Winter doesn’t mean putting away the fishing gear – Part 2

Woranora (3 of 11)

Winter certainly doesn’t mean taking a break from fishing. A simple change of tactics such as fishing deeper can produce quality fish like this snapper and golden trevally.

As the alarm clock sounds you wake and roll over to see 3:30am on the screen. Feeling as though you only slipped into bed 15 minutes ago you instinctly hit the snooze button to shut it up. Whilst laying there in a daze images start to flood your mind as you begin to picture what the day might have install, compelling you to leap out of bed and check to make sure everything is packed and strapped down before departing on your next adventure. This enthusiasm is what separates the avid angler from the norm on those cold and often dewy winter mornings.

During the colder months Hervey Bay becomes home to a very prolific population of snapper and in recent years I decided to dedicate more time to targeting this very worthy species specifically. Through research and networking with other anglers I have started to identify some key factors that have assisted me in achieving more consistent results. By understanding some of the more basic principles associated with snapper fishing such as time, tides, moon phase, bait presentation and as with all other types of fishing the more time and effort put into targeting a particular species the better the end result.

The magic hours

Many keen snapper fisherman find that the dawn and dusk periods, when the fish feel more comfortable feeding, tend to be the most productive times to target this species and most often this is true. However fishing these periods may not always be an option as snapper are very much influenced by the tide and moon phase it is also possible to catch them at different times of the day. By being able to adapt your approach and the way in which you target snapper during varying levels of light an angler can greatly enhance their results. For example during the darker periods I have found that bait consistently works well and during daylight hour’s soft plastics, micro jigs and blades can be dynamite.
Tidal influence plays a large role in determining the bite period of most fish species and snapper are no exception. Some anglers prefer a making tide while others prefer to fish the outgoing tide with location usually being the determining factor here. Personally I have had good results fishing both with the main criteria being a small amount of run in the water, ideally the last couple of hours of either the run in or run out proving most productive. Too much run in the water can make the fishing very difficult and I have generally found the slack periods at the top and bottom of the tides to be very quiet.
Fishing the larger tides leading up to a full moon generally only allows for a shorter bite period around the change of the tide, as the run makes it very difficult to fish properly. That short period of time, usually a couple of hours leading up to the change will often see the snapper bite quite ravenously creating an exciting experience. Fishing the smaller tides generally allows for a much longer bite period, due to less run in the water, meaning potentially you could catch fish throughout most stages of the tide.

Moon phases matter

Woranora (1 of 11)

Another quality cool-weather snapper jigged up from the depths.

The moon phase plays an important role in determining whether I plan a night or day mission in search of snapper. I have generally found the best catch rates occurring at night around the period either side of the full moon. The last few nights leading up to the full moon and the first few nights after the full moon itself has always proven to be a successful time to target snapper for most anglers and one of my favourite times as well. I have found it a little more difficult to catch consistent numbers throughout the day during this full moon period and my theory is that because they feed so well at night during this time, they are generally just milling around during the day digesting their prey from the previous night. As I said this is just my personal theory.
During certain moon phases ‘phosphorous’ in the water can be more evident and this can be a disadvantage at night as the phosphorous illuminates objects within the water including fishing lines which can now easily be seen by the eyes of a wary snapper, making them very hesitant to bite. I also believe this phosphorous works against the snapper at night as they are now easier to be spotted by their prey. I use this to my advantage, figuring they have to eat and will now have to do the majority of their feeding during the day time hours, which Is when I much prefer to target them.
Snapper will generally be found within close proximity to wrecks, rocky outcrops and reefs as these structures tend to provide shelter and hold good numbers of baitfish. Find the bait source and the snapper will be close by. This is where a good quality and correctly set up sounder is crucial in identifying the baitfish. It pays to spend a bit of quality time sounding around to get a picture of what is happening below the surface. With the sounder set up correctly and with practice it is easy to identify any structure below, the balls of baitfish and the individual snapper lurking around these baitfish.

Don’t discount the power of berley

Woranora (2 of 11)

Dane with a snapper that fell to a soft plastic.

Woranora (11 of 11)

Keen Hervey Bay angler Katrina Mitchell loves getting out fishing regardless of the seasons.

Once the fish have been located the anchor can be deployed and the boat positioned up current. Creating a berley trail plays an important role in the success of snapper fishing with bait, as a berley trail is created to entice the fish up through the water column closer to the back of your boat. ‘Entice’ is the key word here so do not over berley, rather just give them enough to taste and making them search for more. I have found pet mince is great for this as it disperses through the water column in small chunks quite quickly, however any old bait or fish scraps minced up will work a treat. A well presented pencil squid, diver whiting or pilchard floated back down through this berley trail is as good as any bait and when executed right the snapper will find it hard to resist.

The key here is to only use enough weight so that the bait drifts slowly back through the berley trail where the fish are waiting. Too much weight and the bait will sink straight to the bottom missing the fish completely. I like to use an overhead style set up running 30lb braid over a 6-10 kg, 7 foot slow tapering rod, this allows the snapper to really take the bait before feeling any pressure. The use of an overhead allows me to feed line out constantly under controlled tension through my fingers and with the flick of a leaver be able to come up tight and strike on a fish.

The big move to fishing with soft plastics has seen the average size of my fish increase, with some of my biggest catches to date fooled by the life like presentation of a plastic. Soft plastics work considerably well during daylight hours and often prove more successful than conventional bait during these times. The style of soft plastic presentation will depend on the location, current, depth of water and time of day/night. When fishing at night, early mornings or late afternoons the snapper will generally be feeding higher up in the water column. A Zman 5” Curly tail grub in Glow or a 5” Jerk Shad in Coconut Ice or Electric Chicken rigged to a 1/4 or 3/8 oz jig head, depending on the current, is my preferred presentation as this allows the plastic to slowly sink down the water column ready to be intercepted by a feeding snapper. When fishing during daylight hours I will often opt to fish a Zman 3” CrabZ or a 3” ShrimpZ on a heavy 3/4oz jig head as I am targeting fish tight to the bottom. The ideal set up for this is a medium spin outfit consisting of a 3000-4000 size reel spooled with 20lb braid and matched to a 7 foot medium to fast tapering rod.
I have recently been experimenting with the TT lures range of blades and micro jigs with good results on a range of species and I am looking forward to using them more during this coming snapper season. I have no doubt they will prove to be a very successful option and I may devote an article specifically to this style of fishing in the future.

Summing up

I am sure many anglers will have their different opinions, ideas and experiences when it comes to snapper fishing. I have formed mine from my own personal experiences with snapper fishing in my local area of Hervey Bay and from what I have learnt each trip and continue to learn each time I venture out. As with all forms of fishing it is a continual learning process which will vary from one location to another, however the basic principles tend to remain the same. It is as always time and persistence on the water and a desire to experiment and try different approaches that pays dividends in the end.

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