Everything you need to know about Snapper…and a bit more
If you have ever had the unpleasant experience of being bitten by one of these fish you will know why it is called a snapper. An adult snapper can crush a finger quite easily, so be careful handling this fish. Along with some pretty gnarly dorsal fin spikes, these can be difficult critter to handle if you don’t handle them correctly.
Colour variation amongst snapper is quite common, with pale brown, coloured snapper commonly found in estuaries or mud flats and darker ones commonly found in kelp or on reefs. Younger snapper have fluorescent blue dots on paler skin which eventually disappear as they get older. The legal size for snapper in this area is 30cm from the nose to the inside of the “v” of the tail. They reach breeding maturity from 25-30cm and take about 3-5 years to get to this stage. For a catch, the legal take is 7 fish per person fishing in this region. Spawning season is usually when the water temperature reaches or exceeds 16 degrees Celsius, so normally during the Spring and Summer months, October to February. They often return to the same breeding grounds each year. Commonly this is the Hauraki Gulf area.
We can see by the rapid increase in recreational fishing in the Hauraki, why it’s important to stick to catch and size limits. Unfortunately, not evryone does. If you see anyone breaking the rules, contact MPI of 0800 476 224, or contact Whitianga Fisheries Office, 0800 00 8333 (put these numbers in your phone).
Back to snapper: Commonly, smaller snapper will feed on sea worms and smaller crustaceans, while larger ones eat other fish and commonly Kina. All snapper are born female and once they reach 3 or 4 years of age, can change into males (about 50% of them). During spawning it can be a feast or a famine when catching snapper; there no set rule for good days or bad days until you get out there. Snapper will form in massive schools during spawning and often aren’t that interested in feeding. This usually means your sounder is full of fish and you won’t be getting bites (not from legal adult fish anyway). They often don’t spawn at night and that’s when you will often haul in good fish in the shallows. Occasionally, the action of a soft bait will produce results when they are spawning.
However, if you can take male fish rather than female, that is better for sustaining the population. Males are a darker brown colour under the jaw and gills, while females are generally white underneath. Realistically, if snapper are spawning and your sounder is full and you aren’t getting anything but nibbles and only landing the odd juvenile, wind up your gear and head home. Save your bait and fuel for an early morning or evening mission when the adults will come back on the bite. Alternatively, target a different species such as Gurnard or Tarakihi (both of which spawn late January to April) or Kingfish which spawn in summer but don’t really stop feeding.
Be safe out there. Until next time. Kindest Regards Tony Marsters. AEROPACIFIC GSE/ WARFISH CHARTERS/ ODYSSEYRACING AND MARINE PH.021 2985750