There's just something about catching snapper off the land that leaves me wanting more! Maybe it's the excitement of seeing a 13ft rod buckle over after an intense wait in that unforgiving weather with waves crashing over the rocks. It might be those intense moments when you think you're surely going to lose your fish on a reefy ledge, or a wave picking your fish up in those last seconds of the fight and spilling your prize catch over the rocks when all you can think is, 'yep - that ones gone!' only to see you're still attached and more excited than ever to land the fish you worked so hard for.
Whatever it is, I'll definitely be doing it until I'm too old to be climbing down hills or lugging my gear down the beach. For now that's all part of the adventure and part of what makes a land-based snapper so rewarding. Some of my greatest and worst fishing memories have been off the land ranging from some epic sprained ankles to witnessing some of the biggest snapper I've ever seen being caught right in front of me. Most sane people would be reading this wondering why the hell anybody would want to do this. It sounds horrible, but I bloody love it!
I can't express enough how important this is, especially when fishing in these conditions on an uneven rocky surface. There are going to be waves crashing over the rocks and you never know when a rogue set of waves could come through and put you into the water.
This has never happened to me and I've never seen it happen to anyone but I have definitely heard about it and it's something I am very wary of. Always fish with a mate and keep an eye out for each other at all times! I highly recommend wearing a PFD, a life jacket and suitable footwear. No fish is worth not coming home for.
There are so many factors to look at but probably the most important is your location. There are all sorts of different ways to target large land-based snapper. A couple of places are favourites and have worked consistently for many experienced and keen land-based anglers.
My favourite location would have to be the Mornington rocks. This area holds the key features to holding large land-based snapper, but it's also very weather-dependant if you want to catch them consistently. Mornington is a very popular area for boats targeting snapper, so you know they are going to be around somewhere, which is obviously a good start. There is plenty of structure through this whole area.
If you watch any fishing shows or talk to your local tackle shops you would have heard at some stage that structure holds fish, so make sure to always look for this when choosing your location. The water would only be a couple of metres deep for around the first 15m out and there is a very steep drop-off that goes to around 6m at low tide. This drop-off is nearly like a wall in the water, so when there's a huge westerly wind at Mornington, it will wash in a heap of food from all over the bay and my theory is that the food will hold up against this wall putting large snapper into a feeding frenzy.
A westerly wind at Mornington is classed as an onshore wind. An onshore wind basically means that the wind is blowing directly towards the shoreline. The best times I have found have been at first light. I hate getting up that early but the snapper don't mind (clearly never had a big night) and as much as I would love them to wait around like everyone else, they aren't going to! It's not all bad news, though, as another very productive time is late in the afternoon and going into just after dark.
Although these times seem to be the most productive you always have a chance to catch them throughout the day. It's not often the weather gods allow these perfect conditions, so large snapper will most likely take the opportunity to get themselves an easy feed in close. Don't be afraid to wait it out, as you never know - you might still get your fish of a lifetime.
Another place to target large land-based snapper is in the shallows at night. Some of the best areas for this are the shallows around the top end of Western Port like Lang Lang or Temby Point near Jam Jerrup. There are huge mud flats around these areas and the snapper love to get up on them on the incoming tides and feed on mainly crabs. This doesn't mean you have to use crabs as bait, because if a snapper sees a fresh pilchard or a nice strip of fresh squid in front of it, I can almost guarantee it will eat it.
If they are up on the flats they are up there for one reason only, and that is to feed. A great thing about these areas too is that you are in with a very good chance of catching gummy sharks or even the elusive prize mulloway. The most productive time to do this is at night. The later, the better I reckon!
With the water being quite shallow, usually no more than 2m, the dark conditions allow these aggressive feeding predators to sneak up on their prey, giving them a chance at a feed. One of the best things about hooking a big snapper in 2m or less of water is the fight! They don't really have anywhere to go apart from straight ahead so hang on because I guarantee they will be pulling a fair bit of drag, and don't we all love that sound!