When it comes to fishing Snapper are an iconic fish species of both Melbourne and Victoria. Port Phillip Bay & Western Port are prime destinations to target big reds. Information gathered over the last couple of years strongly suggests snapper and pinkie numbers around Port Phillip Bay and Western Port are flourishing. This is amazing news when you consider that South Australia is in crisis talks over declining snapper numbers. Victoria’s last snapper season had its ups and downs. One month was quiet the next crazy, it’s the unpredictable nature of snapper fishing with high-risk high and high rewards that will see local boat ramps jam-packed in the early hours of the morning.

Like all forms of fishing, there are no guarantees when targeting snapper, however, consistent ingredients are an eventual recipe for success. For snapper, these generally consist of a bit of extra time and care to ensure your gear is rigged up correctly, early mornings, fresh bait, and a can-do attitude. Stick to those principals and in due time the results will come.

When is snapper season in Melbourne & Victoria?

In Melbourne and Victoria, the best time to target snapper is between spring and summer. The snapper season generally starts in October and finishes around March. The big reds migrate inshore during this time of year because the water temperatures have increased providing ideal spawning conditions. Dawn and dusk are generally the best times to be out on the water, if you’re fishing the morning then it pays to start early and have your baits out before sunrise. Often, you’ll get a short window of frantic chaos then nothing for hours, which is often the frustrating nature of snapper fishing.

I find that peak snapper season is once water temperatures get between 16 and 18 degrees. Water temperatures above and below that can be more challenging and you can expect a few empty-handed sessions on the water. Many seasoned anglers will attest that optimal conditions are at sunrise and sundown and during tide changes. The currents and light change tend to get them in a more aggressive feeding mood.

How to find snapper when fishing

You can certainly catch snapper whilst land-based fishing but be prepared to put in long hours. For many, you simply can’t beat having a boat. Traditional snapper fishing meant anchoring up in a known location or trusty GPS mark, then spreading out some rods, berleying up, and waiting in anticipation for one of the rods to buckle over with the sound of line peeling from the reel. If you didn’t get a bite, then you might consider moving to another spot and repeating the process.

However, thanks to technology advancements that’s all changing. Local anglers are using their high-tech sounders searching for snapper like hunters on the move, fishing where the fish are. Sounders on the market are more advanced and affordable than ever before and anglers are taking advantage of this improved technology to locate schools of fish and fish-holding structure. Once the fish are located under the boat just drop you baits or work your plastics right on top of them.

 

Fishing gear to target snapper

Fishing Rod for snapper

There are many Snapper rods in the market. They all have several things in common. They are generally 7 foot 6 inches in length and 4-7 kilo class. Historically they were a little heavier than this and were seeing a trend of anglers fishing lighter than this with 3-5 kilo rods becoming more common. However, we would highly recommend the standard 7 foot 6 inches in 4-7 kilo class. Some options include the Shakespeare ugly sticks, Daiwa Saltist, Shimano Raiders, Wilson Live Fibre, Savage Gear 1DFR, and plenty more to match your budget.

Reels to target snapper

4000 size reels are probably the most commonly used size. You can go smaller with a 3000 which is becoming more popular or larger up to 6000. Its personal preference but again 400 is the most commonly used size. These reels come either as a standard reel or bait runner. The advantage of a bait runnier is allowing free spool so when a snapper takes the bait it doesn’t feel any resistance allowing it to run freely until you start to reel and lock the gear into place.

Generally, you would spool you snapper reel with monofilament line in line strength ranging from 15 pounds through to 30 pounds. You can also opt to use braid, but we find most anglers preferring monofilament with some stretch when bait fishing. You would generally finish your setup with a rod length of quality fluoro carbon leader that is between 20 and 40 pounds.

In recent years I have been using a 7 foot 6 inch rod that 4-7 kilo class with a 4000 size reel spooled with 20-pound monofilament and finished with a 40-pound leader.

Snapper rig setup and Pre rigged snapper snatchers

My go-to rig is generally two snelled 5/0 suicide hooks, allowing me to present a full pilchard or silver whiting. I have one very small sinker inside the leader or unweighted. I use 1 meter of quality fluorocarbon leader separated by a swivel. However, recently I have been a big advocate for using premade snapper snelled snatchers and paternoster rigs. I just find them very convenient to use and trust they are made fit for purpose with quality components. Brands such as Reedys Rigs are a great option and affordable.

Best Baits to catch Snapper

Snapper is opportunistic feeders. When there in an aggressive mood they happily take a whole range of different baits. Good choices include pilchards, silver whiting, squid, garfish, mackerel, mullet and scad. Take a variety of baits out with you then load up with whatever is getting hits that day. Fresh baits should be preferred over frozen baits if possible. Just something to keep in mind.

Catching snapper with Soft plastics

There are many soft plastic choices on the market. The most commonly used are large jerk shads, whip baits, curl tails or paddle tails. Most between 4 and 7 inches in size generally coupled with a ½ or ¼ ounce jig head. I was amazed a few years ago to catch an 8 kilo snapper using a 2.5 inch grub in motor oil whilst targeting smaller estuary fish in 5 meters deep water.

Sounders to find snapper

I marvel at the advancements in sounders, sonar and chirp technology. Because of this sounder have become for many the most important tool when snapper fishing. With anglers spending all their time watching the sounder for signs of any arches or bait balls. Then fishing where the fish are. Snapper generally holds the bottom so look for arches towards the bottom, and also keep out for signs of bait balls. Sounders come in a vast range of budgets, sizes and capability. Some known brands will include Simrad, Garmin, Lowrance, Furuno & Hummingbird. All should be professionally installed by your local marine mechanic who can ensure the transducer has been installed correctly.

Have a look at our GPS marks to get you started on finding good grounds with your sounder. I find it amazing at times watching the sounder for signs of life. I have found that my fishing techniques have changed becoming more Intune with the information that the sounder is continually providing.

Berley

Those who will stick to fishing with bait then creating a continual berely trail is very important. You can achieve this in several different ways. One method is to simply cut off chunks of pilchards and throw a scattered handful around the boat every 10 minutes. This is often referred to as chumming.

You can also buy berley cages that you can tie onto your boat or some boats have berely cages premade attached t the boat. You can fill these with berley bombs which you can buy from your local tackle store. Or you can create your own using cut-up pilchards, Tuna oil, Berley pellets or for those looking for an option that’s easy and less smelly you can buy premade snapper berley pellets and simply throw out a handful around your boat regularly. Some options work better than others but it’s an important step that should not be overlooked.

Snapper hot spots around Melbourne

Black Rock, Ricketts Point, Mornington, Corio bay, Port Melbourne, Williamstown, Werribee, the stick, P2, T14 to T18 markers, Spoil grounds, Fawkner beacon just to name a few.  Be sure to check out our GPS marks page.

 

Additions or Corrections

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