It’s a fairly simple method for targeting these fish, and it’s a method which hasn’t changed too much in recent years. We look for a significant reef system in the 30 to 70m depth range, and we sound-out obvious ledges and bumps over this reef, looking for signs of life on our sounder. On our sounder we’re looking for markings of fish sitting pretty close to this structure; usually within 2 to 3m of the bottom. Sometimes these appear as just a few scattered soundings, other times we pick up a dense school.
With each of these species we have a good bite period at first light, and again around sunset. We do get some nice fish during the middle of the day too, especially around the change of the tide, but in general the fish are slower to bite. Once we have found our chosen reef and there appears to be life on the bottom, we drop a standard paternoster rig with two 8/0 hooks, and around 6oz of lead to the bottom. Because we see a lot of smaller reef fish in the same area, the use of tougher baits such as squid and octopus is an advantage.
We usually fish on the drift; we don’t drop the anchor. This allows us to cover ground and locate a school of fish, provided the speed of drift isn’t too high. Once our baits hit the bottom, we usually lift the baits about a metre or two from the bottom, to prevent getting fouled on the reef below. Then it’s a case of slowly lifting and dropping the rod tip. Keeping the baits on the move can help nearby reef fish see your baits.
When you find a school of red snapper, the action can be thick and fast, and while they don’t fight as hard as a pink or queen snapper, they’re still fun to catch. Queen snapper are the toughest of these three snapper species.