Tags Fish Guide

Red Snapper

Tags Fish Guide
RED snapper, or bight redfish as they are soon to be officially known, are more frequently being encountered these days as the increased use of braid lines allows anglers to fish successfully in the deeper, cool waters where this species is commonly found.  I can remember spearing a big red snapper in a cave off Hamelin Bay in the early seventies. It weighed over 2.5 kilos and was a big specimen by spearfishing standards, although they do tend to be bigger in water far too deep for free divers.  Prized for their white flesh and eating qualities, red snapper are an integral part of recreational catches in our offshore southern waters. On the east coast smaller specimens are prized as live baits for big yellowfin tuna, which just seem to love them.

Red snapper are a beautiful combination of red and silver and are often confused with nannygai, but they can easily be separated because red snapper only have six dorsal spines, whereas a nannygai has seven. The red snapper’s red dorsal line is also quite easily visible.

The Australian record for a red snapper is 4.6 kilos, but a fish over 2.5kg would be considered big in West Australian waters. Any fish over 1.5 kilos would in turn be considered a good one.

The most northern distribution of red snapper is Lancelin and they are found in increasing numbers further south, where they extend to the South Australian border and beyond. Juvenile red snapper are said to inhabit estuaries and shallow coastal waters. Adults can be found over reefs and mud bottom in deeper Continental Shelf waters up to a depth of 450 metres.

Breeding and migration
It will not come as a surprise that little is known about the breeding and migration of red snapper, other than breeding is thought to take place in late summer and autumn throughout the areas of distribution of this species.  Red snapper are slow growing, maturing at 20-25cm when they are four years of age. They reach a maximum length of 38cm for females at 16 years, and 33cm for males at 11 years.  Tagging studies have shown there is considerable movement by individual fish although no seasonal migration has been identified.

It gives me great pleasure to report that there are no identified threats to red snapper in WA waters. Having said that, given the fact they are slow to mature any development of deepwater trawling off the south coast could have a significant impact.

Tackle and bait
Given that red snapper are a bycatch of deepwater anglers in the South-West and along the south coast, tackle and bait are the same as would be used for pink snapper and the like. Braid lines with two hook dropper rigs baited with fish fillets, squid or octopus should catch a red snapper or two.  Hook sizes should range from 5/0 to 7/0 and I would certainly be trying circle hooks if fishing in more than 100m of water.
Fishing methods

Standard drift fishing techniques, using a sea anchor to slow the drift, would appear to be the most popular way to fish waters over 40m in depth. Red snapper have big eyes, and no doubt they use them for picking up movement when hunting food, so I would tend to allow part of the bait to hang off the hook and move with the current. Just 5cm or so of tantalising squid leg or fish fillet waving before their eyes should prove irresistible.  I am also inclined to think that red snapper would succumb to deepwater jigging techniques once more anglers venture out past the 120m mark looking for new species to catch. Only time will tell.

References: Sea Fishes of Southern Australia by Barry Hutchins and Roger Swainston.  Australian Fisheries Resources by Kailola, Williams, Stewart, Reichelt, McNee and Grieve.
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