower pressure systems moving over the state.

Heading towards summer when the high pressure systems begin to pass over and the water temperature rises, these factors won’t come into play. Well not as often however, the odd cold front still passes though from time to time. During late September, fishing for snapper does require anglers to use certain techniques in order to regularly catch solid fish. Given that it is tough, snapper can be quite finicky when taking a bait, especially if they feel any pressure from the fishing line once sucking the bait into their mouth. The slightest anomaly and they’ll spit the bait back out even before you’ll notice the rod tip quiver an inch.

unspecified-12The most widely used method for catching Port Philip Bay snapper is to use a running sinker rig as you would throughout the entire season, however during the spring time the technique in using this rig can change depending on how the snapper are feeding. A running sinker rig utilises a size 1 or 2 ball sinker (depending on where you’re fishing and the strength of the current) freely running on your mainline of 6 or 8kg monofilament. A swivel is attached to the end of the mono to prevent the sinker from running to the hook. This will keep the bait higher in the water column for a longer period of time. In saying that, if the weather conditions are rough, have the sinker run between the swivel and hook adding more weight to the bait so it sinks at a faster weight. The most effective hook setup is a twin set of Mustad Octopus 6/0’s, snelled together on an 80cm length of 30lb Mustad nylon trace. The snelled hooks enable an entire pilchard, silver whiting, half garfish or saurie to be rigged in a natural presentation. Once cast, the bait can slowly sink towards the bottom maximising its time in the strike zone. Once it settles on the bottom, the wave and current action will cause the bait to move and sway about making it look as natural as possible.

Anglers at this point, need to be establishing a cube berley trail to encourage the fish to bite, especially during a tide change or when the barometer kicks up a notch or two. Given the slow metabolic rate of snapper and or lack of barometric change and or tide change, the bite time will be vastly limited. When the bite time occurs, the fish can be very timid. A snapper bite, regardless of the length of time, throughout the season should be treated the same; with maximum effectiveness. This means, using the sharpest and most reliable terminal tackle available. Throughout September you’ll find the fish mostly congregated hard on the scattered reefs and if you know the whereabouts of these, you’ll no doubt be able to locate some good fish in no time, getting them on the bite is another matter. Once the fish have been found and you’ve set anchor and established a berley trail, cast out your baits to set the trap.


In saying that, early season fish are very in tune with an un-natural feel, and with the aforementioned, the slightest tension felt when taking a bait will be spat out beforeyou notice. To prevent this from occurring and before attaching your reel to your rod, double loop an elastic band to the foregrip of the rod. After casting the bait out, place the rod in the rod holder, grab the line from between the reel and the first guide to form a loop and pull it through the elastic band. In rough conditions this wont work and you should be using the baitrunner feature on the reel but in calmer conditions; the fish will grab the bait, pull the line from the band without feeling any tension whatsoever and run with the line freeing peeling off the reels spool with no tension. This is where you (the angler) needs to be aware and pick up the rod, wind the handle until the line is taught and instantly set the hook. Otherwise, you could look down and notice you have no line left on your spool whatsoever or worst, have your rod pulled into the water once all the line has been stripped of


By October the water temperature is beginning to rise, starting off at around 13 degrees and rising to just over 15 by the end of the month. While still quite cool, the snapper do start to move off the reefs and onto the mud where they begin scavenging for food more regularly.

This is where anglers need to be in tune with their fish finders/sounders and really zoom into the bottom few meters so to find fish lurking about. Throughout October, the fish can still be quite finicky at times and just like fishing throughout September, using the same techniques pays off. Of course, always continue to establish a berley trail, fish a tide change and during first and last light for the best results.

unspecified-4What you will find towards the end of the month is a transition in the bite times heavily being on first and last light with almost no fish being caught from 11am till 3pm hence the reason in fishing first and last light


November can be more likened to a trout farm when it comes to snapper as the water temperature quickly rises reaching 20-21 degrees by the end of the month, their peek feeding temperature. Throughout November, the snapper are in full blown feeding frenzy mode however, towards the end of the month will make a switch from an early morning bite into a late afternoon bite. Fishing for them tends to see the focus be taken off the technical side of rigging to just getting a bait and hook into the water to maximise the bite time.

Of course, you still do need to drive around watching your sounder to locate fish but when you do; setting a berley trail is what will ultimately bring the fish on the bite and to your area.

unspecified November is more the time to begin to experiment with other techniques use to catch snapper such as flicking soft plastics, soft vibes, metal vibes, micro jigging and trolling hard bodies, especially if you’re an avid kayak angler. Even though the reds are in their peek feeding zone, taking the time to use and learn different techniques such as with lures takes the monotony away from general bait fishing methods and in my mind, makes you appreciate the fishery much more. unspecified-3


Heading into December, the water temperature is still rising and reaches its peak around 21 degrees for the month. However, the bay reaches it top temperature of around 24 degrees by mid to late February. In early December the fish are still in full feeding mode and towards the end of the month, the afternoon bite times begin to diminish somewhat.

Throughout this time and despite the bite times thinning out as the month progresses, the actual fishing techniques tend to revert back to those used throughout early spring when the reds bite only during the optimum times; rising barometric pressure, flooding tides and fishing during last light other than the early morning bite in September are the best chances at success. Despite all that, by the time the fat man slips down your chimney the snapper bite is all but over for another long season. In saying that, not long after Christmas Day, the snapper all but go into full spawning mode and feeding is what almost seems like a non event for a few weeks.

Heading into late January and into February the water temperature drops somewhat and see’s the snapper bite only ever so often. This might be on a tide change or barometric pressure rise and unless you have already made the switch to whiting, then keeping in tune with the environmental factors is what will continue to bring consistent success to those that continue on the hunt for red coloured flanks of our beloved snapper.unspecified-13

Jarrod Day

About Jarrod Day

As a young boy, fishing from the Portsea and Sorrento piers along the Mornington Peninsula coastline was a regular occurrence during the school holidays. My love for fishing grew and many years later now find it much more than a hobby, but a lifestyle. My website has been developed with fishing and photography in mind. Take a look around, I hope you enjoy it.

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