Midweek snapper sessions become a little more common as we enter the warmer months here in South Australia. Spring and summer are renowned for their strong afternoon sea breezes, so making the most of your opportunities when the weather permits is really important if you’re keen on hitting the fish in optimum lure fishing conditions.
South-west to south-east winds that follow our coastline up through St Vincent’s Gulf can be a real pain in the backside at times. 15-25 knots is pretty standard from about lunchtime onwards and, no matter what trailer boat you’re in, winds of that strength are downright uncomfortable! Thankfully, we had a marginally favorable forecast on a recent Sunday, so a couple of mates, Kiel and Alex, decided to join me in the Bar Crusher for an early morning snapper session.
The plan was to launch at 6:00am on Sunday and be fishing by 6:30. In my opinion, sunrise, the turn of the tide and sunset are the most productive periods for snapper in St Vincent’s Gulf. The fish are more mobile at these times and if you are patient enough, you will find the schools more often.
As we approached the end of the breakwaters, we began cursing the weather forecasters for sticking ‘true to form’. As usual, the 10-15 knot southerly was in fact 15-20 knots from the south to south-east, with occasional gusts of over 20 knots.
An hour later and we finally arrived at the grounds we intended to fish. We were fishing the last two hours of the outgoing tide, which caused a wind against tide affect and helped to slow the drift down just enough to allow our lures to hit the bottom without too many hassles. The first few laps didn’t show too many decent schools at all, so we decided to do a long drift with all three lures being worked in different directions. This allowed us to cover as much area as possible, which in turn would help locate where the fish were holding. Over the next few drifts we managed to pick up three fish of around 50cm before it went dead quiet. I motored around for another half an hour with no sounding of any decent sized schools, so we decided to pull the pin and head to another spot in slightly shallower water.
I backed off well before the next spot and slowly motored on track when the sounder screen appeared to be having issues and was indicating a depth reading of only two metres. The fish were just under the boat! I looked over the side and saw a red tinge in the water. I could not believe my eyes. Within a matter of seconds three rods came from the rocket launcher and three soft plastics were deployed. Less than five metres of line had fallen from the spool of my 4000 Stella before it suddenly stopped, which meant that it must have been inhaled by a fish only a few metres under the surface. I flicked the bail arm over and the rod loaded right up. It was safe to say I was pretty happy at this point.
This was an entirely new method of fishing for Kiel and Alex and when I looked at the sounder again, I knew that things were about to get pretty hectic on board the Bar Crusher! I told both guys to flick their bail arms back over and strike hard. The next 20 or 30 seconds were pure music to fishermen’s ears, with three spin reels spewing line to solid reds. It became a matter of “You go under me” and “No, no, you go over me” for the next few minutes, and eventually three very solid snapper were boated. They measured 94, 94 and 96cm in length, which is pretty amazing snapper fishing in anyone’s book!
We had 30 minutes left of the run out tide and the next hour produced nothing short of absolutely sensational snapper fishing. There were literally thousands of snapper under us and the Squidgies were getting annihilated as soon as they hit the water.
We were allowed three more snapper over 60cm in length and, thankfully, the next two fish were 101 and 102cm. Metre-long reds aren’t taken for granted here in South Australia; it doesn’t happen as often as most people in the East think, so we were absolutely pumped!
With one more fish to go, we decided to get the Canon Digi-Troll downrigger out and run a slightly larger hard body lure to see what we could manage. I tied a Halco 190mm Laser Pro in gold and red colour to the 40 pound leader and we slowly trolled through the strike zone. The sounder lit up, but no hook up resulted. I was a bit confused, but figured the fish were on the move and the sounding indicated a slightly smaller school.
I did a slow 180-degree turn and changed the path slightly as we tracked back, which proved fruitful. There was no school on the sounder, but a school passing the lure was obvious as the rod buckled, flicked up and screamed off. Kiel grabbed the rod, I took the boat out of gear and hit ‘Auto Up’ on the downrigger and it was all systems go again. A good fight on light spin gear produced a lovely snapper of 93cm, which was the final fish we needed to reach our boat limit of six over 60cm. Kiel had never caught a snapper on a hard body lure before so he was absolutely stoked, to say the least!
We placed the fish on ice and all took a deep breath before noticing that the wind had backed off. I told the guys that it would be the perfect time to head home and finish off a great day’s fishing with a much calmer trip back than the trip on the way out. We’d had a great day out and managed to boat some truly memorable fish.
Spring often brings in some awesome snapper schools, and although the sea breezes can make fishing trips a little bit tricky, it definitely pays off if you have a bit of patience.