TOP FIVE SNAPPER ALTERNATIVES

With snapper off the cards in South Oz for the next few years as part of a radical new management strategy to help return the species to their former glory, their absence has left some anglers scratching their heads wondering what to target, and how to utilise their snapper-sized gear.

While not much compares to a head-shaking, braid-peeling big red, all is not lost however, as there’s still an entertaining spread of options to focus on down south. As an added bonus many of these can be caught on the same outfits, and even lures, as you’d traditionally use for reds, making the transition to chase them low-fuss and reasonably low-cost. Below is a quick grab of the ‘alternative’ crew to put the cross hairs on if you’re suffering from snapper withdrawals!

BIGHT REDFISH

One of the first logical alternative species when looking to use your snapper tackle on the reefs are Bight redfish. Also called nannygai in SA, these bucket-mouth fish are common on many medium to deep water reefs where you’d previously chase snapper, or are quite targetable on the deeper reefs where they can be the dominate catch. Given you may encounter the odd snapper when chasing them, be sure to bring a release weight to get any reds back down in the best possible shape, and even shift locations if you encounter too many snapper.

A fun-filled way to score a bunch of Bight redfish is to use micro jigs, or basically any jig type you care to mention when it comes to the crunch, and this gear is literally the same you’d use for snapper. Dedicated micro jig outfits make this fishing so much more effective and enjoyable, with something like a Ocea Jigger 1500HG reel running 20lb Power Pro Depth Hunter on a Trevala TVSC-63L a perfect example of an overhead micro jig setup. Similarly in spin, a Stradic XG 5000, on a matching Grappler will provide you with a light yet powerful setup.

Jig wise any options from 20g up to 150g can work depending on depth and current, with both slow and high action jigs deadly. Tiger Baku Baku are perfect for nagging away at the bottom, while Coltsniper Wonderfall and Sardine Waver have ample action to trigger a reaction bite and catch any mid-water jig eaters while you’re at it. Soft plastics in the 5-7 inch range will also be scoffed. All typical snapper ammo, but highly effective on monster nannies!

Bait wise you can use a standard snapper outfit for the reefs, with a 4000-6000 sized reel, 20-50lb braid and a 7ft rod – not much of a change-up at all really. It’ll also perfectly cope with gummy sharks that are likely by-catch. On charter, or DIY, Bight redfish are an easy and entertaining way to get your reef fishing fix.    

MULLOWAY – ESTUARY & BEACH

If you’re after a like-for-like target that pulls some string, gets the heart rate spiking, and is more than targetable with much of your snapper gear, then mulloway tick the box. Whether in the estuary or on the beach these fish are a perennial warm season favourite in SA.

Estuary anglers have been revelling in an above average run of better sized mulloway into waterways such as the Coorong and Onkaparinga this year, with the Port River on Adelaide’s doorstep set to come online shortly and hopefully give up some epic chrome encounters.

In the estuary when you’re deliberately going after a better class of mulloway using live or dead baits, it’s common to use gear the same as what you would when bait fishing for snapper. This might entail running 20-50lb plus braid on a 7ft rod, and 5000-8000 threadline or medium sized overhead.

Those into throwing lures in the estuary for mullys will find their ‘snapper on plastics’ outfits to perfectly fit this fishing. Namely a 3000 to compact 5000 threadline on a nice crisp rod up to 7ft in length, fishing 12 to 30lb braid. Such outfits are ideal for pitching 5-7 inch Squidgies around, or working vibes, hard-bodies and other fake mulloway candy in these systems.

On the beach your ‘snapper on bait’ reel can double as a surf mulloway reel, or can stop gummy sharks and mid-sized bronze whalers should they jump on. If you have around 250-300m of 30-50lb braid you’re in the game for fish of any size, and backed by Shimano quality it will withstand the elements no problems. Both large baitrunners and standard spin reels will fill the gap, while some overheads like the Torium for example, are perfectly at home in a cast role on the beach as well as boat duties.

BLUEFIN BONANZA

A hot target at the minute in SA, and one set to continue for a while yet, is the autumn school-sized bluefin, which mostly fall in the 10-25kg range. Snapper tackle works perfectly for these tuna both when casting or trolling.

Given the almost cookie-cutter size of these tuna it’s fairly safe to use reasonably sporty tackle. A 7ft rod and 4000-6000 sized reel is a perfect outfit for throwing soft plastics, poppers or stickbaits like the Coltsniper Rockslide at these fish. On the troll your heavier snapper bait gear is perfect for knocking over the smaller to medium tuna. If you’re consistently getting 20kg plus fish you may want to consider a shorter rod option, but otherwise you should land most tuna if you’re patient enough and resist the old high stick technique!

SURF SAMBOS

With the cooler months here now is the time to be thinking about large salmon in the surf down south. Similar to mulloway, your heavier snapper reel can slot straight into heavy spin and bait work for salmon, strapped to either a 9-12ft Revolution rod.

The soft plastic/lure outfit you used for snapper is a perfect lighter surf option for hurling poppers, stickbaits, metals or plastics into the suds. Something like a two-piece Revolution Snapper 702, matched with a 3000 to 5000 reel and 20lb braid, you can throw lures a mile and have a ball on jumbo salmon. Obviously make all efforts to keep your pride and joy clear of the sand and clean thoroughly at the end of the session, but otherwise it’ll soon seem like a seamless fit!    

RAT KINGS & OTHERS

Offshore there’s an array of hard pulling fish waiting to be tamed here in SA. Smaller to medium kings and samson are more than catchable on the gear you previously used for snapper. Micro jigging offshore will see you connect with kings, samson, blue groper, large silver trevally and much more, and while you can step your line class up a touch if you wish, many of these fish are stoppable on snapper-grade lure tackle if they’re not in XL sizes.

Rat-sized kingfish have been particularly prolific in SA over the last few months, with large scale reported escapes from kingfish farms causing an influx of these pocket rockets right around the coastline. For inshore boaties, and both rock and jetty fishos this has been a source of some great sessions, with lures and baits accounting for the fish. They’re again a prime candidate for your existing red tackle, or the perfect excuse to buy some more!

With all the other species on offer, there’s plenty to bide the time with until our beloved big reds are again back on the hit list. Until then there’s some serious fish to be caught!