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28 Jul 2023

Tips for catching Snapper

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Snapper are a great species for new and experienced anglers alike. As one of Victoria’s tastiest table fish, they’re a popular target throughout the warmer months of the year.

Where to catch them around Melbourne?

Snapper are distributed widely throughout Australia and managed in 12 different ‘stocks’. We have 2 stocks in Victoria, and thanks to the work of the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA), the Western Victorian stock is one of the healthiest in the country.

These fish live in the area between Wilsons Prom and near the mouth of the Murray River (Kangaroo Island) in South Australia. It’s about 1000 kms of coastline. The second stock in Victoria is called the Eastern Victorian stock. This stock spreads from the Eastern side of Wilsons Prom up to Eden in southern NSW.

Although you can catch Snapper all year round, the prime time to catch snapper in Port Phillip (PPB) and Westernport Bay (WPB) is September through January while they are in the bays to reproduce. September sees the start of the migration into the bays, which peaks in October and finishes around November/December. October/November is by far the best time to catch snapper, as it is when the largest populations of fish are in our bays.

In WPB – Upon entering many fish head to the north and northeast of the bay. Why? It’s warmer and the rivers and creeks flush out lots of nutrients that support the their food chain.

In PPB – As they enter, many fish head towards an area known as Carum Bight (Ricketts Point (Mordialloc) to Mornington). As nutrients flow from the Yarra River into Carum Bight, a little eddy current holds the nutrients in the area, making it an amazing nursery for the larvae floating around.

“Early season marks Aug/Sept, water temp 14 degrees. I’ll fish these spots during the winter also.”

“Mid season marks Oct/Nov, water temp 15-19 degrees. For me the magic water temp is around 17 degrees.”

“Late season marks Dec/Jan, water temp 20-21 degrees. Breeding occurs around 18-20 degrees which is generally around Christmas time. They can go off the bite whilst they are spawning. After spawning several fish start to leave the Bays in December and another large exit migration in April/May.”

Favourite bite times – Time of the day to fish for them?

It would be really nice if we didn’t have to work or have other things to do, but if you can plan your trip these are some things to look out for.

  • 2hrs either side of a tide change (big influence of choosing when I fish in WP)
  • Sunrise & Sunset
  • When a tide change happens at the same time as a sunrise or sunset

Other factors:

  • Rising or high barometer (change in atmospheric pressure)
  • The week before or after a full moon, even a moonrise or moonset.
  • Windy or choppy conditions – Mornington and Mordialloc Pier fish well during windy conditions. The snapper come in close during rough weather to feed.

Catch and Bag limits

  • Legal size is 28cm
  • 10 fish in total no more than 3 fish over 40cm (nose to tip of tail). To maintain our snapper fishery please only take what you need and remember it’s a limit, not a target.
  • Snapper are extremely slow growing and can grow to over 10kg and live over 40 years
  • Pinkies become sexually mature around 40cm when they are about 6 years old.
  • 60cm fish – approx. 12 year old
  • 70cm fish – approx. 20 years old


  • I fish mainly WPB, so my gear is a little heavier than I’d recommend for PPB, due to the fast running water, need for heavier sinkers and variety of good size gummies and other bi catch.
  • 7ft boat rod line class 8-15kg. I have 6000 size reels.
  • I use 20lb braid, sometimes 30lb if it’s a really good quality. With a 60lb leader.
  • Sinkers – as small as will hold your bait on the bottom. You can go lighter in shallow water but the deeper faster running water I mainly use 10oz
  • Strong barrel swivel. My normal set up is barrel swivel to around a metre of leader. As far as a set up goes for PPB, I tend to use the same but with a little tiny sinker ½ oz or float my baits down. You can use a small running ball sinker above the hooks.
  • Hooks circle hooks (5-7 O). Much better for catch and release and less risk of the fish being gut hooked. Slow lift, not a big strike.


I don’t use it much in WPB (just because of the fast flow- only on the tide turn) but I recommend it for PPB. I use a small cut up bit of the bait I’m using- pilchard, silver whiting, red rockets etc. A bit of Tuna oil and chicken pellets also work well.


  • Two must haves – pilchard and squid but anything fresh is also great.
  • Calamari rings – single hook, especially mid-season.
  • I’ve caught the most amount of snapper on Pilchards. Snapper eat their food headfirst so make sure the hook is exposed near the head/gills and place the second hook in the middle of the pilchard with a half hitch around the tail. This will help it to sit straight nicely in the water.

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