Fingermark also known as Golden Snapper are right up high on my list of favourite fish to target and catch. Fingermark are very common in our far northern waters and can be found up the creeks/rivers, along the rocky headlands all the way out to the start of the reefs. The bigger models love to sit on Rubble and Wrecks off the coast in anywhere between 10m and 40m of water. There doesn’t have to be huge amounts of structure on the bottom for these fish, just enough to hold bait schools for them to feed on.
Rubble can’t always be found easily so the best places to start are near rocky headlands and on wrecks that are marked on the charts. Once you are confident you can then start to go and sound around out in the paddock on contour lines looking for rubble that will hold those larger Fingermark like the 80cm freight trains.
Once you have found some rubble that is showing bait and larger fish on your sounder it’s not just a matter of dropping down and catching them straight away, even though you might not get any the first trip doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Try the spot on a different tide and moon faze. Most of the Fingermark spots I’ve fished fire of different tides, which goes for the deep and shallow water. The prime time to fish for them in my opinion is early morning or late afternoon and into the evening. One of the great things about targeting these fish on offshore rubble patches is that you will encounter lots of by catch such as Mackerel, Nannies, Cobia and Trout if you’re lucky enough.
There are a couple different methods to targeting these incredible fighting fish, the first is with bait and the second is with artificial’s like Plastics, Jigs or Vibes.
When targeting them with bait you can either use a dropper rig or just a standard running sinker straight to the hook. Their favourite bait would have to be live squid but they will also eat small live fish and dead squid if they are hungry enough. I would be using about 60lb-80lb Mono leader with a 6/0-10/0 Octopus hook depending on your bait size. Using this method you will tend to pick up a lot of small mouth nannies off the bottom, a great eating by catch.
Bait works effectively but in my opinion the most exciting and best way to catch them is on Soft plastics and vibes. My favourite soft plastic to use for them are 7’ Flick bait or Jerk bait style of plastic, These work extremely well when covered in some form of scent and hopped slowly across the bottom. As for the vibes both metal and soft vibes work well but one that I’ve been using lately is the Spanyid vibes in 23g and 30g. These are best worked with 2 or 3 sharp lifts of the rod then let them sink back to the bottom.
Using both of the above plastic and vibe methods is when you will be likely to catch the pelagic’s that also hang around rubbly bottom and wrecks. The leader I recommend when using these techniques is 40lb Fluro carbon because sometimes when fishing plastics and vibes the can be a little hook shy and the lighter you go the more bites you will get.
The gear I use and recommend for these Fingermark may be considered a little too light for some people but I go fishing to have a one on one battle with the fish not to scull drag it to the surface for a feed.
My first combo is the trusty reliable Stradic 3000 Ci4+ spooled with 10lb Power Pro and is matched to a 4-10lb Gloomis GL2. This is a great little set up for plastics and vibes enabling me to work anything up to about 1oz perfectly with the added bonus of feeling every touch. Usually it can handle Fingermark to about 70cm, if I start to get smoked often ill then put down my 30lb combo.
My 30lb outfit is a Shimano 5000 Biomaster SW with 30lb Power Pro depth hunter and a 15-30lb 72’ Shimano Terez Black Rod. This outfit is good for when those bigger fish and pelagics are around, you can really put a stop to where they want to go. This setup is also more suited to the 30m-40m range as it can handle and work the heavier plastics much better than my light outfit.
At the end of the day, as long as you’re out there seeking the rubble you will eventually come across a patch of gold. When you do, keep it close to your chest as those patches are hard to come by but you can always find Fingermark on the wrecks as a backup plan. Fingermark are an excellent table fish but keep in mind that they are very slow growing so please try to release a few if they haven’t suffered from Barotrauma.
Get out there they are worth searching for, once you have found the ground apply the above when starting to target them. Good luck!