How to catch fingermark bream (golden snapper)

Fingermark (Lutjanus johnii) distribution map

Fingermark bream (Lutjanus johnii), called golden snapper or “goldies” in the Northern Territory, are a fish of coastal rocky reefs and rockbars.

They are truly desirable fish, having excellent eating and fighting qualities.

Big fish are heavy shouldered, with a golden sheen.

This species should perhaps be called only golden snapper because the name “fingermark” is often used for moses perch, a species with a more obvious dark spot on its flank.

Goldies have been recorded from roughly WA’s Pilbara across the north to the central Queensland coast around Gladstone, but are most common in the far north.

They are essentially an estuary and coastal fish, nonetheless they grow to 10kg on Australia’s East Coast.

Small fish are found in tidal creeks, especially creeks with a lot of rock, and as they grow they move out onto coastal reefs and headlands.

The biggest fish often loiter near the edges of sloping rock shelfs where the rock joins a mud bottom in 25m to 35m of water.

Big fish can be caught in shallower and deeper water. The tops of sloping rocky reefs, about 5m to 15m deep, tend to have a lot of coral growth on them and hold parrot fish, spanish flag, coral trout and the like, but goldies will show up in these places.

Rocky reefs are the go-to spots. Look for rock patches around deep channels.

In creeks, fish the rockbars.

Goldies are also caught over flat rubble grounds and around wrecks and artificial reefs.

These fish will show up around wharves and headlands, and big ones are caught off beaches at Cape York Peninsula as they patrol at night at high tide.

Smaller fish will move over mudflats with a rising tide.

Goldies have good eyesight and can be a tricky fish – in clear water the big ones are best fished at night.

Always use fresh bait for these fish. Live squid will fool the biggest ones in clear water areas.

Dead baits should be as fresh as possible. Thawed packet squid can work when the fish are biting well.

Big tides tend to produce a better bite. They often feed fast and furiously at the turn of the tide.

Goldies will take lures, but bait usually works best.

These are a tasty species but also very slow growing and it is therefore important to stick to bag limits to ensure their fishing future.

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Some external videos about how to catch fingermark are featured below.

Catching big fingermark

Catching fingermark on soft plastics

When to catch mackerel in Moreton Bay

Spanish mackerel are usually most abundant in south-east Queensland waters and Brisbane’s Moreton Bay between January and May.

Spotted mackerel are usually best in Moreton Bay from December to June, but are often caught in the bay all year.

Doggie (school) mackerel are caught all year in Moreton Bay.

The key to finding mackerel is to find bait schools.

Mackerel will also be found around verticle structure such as shipping pylons.

Spotted mackerel often feed near the surface and seabirds can give away their presence.

Unlike spotted mackerel, doggie mackerel aren’t usually found at the surface.

Instead, they can be found using a sounder, and are often found over the best winter (diver) whiting grounds.

Most of Moreton Bay will produce mackerel, and deep water is not required.

In more northern waters spanish mackerel are caught all year on the wider reefs.

The central and northern Queensland coast sees good spanish mackerel fishing between July and November.

Moreton Bay Artificial Reefs – Curtin Artificial Reef

Curtin Artificial Reef is Moreton Bay’s biggest artificial reef in terms of the sheer number and size of components.

The reef is north of Cowan Cowan on the west side of Moreton Island in depths ranging from 16m to 27m.

The site was created in 1968 by the Underwater Research Group of Queensland, whose members have sunk vessels, cars, tires and pontoons over several decades.

The reef is a “junk reef”, meaning it is not made from purpose-built components.

The first wreck sunk was the Amsterdam barge in 1968, and the last installed was the Hustler in 1998.

The largest wreck is the 50m coal barge Bremer.

The smallest wreck is the concrete 10mk yacht Solace.

Other wrecks include two whale chasers from the former Tangalooma whaling station on Moreton Island.

A total of 32 ships, car bodies, buoys, concrete pipes and tyres were installed.

While there are many structures to fish, this site gets very busy on weekends.

Strong currents flow through this area and heavy sinkers are required.

Anchoring off the wrecks on sand and dropping baits back can work well the tide is flowing.

The turn of the tide and night are the best times to fish.

