Sunshine, long days and warming waters mark New Zealand’s summer season. Boaties flock to the water, many hoping to secure a good feed of fish. However, summer can be a very fickle time when it comes to fishing, especially when targeting snapper on lures suggests Josh Darby.
There are several potential reasons for the slowed fishing in summer, including the snapper spawn and increased boat activity. Whatever the reason, it can be incredibly frustrating to see snapper carpeting the seafloor on your sounder only to find that your multitude of lure offerings bring no reward. I’ve experienced the frustration this summer season phenomena produces. However, I’ve also found through experience that there are several changes you can make to increase your chances of lure fishing success during the summer months. I’ve distilled these experiences into the summer lure fishing tips that follow in the hope they might increase your fishing success this summer.
Targeting the change of light, be it in the early morning or late evening, is a fishing tactic that is of value year-round. In summer this practice is especially important as it helps to ensure your fishing is not as disturbed by the increased boat traffic. Simply being the first boat out at a fishing spot has often led to me experiencing an hour or so of exceptional fishing, only to have it shut down as the sun rises and a multitude of other boats start buzzing about.
The same can be true for when those other boats all head in for the day leaving you to some excellent late evening fishing. The early morning or late evening also appears to correlate with a ‘breakfast’ or ‘dinner’ bite for snapper. The combination of this bite with reduced boat traffic will allow you to maximise your chances for fishing success in two ways through one action – getting up early or staying out late. What’s more, you also avoid the harshness of the midday summer’s sun!
I tend to fish a relatively heavy leader these days when lure fishing – normally 25 or 30lb for both soft-baiting and slow-jigging. The heavier leader when soft-baiting provides greater abrasion resistance that can be useful when fishing shallow and unforgiving terrain. It can also be useful when using slider-style lures as the thicker leader provides protection from the abrasion that can be caused from the lure head sliding up and down the line. That said, in summer there is a case to be made for dropping leader weights to help entice more bites.
One summer, while out introducing three friends to lure fishing, I was left somewhat perplexed as only one of us was getting bites and catching fish, despite all using similar sliders. It wasn’t until after we got home that I realised I had 16lb leader on the rig that was catching and 25lb on the others. Indeed, there are many who swear by lighter leaders for increasing bites.
Personally, it is not a change I’m willing to make when fishing in terrain where bust offs are likely. However, in summer, schooling snapper are often found over the sand where a reduction in leader weight can be justified. In these situations, I would consider dropping my leader weight to 20, 15, or even 12lb to help entice the bite. Remember though to make the necessary adjustments to your drag and technique and be diligent with checking your leader for abrasion.
Dropping down your leader strength will often entice a bite, but remember to tread a little more lightly with drag settings and check the lines for abrasion.
When the fishing is difficult in summer, I will often choose lures that have more movement in the hope that this additional action will help bring a bite from a lethargic fish. When soft-baiting this normally means throwing on something with lots of dangly legs. If using hard-bodied lures, I will use something that has tassel type skirts, such as those that come with sliders, rather than lures or skirts with less movement, such as the Jitterbug.
The writer changed to a paddletail soft-bait, which has a little more movement in it, to get this nice fish on what was a slow day.
When snapper are hard on the bottom and not on the chew, sometimes the only thing that will bring on the bite is nature’s own feeding frenzy. That is why in summer I’m always on the lookout for birds, dolphins, or whales that are feeding. When soft-baiting this can include terns and shearwaters working the water’s surface and even gannet workups close to shore. If out slow or micro-jigging, I will look for the typical work-up scenarios normally dominated by gannets. These workups tend to act as a dinner gong and can trigger feeding activity from the snapper below even when they’ve been stubbornly refusing your offerings to that point.
It's not rocket science - find the birds, find the fish, regardless of the season.
Another option for enticing a summer snapper bite is to use lures with a smaller profile, such as micro-jigs. You can also try using smaller inchiku, madai, or kabura type slow-jigs as, like micro-jigs, these bite size offerings may present an easy feed for snapper. In deeper water, when the current and wind are factors, you will need to make adjustments to ensure you can still fish these smaller lures vertically where they tend to be most effective. This might include using a large sea-anchor to slow your drift and/or casting your lure up your drift to counteract the wind.
One of the most effective ways to increase your summer lure fishing success is to change your technique for targeting snapper. When soft-baiting this can include ‘dragging’, where a smaller, curly-tail, type soft-bait is combined with a heavier jighead, around 1oz, and dragged out the back of the boat. For obvious reasons, you only want to do this over the sand. This technique can help to target snapper that are foraging hard against the bottom, which is a common occurrence over the summer months. The heavier jig-head will bounce along the bottom and the combination of the bottom being disturbed and an enticing curly tail can help to bring a bite from the bottom feeding snapper.
If all else fails and you are becoming increasingly frustrated with a lack of snapper action over the summer months, you can always consider a change in target species! Summer is an excellent time for targeting kingfish, which can be found in abundance around inshore reefs over the summer months. Kingfish can be successfully targeted using a variety of methods including stick-baiting, jigging, and live-baits. Another option, which will require quite the investment of both money and time, is to give gamefishing a go. The months spanning January to May are primetime for targeting billfish in New Zealand. Though, be warned, this may prove even more frustrating than the stubborn summer snapper fishing!
Summer is a great season for targeting kingfish on topwater tackle and can make for a challenging break from lure fishing for snapper.
Hopefully the above has provided you a few pointers for tackling the issue of a slowed snapper bite over the summer months. For maximum success, try combining several of the methods, and let us know if they make any difference to your lure fishing success this summer.
January 2022 - Josh Darby
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
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