PB snapper beats 40-year-old record

LAST month, Fishing World asked its writers to list their five favourite fishing photos and supply a bit of background on the pics.

Ranked at number 3 for me was an 11.8kg snapper. This was my first red over 10kg and a fish that took me many years of reefings and bust ups to finally achieve. I always thought out of all the fish I have caught that this would probably be the hardest one to top, especially in NSW waters. Last Sunday, however, the snapper gods smiled on me…

After finishing work at 4pm my work mate and I decided to head out for a quick snapper bash before dark. The plan was to race home, grab my gear and meet him back at the boat ramp with the boat in the water ready to go, to give as much time fishing as possible.

Now I love this bloke but he is one of those people who is always bloody late and Sunday was no exception! While I’m waiting, a familiar face pulls up next to me; an old bloke who knows my father well and a gun snapper fisherman from back in the day who still gets out occasionally. When I think back now our conversation was quite ironic. It was about big snapper and he was telling me “there’s no big ones left anymore”…

After 15 minutes more waiting and with the sun quickly descending on the horizon my late mate showed up and finally we got away. With only a small window of light left we opted to anchor up and throw a few baits around, rather than our original plan to throw plastics. After about a 15 minute drive we arrived in an area that has produced good reds for me in the past and with a stiff westerly blowing we threw the anchor over.

The area we fished is a plateau of reef in about eight metres of water with a steep edge on one side that drops suddenly into 25m. We were perfectly anchored right along the edge of the drop off, however, we only had about 10 minutes of light left. With my rod already rigged up I cast out a whole squid and placed it into the rod holder with the bail arm off.

“Mr Late” was still rigging his rod up when I noticed line slowly peeling off my reel, which I initially thought was just the wind as it was now puffing close to 20 knots. I picked the rod up out of the holder anyway, flicked the bail arm over and lifted my rod tip to take any slack out of the line. Then within a split second I saw and heard the braid violently rip and zing through the water before everything tightened up and at the same time I struck the fish. That’s when all hell broke loose!

The first run was an absolute scorcher, so much so that I started to doubt it was a snapper because it was just pulling so much string under some serious drag. Mr Late called it early for a big king, commenting “it can’t be a red.” I was starting to think along the same lines.

As the fish finally started to slow down from its huge first run, I felt a series of jolting bucks through the rod – a characteristic typical of big reds. This is when I started to think I had the “reddie from hell” on and there was no way I was stopping it … which was further reinforced after the next brutal run was followed by another. How the beast didn’t find something down there to brick me on I’ll never know as I was absolutely at its mercy for the first five minutes of the fight.

With a stack of line out I felt the fish change direction and start charging back towards the boat, causing me to wind furiously to try and keep up. By the time I caught up to the fish it had me in the reef and I sensed the inevitable end was near as I could feel my line knocking through a mixture of rock and kelp, then finally, nothing…

My line was snagged up and I could no longer feel any signs of movement. While I thought it was strange the line hadn’t broken I knew there was little chance the fish was still connected. Despite this I clung to hope and alternated for about five minutes between free spooling and putting as much pressure as I could on the line without popping it. I knew It must have been a massive red so I wasn’t going to give up on it before exhausting all options and decided to pull anchor and try coming from a different angle.

After a few more minutes of pulling every direction possible I finally felt something come free and at first thought it was just a pile of kelp but then felt a few kicks through the line.

“Crap! I think it’s still on there!” I said as I pumped the unknown beast towards the boat. I knew it was going to be a snapper and I knew it was a big one … but when I saw how big I was blown away!

After some quick photos we tried hard to get the fish going again for release but the extended fight time had taken its toll and there was unfortunately no way she was going to make it. At 102cm and super bulky, the fish ended up weighing 14.510kg on certified scales and is now a pending NSW Record, beating the old record of 13.7kg set way back in 1975.

The fish will be sent for taxidermy before living on on my hallway wall and its otoliths will be donated to NSW fisheries to be aged, which will be very interesting. The previous biggest snapper aged by NSW Fisheries weighed 11.8kg and 99cm and was 17 years old.

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Image: Paul Lennon

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