Fishing for Snapper in Australia has long been one of the most popular types of fishing. Chrysophrys auratus or knobby snapper are one of the most important food fishes in Australia and are one of the more prolific of the larger southern demersal reef species. The fish is characterised by the large bump or knob that starts to develop when the fish gets to about 3kgs. A fully grown fish will have a large pronounce bump on the top of his head hence the name knobby.
Small fish without the bump are known as squire. These fish can be found over an absolutely massive area from Geraldton in the west all the way around the southern coast and up the east coast to about Bowen in north Qld. These fish are also wide spread through New Zealand although strangely enough the snapper over there don't get the bump on their head but they are the identical species.
Snapper are a handsome deep red in colour and have a hard bony mouth that demands the sharpest of hooks if you are going to land one. They bite well on cut baits of fresh fish or squid as well as live baits in the form of slimy mackerel or tommy ruff. The biggest fish i have seen have been taken on live baits although I have caught fish to 10kg on whole dead gar and mullet fillets.
When fishing for snapper in Australia, burley is key. Snapper, like red emperor, are very active feeders and will school up into large shoals where the fish are usually of a uniform size. Try to anchor the boat just up current of the school and start to burley with chopped pilchard, tuna, mackerel or even chicken pellets with some tuna oil. Snapper will move right up off the bottom toward the boat when following the burly and can be easily hooked by dropping a lightly weighted bait back in the current. Snapper are particularly active at night.
Another ever increasingly more popular method of catching snapper is on the soft plastics. Lures such as the "berkly gulp" variety have proven themselves to be absolutely deadly on the snapper. I have seen two guys out fish 8 other people who were fishing with bait while jigging lightly weighted soft plastics. All you have to do is drop the plastic back in the burley trail and give it a couple of short sharp jigs every few seconds. One thing i have noticed is that snapper will often hit a plastic while it is on the drop so you have to be on the ball if you are going to hook one.
If you are using bait however it is very important that you don't strike too early. Snapper will often grab a bait and run with it to get it away from the other fish. You really have to freespool snapper for a good 5 or 6 meters before you strike to ensure that the hook is actually in its mouth.
When these fish are on the bite it is not uncommon for a boat to catch its bag limit fairly easily. Snapper yield large flaky white fillets that are rated very highly for the table. These fish do grow quite large, up to 20kgs in fact so it is a good idea not to take too many.
Professional fishermen have nearly wiped out snapper stocks around many ports and it is only recently through heavy regulation that we have seen stocks improve.
So when fishing for snapper in Australia, limit your catch don't catch your limit.