We all have a soft spot for a particular species, be it for their fighting quality, table fare or just their looks. Here in my local waters of SA we have a stunning reef fish that slips under the radar a lot, and in my opinion is an underrated species for what the fish offers. Queen snapper are a stunning looking fish straight from the water, they are fantastic on the table, and to be honest they’d pull a similar-sized pink snapper backwards!
Queen snapper, or more commonly referred to as a blue morwong, are actually a different species from the east coast blue morwong, with our southern species growing to an impressive 12kg. They are found along our southern coastline from Kangaroo Island westward, and throughout the South West of WA as well.
Predominantly found in water depths of around 25 to 40m, occasionally queen snapper will venture into shallower water – especially the juveniles. Smaller queen snapper possess a black spot on each flank which fades with age. Adult queen snapper are a brilliant blue with purple and yellow pinstripes across their heads, simply stunning fish.
They have large lips which are very sensitive, and often the bite is quite subtle and delicate, but once they feel the hook set it’s a different story. Queen snapper are clean fighters, but because of the reefy terrain in which they live, they do occasionally rub you off on the reef below. The average size of queen snapper we find along our coastline are fish in the 2 to 4kg bracket, with the occasional larger fish of 5 to 7kg thrown in. These larger models go hard, and even on relatively heavy gear will give you a run for your money.
We generally look for queen snapper in similar territory to which we find deep water red snapper. We concentrate our fishing along the bottom edge of larger reefs and even along shoaly reef away from main structures. If for example a reef rises from 50m of water up to 30m, then we’ll prospect the edge of the reef in around the 45m depth range looking for queen snapper. On top of the reef you see a lot more rubbish fish, with the bigger queen snapper often cruising around the outer perimeter before the reef plateaus into flat ground.
Queen snapper are quite opportunistic in their feeding. They have a soft-spot for squid strips or squid heads, which would be their preferred bait. On the artificial side, they swipe at soft plastics such as 110mm flick baits weighted with a 28g or even 40g jig head. Because of the depths associated with queen snapper large jig heads are necessary. Other effective lures include 60g and 80g lucanus jigs.
On the tackle front, an 8 – 10kg threadline outfit is ideal for queen snapper, and will offer plenty of sport. My favoured queen snapper outfit is an 8 – 10kg T-curve, a Sustain 5000 FG and 30lb Power Pro braid. Although queen snapper are great on the table, they are such a stunning fish that sometimes I find it hard to put them in the esky. They don’t suffer from barotrauma like pink snapper do, so they do release quite well.