scott-lowly-snapperFor something different I took a trip to Point Lowly, near Whyalla, SA for the opening of snapper season in 2012.

It was a location I’d heard plenty about and one of the main attractions was the type of fishery it offered, which was basically fishing for potentially big snapper in a fast water tidal rip and this was something I’d never had the challenge of doing before.

Point Lowly is situated on the left side of the coast near the top of the Spencer Gulf about 60km south of Port Augusta. The tide drains and fills the top of the gulf as it runs in and out and it creates quite a rip, particularly on the Point Lowly rocky point. Although its a wild environment for fishing the fishery itself is located reasonably close to shore and with free camping close to the harbour and good launching facilities is very popular with local and visiting anglers. While the snapper are the main attraction, there are plenty of seagrass beds which hold good schools of King George whiting, calamari squid, Australian salmon and blue swimmer crabs.


The Point Lowly Lighthouse

There was a big line up at the ramp as everybody prepared to get out and make the most of the snapper season opening and it was a good oppportunity to talk to a heap of anglers before heading out. While many planned to anchor and fish baits, I was keen to get a drift happening in a bid to try and located the fish rather than waiting for them to run past.

Anchoring or Drifting
On the first morning there were plenty of boats anchore up, but as the tide began to run they just seemed to struggle holding the bottom more and more even with plenty of lead. While anchoring is apparently very effective I’m never one to wait for the fish to come to me so I set up to drift through the rip and check out the terrain. There were many benefits of drifiting and as I has never fished this location before and I wanted to make sure I covered the water to give myself the best possible chance of finding the fish. Not in vain either as what I found on the first day set the precendent for the fishing for the next 3 days as I’m managed to watch other people hook up and eventually hook up myself on a few occasions in one particularly small area, marking each capture on the GPS. Then it was simply a matter of replicating the drift over those areas in the following day trips and this worked exceptionally well. Once I had identified the fish holding areas I shortened my drift to encompass these areas, therefore the use of the GPS was of extreme importance.

Back at the ramp plenty of anglers asked why I didn’t use a drogue for drifting and that was simply because there was so much water moving that the drouge was insignificant and was actually just moving with the boat in the current. The drift speed at some times was quite quick, but you could still fish comfortably straight up and down in 20m of water as fast as the current could take you. This required a minimum of 8 ounces of lead and there was plenty of times I went up to 12 ounces. The finer diameter of the braid reduce drag on the drift over monofilament and you could feel every bump on the bottom with plenty of sensitivity.

As I chose drifting as my primary technique in this area I persisted with single hook paternoster rigs which I made up myself. The rig was very straight forward a 6/0-7/0 Black Magic KL circle hook snelled onto a short 60lb dropper connected to a 80lb main rig. The hook was suspended about 50cm above the sinker on the bottom. I began trying to fish 2 rods, but in the end with all the speed of the drift and the rough bottom it was easier to managed just one rod which I held the whole time. There’s nothing better than holding your rod when a big red hits it like that in the current! While some snapper anglers might gasp at the heaviness of the rig the heavier monofilment certainly didn’t appear to hinder the strike rate, after all the fish appeared to be very opportunisitc in the milky coloured green water. While my good friend fished with with a threadline I persisted with a small overhead reel spoooled with 15kg braid and a 40lb shock leader and this was more than enough to hold onto the bigger fish. Having said that fighting a big snapper in 8 knots of current was certainly very challenging and really made the most of the fish!


A nice red taken bait drifting in the rip

When I fished this location the tides were quite big due to the phase of the moon. If you travel to this location on a new or full moon expect some significant tidal movement. This didn’t prove to be a problem as the fish were certainly on the chew when the water was moving, but fishing was difficult at the height of the run (the last 3 hours) especially when there was a SE wind blowing into the run out tide. If you are travelling to this location in the autumn and the cooler months the tidal ranges are even bigger and this may limit the fishing times to a few hours each day. For this purpose it may be a good idea to time your trip with the smaller neap tides between the new and full moon. While I fished the run in, the best success I had was on the run out tide. Remember one of the great bonuses of this location is if the rip is too hard to fish then there are other artificial reefs in the area which can provide good snapper fishing and the marks are available on the PIRSA website.

Fresh fillets baits were dynamite on the reds and my favourite selection were fresh fillets of salmon that we trolled up along the point the night before. Calamari squid were also very abundant to the north of the harbour and fresh squid heads also landed their share of fish providing a tougher bait on the hook when the pickers were around (which was most of the time!).

On this trip I fished the opening of snapper season and we managed some nice fish, but he cooler months of the year provide some of the best fishing as the Giant Cuttlefish spawning phenomenon occurs at this location each year. The Giant cuttlefish Sepia Apama spawn in this area seasonally starting to appear at their spawning ground around the first week of May and disappear towards the end of August. It is not known where the giant cuttlefish spawning aggregations near Point Lowly migrate from, or where juveniles travel after hatching. There are permanent closures to fishing for cephalopods year round in this area as a result so check the PIRSA fisheries website to make sure your are not fishing in the wrong location. Schools of big reds follow these cuttlefish looking for an easy feed and as a result provide some exceptional fishing.

On this trip the new SA recreational snapper regulations had been implemented which included one fish over 60cm per person per day. We had no trouble getting our bag limit of “larger snapper” each day and I’d have to say I really didn’t have the need to keep any more large fish than that. There were also plenty of “rugger” fish from just legal to 4kg available as well. What frustrates me though as a recreational angler is seeing the commercial snapper fishery managed without any quota. While there have been effort and temporal changes to commercial fishing activities large quantities of fish are still easily accessible. Its no doubt that SA has the best snapper fishing in the country and it would be a real shame to see it decimated any more than it has been in recent years. Remember these are long lived fish and the recovery of these populations can take many years.  At present there are 4 spatial closures current in the Spencer Gulf until the end of January so check out the regulations before you make a trip.

I took my 540 trailcraft Profish with me on this trip and on some days things even got interesting in my boat. If fishing this area you need to pay attention to the conditions as smaller vessels could easily find themselves getting into trouble, particularly when the wind is blowing against the tide. If you plan to fish from a smaller vessel pick the begining and the end of the tidal regimes or perhaps try and fish periods in between the two moon phases when there are more neap tides. As for the weather it was hard to predict with some calm mornings turning to violoent seabreezes to roving thunderstorms coming from seemingly nowhere, this place had it all, but best of all it product some excellent fishing for big reds!
One of the most memorable sessions came just before a big thunderstorm hit and we got a double hook up of metre long reds!


Good mate Lubin Pfeiffer with a big SA rip red

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