Māori name: Tāmure
Scientific name: Chrysophrys auratus
All-tackle NZ record: 17.2kg
Eating quality: Excellent
Snapper is arguably New Zealand’s most popular sport and table fish. They are copper-pink on top with a silver-white underside and small blue dots along their sides.
Most snapper mature between 3 and 5 years of age or around 23cm in length. Adult snapper can grow to 1m in length and live to over 60 years in age.
Adult snapper are generalists, capable of occupying a wide range of habitats and eating a large variety of food sources. They prey predominantly on crustaceans, worms, shellfish, kina, squid, and other fish.
Snapper are found consistently around the entire North Island. Further south, they occur mostly around the upper third of the South Island, straying further south in summer. The Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands, Doubtless Bay, Bay of Plenty, Hawke Bay, Taranaki Bight, Tasman Bay, and Golden Bay are recognised snapper breeding areas.
Within their preferred range, snapper are at home in a wide range of habitats, including rocky reefs, areas with sandy or muddy bottoms, harbours, and estuaries. They are mainly caught in depths of 1-60m but can also be found down to about 200m. By virtue of their distribution, they are a key target for both land-based and boat anglers.
Large numbers of adult snapper migrate close inshore in spring and early summer to feed aggressively before and after spawning. Breeding takes place in moderate depths in wide, sheltered bays once the water temperature nudges 18°C.
Once summer hits its stride, juvenile fish join the adults inshore and can dominate the catch, especially in sheltered harbours.
Snapper present excellent angling opportunities year-round, with winter being a particularly good time to hunt down trophy fish that inhabit shallow reefs.
Dawn and dusk is a prime-time for seducing snapper, since many fish rely on low light for camouflage, especially in shallow water. Night fishing can be good (especially if there is some moon), but snapper often go off the bite a couple of hours after the sun goes down.
The tide is important, especially in the shallows; in some harbours, productive fishing areas dry out completely at low tide. The effect of the tide varies from place to place, with most locations fishing better on one tide or the other (incoming or outgoing). Snapper fishing is consistently better when the tide is running, particularly on the East Coast, and it pays to target Bite Times to maximise your chances. It is also worth remembering that snapper fishing can often be poor during and immediately following a full moon.
As generalist feeders occupying a wide range of habitats, snapper are readily caught using a wide variety of methods.
Slow-jigging with lures such as sliders, inchikus, and micro-jigs is now one of the most popular methods of snapper fishing, particularly in areas like the Hauraki Gulf during workup season. This technique is best employed in depths of 20-60m, with efforts concentrated in the ‘bite zone’ close to the bottom.
A simple and versatile way to catch snapper year-round in shallower water (less than 20m) is casting and retrieving soft-baits. Standard practice involves casting ahead of your drift direction, letting the soft-bait sink to the bottom (while staying alert for bites), then slowly retrieving it with twitching rod lifts and drops.
Stray-lined baits are usually cast away from the boat or shore and allowed to sink slowly towards the bottom with little or no weight. Fishing large baits, in conjunction with berley, is a traditional way to catch large snapper, especially in reefy territory. Boat placement in relation to the structure you are fishing is key, with wind and a decent current running in the same direction preferable.
Dropper and flasher rigs
Dropper and flasher rigs include one or more baited hooks branching off the main line with a suitable sinker at the bottom. Sufficient weight is needed to keep the baits near the bottom, where snapper often feed.
Snapper are a prime target for many shore anglers. Good snapper numbers feed off surf beaches around the North Island, with renowned spots including Taranaki and Ninety Mile Beach.
Berleying and casting straylined baits off the rocks is a great way to bag a few snapper, and in more remote locations the fish will swim right up to your feet!
Saltwater fly enthusiasts regularly target snapper with flies (such as clouser minnow and shrimp/crab imitations) in shallow water.
Catching snapper on softbaits starts with having the right gear. Experienced softbait angler, Mark Kitteridge shares his preferences on everything you'll need to get underway.... Read More >
In this section we cover what you need to know about softbait fishing for snapper from the shallows to deeper offshore reefs.... Read More >
Slow-jigging (intro) No doubt about it, slow-jigging’s the latest, super-hot technique right now. Some of this is probably due to the wild looking lures used, which... Read More >