Is there anything better then dropping a bait and not knowing what you might reel up?

Unexpected catches

Unexpected Catches

By Jamie Crawford


One of the great things I love about our sport is the unpredictability. Even though we have a fair understanding of species distribution we still get the occasional disoriented fish arriving on the scene from waters further afield. It’s always a bonus and a bit of a buzz when this happens; and makes you wonder what other off-course species are roaming in unfamiliar waters.

Similarly, it’s a windfall if you are targeting a specific fish and an unexpected species (although likely endemic) takes a liking to your lure or bait, and gives you a solid run for your money. We’ve caught a few decent mulloway while targeting salmon from the surf during daylight hours, and similarly some big snapper from the surf while targeting mulloway, amongst other unusual captures.

Fish don’t have a rule-book outlining where and when they can feed; which gives fishing an exciting edge of unpredictability. I love seeing a rod buckle over the side of the boat, and you’re left guessing the identity of the unknown species all the way to the surface. We’ve had a couple of surprise catches lately in our local area down here in SA, which I’ll detail below. 

Surprise Snapper

We recently had a school shark session over a deep reef offshore from Port Lincoln in South Australia. It was late in the day, and we anchored over a reef drop-off in around 30m of water. We lowered a cage of berley to the bottom just as the tide slowed towards the peak of high tide. There were two of us onboard my boat, and we both dropped a large bait on a 9/0 hook crimped to 0.8mm wire to the bottom, hoping for one of these revered benthic sharks to find our baits.

I was using a Shimano Trinidad 16N for the first time, spooled with Depth Hunter Power Pro braid. Around half an hour had passed before my Trinidad howled to life. We assumed our target species was the culprit, but mid-fight we could see a large red flank coming up through the depths. We were both amazed when a solid snapper surfaced, with the large hook and steel trace pinned in the corner of the fish’s mouth.

Blue morwong

Blue morwong are a prized catch from deep water reefs offshore from our southern coastline. They fight hard and taste fantastic. They generally inhabit reefs from 40m downwards, and are usually found in offshore waters well away from the coastline. 

We were recently fishing out from a small seaside town called Port Neill, and were targeting snapper over shallow to mid-depth limestone reef within the protected waters of Spencer Gulf. Late in the day I set the hook on what we thought was a decent snapper, and we were surprised when a solid blue morwong surfaced. This is an unusual species for Gulf waters, and the first we have seen or heard of in this area.

Samson fish

Samson fish are a coveted species in SA, and make an appearance on a number of deep reefs throughout the state at various times of the year. Samsons can be fickle though; making a showing on one day, then disappearing the next. A little while ago we were enjoying an inshore snapper session in shallow water up Spencer Gulf, litterally a stone’s throw from shore. 

We began berleying over the shallow bommie, and not long later had a decent snapper swim up the berley trail. We flicked some baits back in the berley trail, and my fishing mate, Matt Beckmann, hooked up soon afterwards. We assumed he had locked horns with the snapper we had just seen, but the fight was quite drawn out. We were surprised when a neat Samson fish was led to the environet – a real oddity for both shallow water, and for Gulf waters.

Surprise catches add excitement and variety to everyday fishing. By taking the time to tie quality knots, and using quality tackle you’re giving yourself a reasonable chance at landing these unexpected hook-ups. We are looking forward to finding out what other unusual captures are lurking in our local waters!