Curtin Artificial Reef Fish Species

This site attracts a huge range of fish, including large rays, sharks and groper.

Boaters can expect kingfish, cobia, trevally, pink snapper, tricky snapper (“grassies”), bream, flathead and spotted, school and spanish mackerel.

Barracuda school on the wreck, and wobbegong and leopard sharks are often present, as well as passing whaler, hammerhead, bull and tiger sharks.

Curtin Artificial Reef Fish Species GPS Marks

The reef is marked with buoys and the components are spread in a rough north-south direction.

The site is at WGS84 mark 27 06.700S 153 21.780E.

Sound around and mark the various lumps before picking a spot to fish.

This reef was created by divers and is still popular with divers, so take care when dive boats are using the site.

North Stradbroke Island Artificial Reef, Queensland

North Stradbroke Artificial Reef
North Stradbroke Artificial Reef

North Stradbroke Island Artificial Reef is 1.5km north of Adder Rock Camping Ground on North Stradbroke Island.

The reef consists of 38 reef modules deployed in five clusters.

It was built in 2018, covering an area of 30ha in waters about 12m deep.

This site is quite protected from southerly winds, but is exposed to easterly and northerly winds.

North Stradbroke Island Artificial Reef Fish Species

This reef produces pink snapper, tricky snapper (“grassies”), trevally, cod, flathead and squid, with mackerel in season and occasional yellowtail kingfish and cobia.

North Stradbroke Island Artificial Reef GPS Marks

Reef modules

27 24.598S 153 30.318E
27 24.546S 153 30.387E
27 24.567S 153 30.428E
27 24.598S 153 30.528E
27 24.653S 153 30.404E

Moreton Bay Artificial Reefs – Scarborough (Turner) Artificial Reef

Turner Artificial Reef
Turner Artificial Reef

Scarborough (Turner) Artificial Reef is a shallow site 1.6km east of Redcliffe Peninsula’s Scarborough.

The reef area includes six clusters of 17 concrete modules.

The site is in just 6m of water, making it Moreton Bay’s shallowest artificial reef.

Because it is shallow and the water is often clear, the fish can be easily spooked.

This reef is best fished at night on big tides during the week, when boating traffic is less.

Turner Artificial Reef Fish Species

Like much of the shallow rocky reef off Redcliffe Peninsula, this reef produces pink snapper, bream, cod, flathead and squid, with school mackerel in season.

During daylight hours you must fish with fine tackle and fresh bait to catch fish.

Turner Artificial Reef GPS Marks

Small concrete modules

27 11.660S 153 07.804E
27 11.705S 153 07.732E
27 11.703S 153 07.813E
27 11.834S 153 07.724E
27 11.851S 153 07.783E
27 11.887S 153 07.747E

South Stradbroke Artificial Reef, Queensland

South Stradbroke Artificial Reef
South Stradbroke Artificial Reef

South Stradbroke Artificial Reef is east of South Stradbroke Island, 3km north of the Gold Coast seaway.

The reef consists of four clusters of large concrete modules called “fish boxes” over a 208ha area, at an average depth of 22m.

This reef produces pelagic and reef fish, including large mackerel, cobia and mulloway, as well as snapper, flathead, cod and more.

South Stradbroke Artificial Reef Fish Species

Trevally, mackerel, kingfish and cobia are the main catch, but other species show up as the modules attract bait schools.

Snapper, cod and flathead are also caught around the structures, but most boaters chase bottom fish on the deeper natural reefs in the region.

South Stradbroke Artificial Reef GPS Marks

Fish box clusters

27 52.416S 153 27.334E
27 52.784S 153 27.316E
27 53.141S 153 27.400E
27 53.279S 153 27.588E

Moreton Bay Artificial Reefs – North Moreton Reef

North Moreton Artificial Reef
North Moreton Artificial Reef

North Moreton Artificial Reef is a shallow site located north of Moreton Island.

The reef was designed mainly to attract pelagic fish for spearfishing, but fishing is also allowed.

The site consists of 25 large square concrete modules called fish boxes installed in three clusters of six boxes, covering an area of 200ha.

The average depth is 14m.

