At times it is very easy to shoot over shallow reef and kelp beds in our excitement to tangle with a red or two; but much of the time, we will be passing over the very fish we wish to catch.
However, if you do choose to mooch around in close, you should be prepared to adjust the game plan. Snapper are shy fish and blasting outboards, splashing anchor and rattling chains do little more than send them into hiding.
By Shallows I mean those reef and kelp beds that lie in 10m-15m of water. These are often the bait grounds that holds schools of pilchards, whitebait and slimey mackerel. They can be busy first up as anglers fill their tanks with livies, but after the rush, they empty of traffic quickly.
The shallows are the place of quiet. Drifting over onto fish without the outboard and carefully slipping in the anchor (should you choose to use one at all), is a large key to success. Lighter lines and minimal sinker weights also important.
A good-sized red is a powerful fish and once hooked, they can really go hard.
In shallow water the danger of being reefed multiplies because there is less depth in which to swim, so if there is danger on the bottom, a fish in the shallows is much more likely to find it. They shoot around low in the water column and often head for the security of kelp and reefy structure, and in so doing, reef the angler with regularity.
One solution is to fish with heavier line and stronger A 15kg braid with a 30lb fluorocarbon leader is an ideal ‘heavy’ outfit that is light enough to allow for easy casting and it is not so thick that bites become hard to detect, yet it is strong enough to allow for heavy handling on behalf of the angler. That said, a 5kg snapper can be hard to hold and an 8-10kg thumper is usually impossible to stop quickly.
The downside with heavier gear comes in the form of fewer bites from wary fish. If you’d rather have fun with 5-7kg lines, you’ll definitely enjoy the fight from smaller fish, but at the expense of landing the big ones. You’ll probably catch more fish in the process.
All is not lost however, because big snapper on light gear can still be landed regularly if you are quick to chase them from a drifting boat. Following big fish enables the angler to stay on top of the fish and keep line up, it also enables you to put a significant upwards pull on the fish, and hopefully lift it into mid-water. Of course you can be lucky and have a big fish that swims up off the bottom. In my experience, they do prefer to stay low, but not all the time.
Soft plastics continue to be the backbone of a well-established snapper sports fishery. By replacing ½ oz jig heads with ¼oz and 1/3 oz jig heads, the plastic will sink at a slower rate, thus providing the necessary ‘hang-time’ in the mid-water zone.
Snagging on the bottom becomes more likely in shallow water, so it is worth considering rigging plastics ‘weed-less’ on a wide-gape worm hook. The worm hooks with a weight moulded mid-way down the shank helps the plastic sink in a horizontal orientation as well as reducing the snag rate. Bear in mind however, that the down side of hooking the bottom less often transfers to hooking snapper less often as well. Each anglers needs to weigh the pros and cons, but for what it’s worth, I rig weed-less on the ‘shocker’ days.
Hard bodies are a productive option if they can be trolled without spooking fish. The most successful means of using deep diving hard-bodies is to troll with an electric motor or behind a kayak. Outboards spook too many fish in the shallows.
Soft plastic vibes are another option for the shallows. By being able to equate the depth of the lure during the retrieve, snapper respond well to a slow rolling retrieve as well as a lift and drop motion.
I have two favourite outfits for my snapper fishing. I prefer to use spinning reels because of their ability to cast light lures, and to allow me to sink the lure on slack line.
My Daiwa reels have awesome drags, which is a vital feature when fishing lighter lines on tight drags. Snapper fight with an irregular combination of powerful runs, bumps and rolls; making a smooth drag essential for success.
The rods should be able to cast lures a decent distance, yet have power in the butt section when needed.
My two outfits consist of the Generation Black Swamp Donkey (for the tough work over kelp) and a Generation Black Supa Caster (when longer casts are required). My reels of choice are a 3000 Certate and a 4000 Sol II. I’ve just added a 3502 Blast to the arsenal, and given its awesome drag and light weight, I reckon it will be perfect!