How to catch pink snapper

The pink snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) is one of Australia’s iconic fish, being a hugely popular catch across the southern half of the coast.

Pink snapper grow to more than a metre long and 12kg.

Their pink sides and pale blue spots make them an attractive fish, and the largest ones are truly impressive, sometimes forming a bulbous nose and forehead, earning them the moniker “old man snapper”.

The pink snapper is a slow-growing fish, and this is partly why it has been depleted in some areas, with tighter management regimes in place to restore stocks.

There are currently significant restrictions on catching pink snapper in South Australia, with ban in place in most state waters, and there are also severe restrictions in Western Australia around Perth and in Shark Bay.

Queensland has an annual pink snapper closed season in its waters.

In Western Australia, the pink snapper of Shark Bay formed a separate genetic sub-type that is separate from the pink snapper found outside the bay.

Strict rules were introduced to manage this Shark Bay snapper stock, which was historically overfished, and it soon bounced back.

The pink snapper is an interesting fish in that in different parts of the country the fish has different habits, growth rates and spawning times.

Near Western Australia’s Carnarvon, female snapper mature around 380mm in length and four years of age, but near Perth they mature from about 580mm and six years of age.

Spawning is between May and September in Carnarvon and October to December in Perth.

Clearly, how you target these fish depends where you are fishing.

As a general rule, pink snapper form schools and inhabit reefs, ledges and other underwater structures, and a boat is required to find and catch the bigger fish reliably.

On the NSW/South-East Queensland coast, pink snapper appear to move up and down the coast with the seasons.

In Shark Bay it is not unusual to catch pink snapper from the beach.

In South Australia stormy weather brings big snapper into shore where they off the metro beaches, with big fish historically taken from city spots such as Brighton jetty.

Huge snapper were also caught in shallow water behind Adelaide’s Torrens Island, usually at night.

Pink snapper form spawning schools which are often in the same place each year, which has made them vulnerable to overfishing.

In Western Australia, pink snapper are found around Karratha southwards.

They are found through South Australia through Victoria and New South Wales north to around Gladstone in Queensland.

Brisbane’s Moreton Bay and Hervey Bay to the north produce plenty of smaller snapper, with the wide reefs producing bigger fish.

The biggest fish are usually caught in the southern part of their range, however 90cm snapper have been caught in Queensland waters.

To catch pink snapper, find the fish on your sounder and then use the freshest possible bait.

Waters of 20m deep 0r more are usually most reliable.

Pink snapper will take baits of small fish, prawns, crabs, squid and octopus. They are omnivores, also being known to eat jellyfish, sea urchins, worms and even algae.

Baits should be fished on the bottom, but baits drifted out from a boat will often be taken at midwater, especially if using berley.

The turn of the tide will often bring the fish on the bite in deeper water, while a rising tide nearing the high will bring them on over shallow coastal grounds and rocky headlands.

Like many fish, pink snapper are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, and at night.

A good storm can bring them inshore when they can be caught from jetties and rock groynes.

Pink snapper are more active in the warmer months in the southern part of their range, but on the Queensland coast are considered mainly a winter catch.

If fishing in the southern part of their range you need sturdy gear as hooking a big fish is always possible.

Snapper are an excellent food fish.

Lastly, the pink snapper is related to black bream and tarwhine rather than true snapper, the Lutjanids such as mangrove jacks and fingermark bream.

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