I have caught Squire (juvenile Snapper) many times before but it was now my goal to catch a “real” Snapper and in particular one I could be proud of with a pronounced bump on its head.
We had been invited out a few weeks ago by a good friend to go and try and catch one. It was not a very pleasant day out, with strong winds and a good swell. It wasn’t for the want of trying, moving around between deep and shallow reef systems. Long hours were put in to no avail.
With the desire to still succeed we were invited once more on a 23-foot boat. With light winds from the south up to 11klm and a 2-metre sea, conditions were perfect for a slight drift. With no electric motor fitted some breeze is needed so you can cover ground. Informed that the snapper were at the 200 feet mark (67 metres) we started to sound around some marked rocky areas either looking for bait and or fish markings.
Fishing these depths was new to me. I had previously only fished for Reds in 4m to 21metres of water. When I fish these shallow inshore reefs I am normally using a 2 to 3 gram jig head and am working the plastic back all the way to the boat. Fishing in 200 feet I was about to learn a totally different ball game.
Let me start with the gear and tackled needed. Firstly the rod, I used TC4 Terez Spin 7’2 in length and either the Med SG or M/Hvy SG teamed up with a Stella 4000. If a Stella is out of your price range than any 4000 reel would suit such as a Rarenium or Stradic. You will find 10lb Power Pro and 15lb Fluorocarbon Leader sufficient. Lures are a personal choice but my first choice is the Squidgy Pro Shad in White Lightening in either 100mm or 125mm, closely followed by the 120mm wrigglers and 140mm Flick Bait. Don’t forget to smear S Factor on your plastics. You need to select a jig head that is most suitable to fit your plastic and depth of water you are fishing. Fishing this deep I came prepared with 40gram/1.41oz Squidgy Fish Head, this comes in a 6/0 hook size. I was also introduced to the Nitro Elevator Jig Head in the 56gram/2oz head with a 5/0 hook. I was most impressed with this jig head and set up. The jig head is on a ring allowing the hook and plastic to still work effectively as it is sinking. It will depend on your drift speed on what jig head you use because you want to reach the bottom slowly not bomb the fish.
The idea was to cast up ahead of the way you are drifting and let the lure and line sink down, as the boat catches up you should be near the bottom and then as your line and lure surpasses, the angle of your line will start to lift the lure back off the bottom. Whilst on the bottom you can give it a couple of sharp lifts and then wind it in and start again. We effectively were not working the lures. The theory is that the snapper will take the lure on the drop. With this theory the people I had fished with worked out a simple system. This was to have 2 to 3 rods each sinking at different rates in order to ensure that you always have a lure in the strike zone. So we would cast the first one out as that starts to sink you can then throw out number 2 and then number 3. By the time you get number 3 out, number 1 rod should be almost ready to wind in and start again. So don’t think this is relaxing fishing, it can be quite hectic at times, particularly when you get snagged. A number of Scotty Rod Holders came in handy all around the boat to hold the rods whilst the line was sinking.
The hit is sensational. The snapper don’t muck around when they want to eat it. Before you know it the rod is loaded up and the line is screaming off. As you pick the rod up out of the rod holder, it is a thrill to feel the thumping head shakes and the screaming runs as they try to head to their rocky cover. As Snapper are a school fish it is not uncommon to get double or even triple hook ups. On this particular day I was stoked to have achieved my personal best at 70cm and it was the ugliest looking Snapper with a reel pronounced bump. Scott achieved a 68cm, only 2cm difference but the bump was not as pronounced. I wandered what this meant whether one was male or female. After some research I found out that once a snapper reaches adulthood, usually 30cm, all snapper start to develop fleshy bumps on their forehead. The males will also grow bumps on their noses. The Snapper are also individuals so can look different like you and me.
Fishing this deep does cause Barotrauma to the Snapper. Barotrauma is physical damage to the body tissues caused by rapid changes in pressure. Most common symptom is an inflated swim bladder. Snapper are very slow growing, for example at the maximum size of 1.3m long and approx 20kg the fish is predicted to be 50 years old. So when you are targeting fish this deep it is important that you learn how to effectively release the fish you are not keeping for a feed. Although a female can release over a million eggs per season, very few eggs survive to become adults.
There are 3 different options to release fish with barotrauma. When mild signs of barotrauma such as evident redness around the anus, they should be released at the surface with no treatment. If symptoms are extreme such as an over inflated swim bladder protruding from the mouth then using a weight or cage to return the fish to its capture depth is desired. Venting can also be done in this case but if not experienced can put the fish at great risk. Venting a fish is deflating the swim bladder with a hypodermic needle. The needle needs to be inserted at the intersection of the fifth dorsal spine and the top of pectoral fin.
Well now you are fully armed to go out and catch your personal best. I know I will be trying again and I look forward to your reports. Good luck Vicki.
Vicki Lear is a self confessed fish-a-holic and works as a real estate agent to support her habit. Far from being a “one trick pony” she excels at many diverse styles of fishing from land based game fishing to offshore gamefishing. As well, she kicks most guys butts at Bream and Bass fishing.
Read more of Vicki’s stories here