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The Hunt for Red October

By Dan Trotter on October 21, 2016 in Other

Photo: Dan Trotter

Photo: Dan Trotter

I’ve said it before and here I am saying it again: how good is this time of year? You have to love living where we live when spring raises its vibrant head. The buds start bursting, the fish get active and the sun sends its love through the universe to warm our magical piece of paradise.

October is a solid month for snapper off of the east coast. In fact, some say it’s the best month of the year. So with that knowledge in mind let’s quickly recap on one of the most successful ways to go about catching these prized pink wonders.

Whilst difficult to master, fishing ‘floaters’ down current in a well-attended berley trail can be almost unbeatable at times. In order to achieve any level of success you need to consider the mechanics of what fishing ‘floaters‘ is all about.

First things first, you need to know the areas where snapper tend to accumulate. Off Sydney in October they can be spread across a range of habitats from deeper 50 to 70-metre broken reefs, up into the shallows where hard reefs and kelp forests are abundant.

Once you’ve selected an area worth fishing, you’ll need some current. In an ideal situation the current and wind should be going in the same direction, and for most locations that’s toward the south. You don’t want too much current – just enough to carry your berley away from the boat and draw the snapper in.

Once the anchor’s set fast, keep a continuous trail of small to medium sized pieces and chunks of fish going over the transom. When the berley has been flowing for a few minutes you can deploy your first bait. Use a small pea sized sinker and a 5/0 octopus style hook with a fresh fillet of slimy mackerel or yellowtail scad. Yellow finned pike and sergeant baker strips are pretty good too, as is a good quality pilchard.

The aim is to try to match the rate of descent of your bait with that of the berley. Too much sinker weight and your bait will drop out of the trail, too little and it will skim over the heads of the snapper you’re hoping to catch. Ideally a 45-degree angle in the line will see that your bait ends up in the right place.

Make sure you cast up current and out to the side of the boat, and keep the bail arm open to allow the bait to freely drop through the water column. At all times whilst doing this you need to be on high watch for a change in pace. If the line starts disappearing at a rate of knots off the spool, or simply stops completely, close the bail arm and wind as fast as you can. Keep winding until the snapper takes line and then settle into the fight.

It’s also super important to never stop feeding the berley trail. You can thin it out from time to time, but persistent consistency is key. If after an hour you’ve not had a bite or run from a ‘red’, it’s worth relocating in search of another top looking spot.

Enjoy the ‘Hunt for Red October’.

If you catch any decent snapper and would like your fish photo hosted on the page of Fish N’ Tips in a future edition of The Beast, we’d love to see it. Send it to and we will pick the best shot for the next issue.