North Moreton Artificial Reef Fish Species

Trevally, mackerel, kingfish and cobia are the main catch, but other species show up as the modules attract bait schools.

Snapper, cod and flathead are also caught around the structures, but most boaters chase bottom fish on the deeper natural reefs in the region.

North Moreton Artificial Reef GPS Marks

Fish box clusters

26 58.953S 153 23.594E
26 59.104S 153 24.165E
26 59.390S 153 24.051E

Moreton Bay Artificial Reefs – Wild Banks Reef

Wild Banks Artificial Reef
Wild Banks Artificial Reef

Wild Banks Artificial Reef consists of steel towers installed in 35m of water, east of Moreton Bay’s Wild Banks.

The towers are dubbed “fish caves”.

Each tower is an 11m-high structure of steel, 11m wide and weighing 14 tonnes each.

The total reef area covers 175ha.

The tower design attracts pelagic fish, but bottom fish are also caught, however anchoring is not allowed on these structures.

Because anchoring is not permitted, skippers use an electric motor spot-lock to fish, or just drift past the reefs while dropping baits or jigs.

The turn of the tide can bring on the best fishing.

Wild Banks Artificial Reef Fish Species

Fishermen catch mostly trevally, mackerel, cobia and kingfish on these reefs, with dolphin fish and wahoo also showing up.

Bottom fish caught include pink snapper, slatey bream, cod and tricky snapper (grassies).

The towers attract bait schools, and marlin and sailfish have been caught in the vicinity of the reefs.

Wild Banks Artificial Reef GPS Marks

Fish caves

26 54.238S 153 17.290E
26 54.530S 153 17.463E
26 54.678S 153 17.829E

Moreton Bay Artificial Reefs – East Coochie Reef

East Coochie Artificial Reef
East Coochie Artificial Reef

This reef covers a 15ha area on the east side of Coochiemudlo Island.

It is made of 174 concrete reef balls installed in 13 clusters of 11 to 16 balls.

Each cluster has balls of varying sizes rising to almost a metre off the seabed.

The balls within each cluster are a few metres apart and each cluster is 80m to 100m apart.

East Coochie Artificial Reef Fish Species

The reef produces a lot of small fish, and a few bigger ones.

The main catch is pink snapper, bream, tricky snapper (“grassies), tuskfish and flathead.

Passing school mackerel are caught.

Fish the turn of the tide, be sure to move if you don’t get bites, and try to fish mid-week and at night when boating traffic is lower.

East Coochie Artificial Reef GPS Marks

Reef Ball Clusters

27 34.106S 153 21.094E
27 34.143S 153 21.040E
27 34.159S 153 21.117E
27 34.208S 153 21.072E
27 34.222S 153 21.005E
27 34.273S 153 20.961E
27 34.283S 153 21.036E

Moreton Bay Artificial Reefs – West Peel Reef

West Peel Artificial Reef
West Peel Artificial Reef

West Peel Artificial Reef is a 50ha area of clustered concrete reef balls in about 15m of water on the west side of Peel Island.

The reef was installed in 2010, with more reef balls added in 2012 and 2013.

The reef is made of 341 reef balls in 19 clusters of 10 to 16 balls of varying sizes, rising to almost a metre off the seabed.

The balls within each cluster are spaced a few metres apart and each cluster is between 100m to 200m apart.

This is a reasonably sheltered location near boat ramps, but it gets choppy with a sea breeze and runout tide combination.

West Peel Reef Fish Species

The reef does not look much on a sonar, and often produces small fish, but jewfish are caught at times.

Other species include pink snapper, tricky snapper (“grassies”), sweetlip, cod, flathead and tuskfish.

Pelagic fish pass through on occasion, including mackerel and cobia.

West Peel Reef GPS Marks

Reef ball clusters

27 29.880S 153 18.725E
27 29.921S 153 18.849E
27 30.002S 153 18.715E
27 29.997S 153 18.890E
27 30.075S 153 18.802E
27 30.117S 153 18.702E
27 30.185S 153 18.867E
27 30.232S 153 18.800E
27 30.275S 153 18.700E
27 30.276S 153 18.855E
27 30.350S 153 18.772E