Land-Based Fishing: Targeting Snapper

Three beautiful winter snapper in a rock pool.
You don’t need much skill to land decent winter snapper like these, a good plan will suffice.

I start planning most fishing missions by listening to the marine forecast. Foremost, it aids me significantly in judging whether it is safe to go out there or not. Further, it provides me with key information that I use to answer the two most important questions when it comes to fishing.

  • When should I go fishing?
  • Where should I go fishing?

If you are new to (land-based) fishing you might have many more questions but with a bit of experience and expertise it really only comes down to these two questions. I followed the forecast starting from Sunday and my plan was to go fishing, even if only for a couple of hours, some time in this week. We experienced strong (30-50 knots) and cold south-westerlies, together with showers, at times heavy, and a moderate easterly swell. The marine forecast is quite accurate, when you take the time to carefully listen to it, and it stated that the wind would turn from south-west to south-east on Wednesday and built up as of Thursday for the rest of the week.

The forecast for Wednesday was overcast, with a chance of morning showers, variable 5 knots, increasing in the evening, still more than a meter of swell on the east coast, low tide about 1500 o’clock, with a strong tidal stream.

In other words, it has been rough out there and it will be rough again, there is a window of opportunity on Wednesday, where I could fish anywhere comfortably but the east coast. But there is even more useful information if you put it all together. The entire Tryphena area (south-facing) got a battering by the sea for a few days. You can imagine that this results in more food being dispersed into the water, be it washed off from the rocks, like shellfish or crabs, or be it directed from the channel towards the shore.

When it is rough, bigger fish will come in close and use these conditions to their advantage, preying on bait fish that can lose their balance momentarily in the wash. Actually, this white water will allow them to come in close in stealth mode, without being noticed either by any prey and the land-based angler.

My plan was to fish a spot on the south-west coast, fish the outgoing tide, ideally 2-3 hours before low tide. A ledge with deep water right in front and a good current is ideal for a day with big tides.

My gear: big black bag for my catch,  small first aid kit,  bag with tiny sinkers and scissors,  rod holder, sunscreen, eggbeater with 30 pound line, small eggbeater with 6 pound line for bait, 60 pound leader, 20 pound leader,  marine radio, water proof bag, some bits of tackle, pre-tied rigs, fishing hat.
My gear: big black bag for my catch, small first aid kit, bag with tiny sinkers and scissors, rod holder, sunscreen, eggbeater with 30 pound line, small eggbeater with 6 pound line for bait, 60 pound leader, 20 pound leader, marine radio, water proof bag, some bits of tackle, pre-tied rigs, fishing hat.
My snapper rig. one meter 60 pound leader, size 4/0 (snood) and 6/0 hooks (uni-knot), tiny weight. You can see that I pre-tied
My snapper rig. one meter 60 pound leader, size 4/0 (snood) and 6/0 hooks (uni-knot), tiny weight. I’ve pre-tied a hand full of these rigs so I can react quickly when the heat is on and I get snagged.
I like to take my fishing bucket. It was only used to carry fish this time, but I often use it as a live-bait tank. There is a knife, some rope and a few rags in there too.
I like to take my fishing bucket. It was only used to carry fish this time, but I often use it as a live-bait tank. There is a knife, some rope and a few rags in there too. This time I took a bait-rod and a two-piece 8.6 foot rod suited for 30 pound line.

 

That is me all set up and ready to go. Both hands full with a big backpack.
That is me all set up and ready to go. Both hands full with a big backpack. The dry bag is attached to the side, keeping important things and valuables handy.

 

Some rain around Flattop Island and Fletcher's Bay. That rain remained stationary for 3 hours, quite impressive actually.
Some rain around Flattop Island and Fletcher’s Bay. That rain remained stationary for 3 hours, quite impressive actually.
Preferred bait. A bag of pilchards.
Preferred bait. A bag of pilchards.

Bait presentation is obviously important but I believe it is even more important to get a good trail of bait out there. I cut at least half of the 1 kg bag into tiny pieces which I throw into the water. You can catch any size snapper with pilchards, but it is always a good idea  to attract some bait fish with a trail of food. Most of these pieces of pilchards will actually – if you don’t just throw it all far away from you – sink into the foul and weeds around the rocks and entice bigger fish to come in close.

I don’t have the pictures here, but cubing pilchards resulted in small kahawai, a few decent snapper and two giant eagle-rays to come around. If you see rays right up close, hanging in the weeds, it means that the ground baiting has been successful.

Fresh bait is always best. You can catch any size snapper with pilchards, but it is often the fresh bait that get lands the bigger fish.
Fresh bait is always best. You can catch any size snapper with pilchards, but it is often the fresh bait that get lands the bigger fish.

The kahawai head went out straight away and I put the rod into the rod holder, whilst trying to catch more kahawai with the bait rod. However, it didn’t take long until I had a good take, but since it was only short-lived I left the rod in the holder. 5 minutes or so later I was sure to have something at the end of the line, but it behaved rather oddly. I started yanking and felt some sort of shallow hookup, and was pleased to see the following.

A big red cod. Just about 70 cm. It swallowed the whole kahawai head easily.
A big red cod. Just about 70 cm. It swallowed the whole kahawai head easily.

I had three snapper in the rock pool before starting to use the kahawai as bait. As I had hoped, the fresh bait yielded bigger fish. I ground baited the rest of the pilchards and noticed a big snapper feeding right in front of my feet. It took a few attempts but I hooked it and then two more snapper, and ended up releasing the red cod and three smaller snapper.

 

The catch of the day. Well, maybe it was the red cod actually...
The catch of the day. Well, maybe it was the red cod actually…

 

I tried a new way of cooking the snapper.
I tried a new way of cooking the snapper.

The biggest snapper was cut in half and both were fried in oil briefly on each side, then rapped in tin foil and allowed to cook for another 15 minutes on the fire place.

(half) whole fried snapper, with chili sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper and oil.
(half) whole fried snapper, with chilli sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper and oil.

 

2 thoughts on “Land-Based Fishing: Targeting Snapper”

  1. Hey Benny. Sorry for my silence I’ve been horribly busy. So, an excellent and in depth write up, as we have come to expect by now! And yes the most important part is listening to the forecast – it might even save your life! Why didn’t you smoke some of that lot? Are you planning to go again soon? Paul xxxxx

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