Sounding for Snapper
  |  First Published: November 2011

We all hear about sounding up snapper in Port Phillip and Western Port, and while it should all be common knowledge by now, there are aspects of the technique that warrant some coverage.

Plenty of very comprehensive and informative articles have been written over the past few years about sounding for snapper, but it still seems that many anglers are missing out on the benefits and potential results of the electronics on their boat. Don’t be shy to use the other gadgets on board as well, as a couple in particular can be very handy indeed.

It goes without saying that you should buy the best sounder unit you can afford and there a several good brands on the market.

Personally, I prefer to use Humminbird sounders, as they are clear, simple and easy to use.

Their colour screens also deliver excellent structure, fish and bottom readings. I have also gained much faith in the use of side imaging (after plenty of hours looking for bream) and have found this great at locating solitary larger fish in shallower water during the early summer months.

As with anything in fishing however, it’s the anglers understanding and interpretation of their electronics that will determine success.

Learn how to use your unit, and you will learn to trust it.

Keep close to structure

Early in the season, the best sounding advice is to keep close to structure. Snapper will tend to stay close to reef; structure and heavy bottom shortly after they have entered the bay.

They will also tend to hold close to large patches of bait and other prominent features in open water as well.

I’m not sure whether this is a decision based on cover, or food source or both, but I do know that this is where you will find you snapper on the sounder early in the season.

Classic early season areas seem also to be a little closer to shore. Good locations to try are Ricketts Point, Inner and Outer Artificial off Carrum, Frankston wreck and the Hospital Mt Eliza.

Groups of marks

Look for heavy marks close to the bottom, and even better if the fish are in groups.

Fish that are showing off the bay floor are sometimes not interested in taking a bait or lure and are normally moving t somewhere else.

The best returns on your screen will show as a deep red or purple, depending on the colour palette of your unit.

My favourite scenario is to find a group of solitary fish close to one another and to nearby structure in a small area.

These fish will normally respond to your desired technique as they have structure, food and competition from other fish.

I would also recommend the use of two very important gadgets while sounding. The first one, and most crucial would have to be the downrigger.

If you’ve got one on your boat, use it.

Switched on anglers like Lee Rayner and the late Neil Tedesco have taught us plenty about this technique and there is no better way to present tour lure or bait to an exact depth while on the move than with a down rigger. Deep divers, vibration baits, live squid and other offerings are worth a try.

The other one is an electric motor. Although not crucial in any way for sounding for snapper, if you already have one fitted to your boat like I do, then it makes sense to use them while fine tuning an area of when trolling over fish that have been located on the sounder.

They can also make the whole process pretty relaxing, and with the advent of features like the Minn Kota I-Pilot, you can save productive trolling tracks and spot lock your boat in a chosen location with the touch of a button.

In short it needs to be said that it pays to spend a little more time staring at the screen of your sounder, especially early in the season.

Experienced anglers will be able to gauge the size and behaviour of fish from how they appear on the sounder screen and adjust their approach accordingly.

There is plenty information available online and from your local dealer, fishing club or mates. Being shown or told is the best place to start, but the best method is time on the water.

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