If you ask any avid anglers what their preferred winter target is a lot of them will single out the glorious snapper. This highly sought after species is a prime candidate for most anglers due to their accessibility for land based and small boat owners, with amazing fighting capabilities on the right gear. Winter provides the slower trickle of current to fish and (usually) calmer weather days to target these ‘reds’ in the deep – a depth which I use significantly different tactic to targeting them in the shallows. I classify ‘deepwater’ anything from 50m to 100m +.
One of the most frequently asked question I get in the shop is what is the most versatile outfit you can buy, I generally always go to a 4000/5000 size reel with rod suitable for 20lb braided line and it’s because it’s my preferred outfit for snapper and small pelagics with a myriad of different techniques. Any reel in this size with a rod slightly longer than your ‘traditional’ 7ft length is my pick, the extra length has given me no issues at all with fish close to the boat and I’ve gained the extra casting distance ability along with more rod to detect and see any enquiries. A good quality 20lb braid with 25-30lb leader is my pick, I don’t think the fish in deeper water are as spooky as when they are in the shallows so heavier leader is absolutely fine (as long as it’s a quality brand!)
Techniques and Lures
Floater fishing or stray lining in this depth is incredibly effective. I always thought of snapper as a wily fish like a bream – the bigger ones are smarter and to fool larger fish you need to make your bait look as natural as possible when it’s sinking. Very much like jighead selection, selecting your sinker size is more crucial than the bait.
Another key factor is the art of letting the correct amount of line out, just enough so the current will not create a big ‘belly’ between you and your bait and not having too much tension to hinder the natural sink rate which can cause the bait to pane up in the water column. This is very much an experience based skill that is bettered with more time on the water!
A longer leader helps with the slow sink rate of braid too. I am a big fan of using fresh caught baits, we always usually encounter pike and barracouta which always gets donated to our cutting board. Berley is not crucial but always recommended for this type of fishing. When the current is running we always utilise a ‘Secret Weapon’ to make sure the burley is hitting the right zone.
Kaibura Style Jigs (aka Octopus jigs)
One of the easiest methods to target a variety of bottom dwellers, I usually just deadstick these in the rod holder a couple of winds off the bottom but you can work them. Either a big slow rod length lift up and letting it back down or a very slow wind up 10-20m off the bottom and letting it slowly sink back down in free spool (always usually get eaten on the drop with this method). There’s been many times where these are the star performer of the session. I cheat a little bit and stick tiny bit of bait on one of the hooks, careful not to add too much as the baited hooks can lag behind the weighted head on the descent.
There are two methods to this, either I deadstick a plastic in a rod holder – I usually go with a heavier jighead than what I would go with when I drift in the shallows (keep it off the bottom to discourage any undesirables). The deepwater snapper don’t seem to be as fussy, I will occasionally still get hits on the drop but more often than not it starts with inconspicuous bites into a full load up with a charging red that hammered the plastic!
Another great little invention I use with a different tactic is the Berkely Elevator jigheads. These come with the added enticement of lumo heads, they drop fast and the separation between jighead and hook via a split ring allows maximum action of the plastic. Once these have reached the bottom I actually give these a bit of action until I start getting some more solid enquires then strike when I feel a more firm take. Deadsticking these work well too but I try just to maximise activity with action due to way these are rigged.
Deepwater Snapper Gear Recommendations
As the cool Westerly winds begin to chill us to the bone, as a rock fisherman, my mind starts to drift from summertime pelagics, to the local wash zone.
That small strip of whitewater surging between boulders, up gutters and over ledges.
This is the home of those stocky, broad shouldered brawlers that I love, The Black Drummer, Rock Blackfish, or simply Pig.
Have you ever thought of taking up flyfishing? Perhaps you thought it was too hard? Too
expensive? Too complicated? Too mysterious? Or maybe you thought it just made catching
fish too hard? The answer to almost every flyfishing question is that “it depends”. In the
case of most of these statements, they are not true.