Winter Snapper Tactics

Lubin Pfieffer takes us on a winter snapper mission in South Australia, sharing his fishing methods and tactics.

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During the colder months in South Australia we are lucky to have some quality snapper fishing still available. Although the majority of crowds have left the water to sit at home by the fire and watch the footy, there are plenty of options for those anglers wanting to brave the cold and find some reds. The tactics used to catch winter snapper are similar as what you would use during the summer months, but the size of the fish available can surprise anglers, with winter time being a great time to get a trophy fish from southern waters.

Where

Fortunately you don’t have to find some secret locations for winter snapper, they are still in most popular haunts such as Whyalla, Ardrossan, Pt. Augusta and many others. One location in particular that really fires during the winter months is Point Lowly. Point Lowly is located around 20 kilometres north of Whyalla and juts out in to the Spencer Gulf. Point Lowly is one of the few locations in SA where small trailer boats can target snapper up to 13kg within a kilometre of shore. The area is known for its huge tides and can get quite gnarly at times but when the weather is right, it can produce some fantastic winter fishing.

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Tactics for winter reds

All methods can be used to catch winter snapper, from bait and soft plastics, micro jigging and slow jigging, and also trolling. Each has its place while out on the water and I’ll run through the methods I use for each while fishing for South Australian reds;

Plastics and Jigging Metal –
This is easily the most popular method for most of the gun snapper fisho’s in the last couple of years. Both micro jigging and soft plastic fishing are incredibly effective when targeting schools of fish and some really outstanding fish numbers can come during a day’s outing. When fishing SA’s two gulfs, head out with a good selection of different weight micro jigs and jig heads, from 10 – 100 grams. Most large curl tail and flick bait plastics will get eaten. “Gulps ” would be the pick of the bunch. The technique is simple. Find the general area of reef or structure you plan to fish and slowly drive around staring at the sounder screen. It will be unmistakable when the school of snapper appear and this is when you need to drop the boat out of gear and send the lures down. If the bite doesn’t come instantly, vary the retrieve until you find a pattern that is working. It really is a fun and productive way to fish for winter snapper.

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Bait –
Bait is still one of the best methods to target big reds with, particularly during winter. A Paternoster rig with a single 7/0 or 8/0 circle hook are all that I use for this type of fishing. Leader strengths from 40 – 60lb are ample to land most fish as the snapper will shy away from leader that is too thick. Also making the effort to replace leaders fairly often will mean less fish lost. Sinkers are simply attached with a loop knot at the bottom of the rig. Using a loop for the sinker means you can easily change the sinker weight as the tide slows or increases. Fishing light as possible will see less baits dropped after they are eaten. An easy way to decide on sinker weight is to try one and then drop the bait right next to the boat and see if the current sweeps it away or not. Fresh baits are always best. Collecting bait can be just as much fun as fishing for the bigger fish so get out there and stock up before you plan a winter snapper mission. The best baits for me are the ones that are easy to get. Salmon, squid, tommies and snook make up the majority of the baits we use, simply because they are easy to get a hold of in good numbers. Freezing baits that are well wrapped in plastic will mean they are as fresh, once thawed, as they were when they were caught.

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Trolling –
Getting setup for trolling is a fairly straight forward affair. First, you’ll need to set your boat up with a set of downriggers. I like 3 kg bombs for the Gulf St Vincent but sometimes you’ll need heavier ones for the Spencer Gulf due to the tidal movement to keep everything down. There are loads of different lures on the market that will suit this style of fishing but I have been very successful on Rapala’s range of Xrap’s and Clackin’ Raps. These are super strong and come in a range of different running depths. The Clackin’ Raps also have a steel ball inserted inside a tube which creates a very seductive rattle without being too loud and scaring the fish. Colours I have had the best success on are the brighter ones. This I believe is because they have good UV reflection. Colours such as orange, green, white and a combination of each really get the snapper going. Like with all lure fishing find a colour that appeals to you first and then you will fish it with confidence.

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Rods and reels are usually standard spinning snapper outfits. Leaders are simply 40lb monofilament. Pick the area you plan to troll and work it thoroughly at a speed of 2-5 km/ph. Sometimes the snapper won’t be holding exactly on the mark and trolling is a great way to search for these fish. If a school appears on the sounder, try dropping the boat out of gear to give the fish plenty of chance to eat it!

South Australia has plenty of winter snapper options, so get out there and enjoy!

Lubin Pfeiffer

About Lubin Pfeiffer

Accomplished angler Lubin Pfeiffer lives in South Australia’s glorious Barossa Valley and is fortunate to have started fishing from a very young age. He enjoys all facets of the sport, targeting the vast majority of inshore species that inhabit waters of the southern states. Lubin holds the honour of representing Australia three times at an international level in competition fly fishing.

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