Last month we took a look at the more conventional ways to catch snoek. This month we explore the artificial angle.
Artificials for snoek
This article focuses primarily on bait fishing for snoek – the way the commercials fish, where their sole aim is to catch as many fish as possible. For recreationals – who are allowed only 10 snoek per person, per day – there are other methods that offer huge fun and great sport for the angler.
Spinning for Snoek
Snoek are voracious predators that will attack and eat any fish they can get hold of. This means that they will quite easily succumb to all sorts of spinners or spoons. Over the years, certain spinners have worked better than others, so I’ll concentrate on the more successful lures. There are three must-have lures: the Garfish, the Wonder Spinner and the Seriola (in a variety of colours).
What makes these spinners better than the rest? Primarily, it is their weight.
They’re considerably heavier than your yellowtail snake-style spinners and thus sink considerably quicker. Since snoek is mostly found between 30m to 40m deep, the faster your spinner gets to the strike zone, the more fish you’ll catch.
The tackle used varies considerably, depending on what line class you fish.
On the commercial boats, a good set-up is a 6’ to 7’ fibreglass rod (which is normally very inexpensive, costing around R200, and is virtually indestructible) and a Penn 49 spooled with 40kg mono.
With the advent of braid, spinning reels have become the norm. If I’m fishing in seal-infested waters and
need to bully the fish to the boat,
I fish with a 6’ Shimano Beastmaster Jigging rod, the 85-200g version, coupled with a Shimano Stradic 6000
or 8000 loaded with 50lb braid.
Simply add a 1m leader of 50g
to 60kg mono and you’re ready.
Why the very thick leader? Well, snoek have teeth that will bite through the thinner line and the thicker leader allows you to lift the fish out of the water, without cutting your hands. If I’m fishing lighter tackle, I use a 7’ Shimano Trevala ML and a 4000-sized fixed spool reel, like the Shimano Sedona or Shimano Stradic 4000, loaded with 15lb to 20lb braid, also with a 1m 50kg leader.
However, my favourite all round set-up is a 6’6” Shimano Trevala MH paired with
a Shimano Stradic 5000 FJ and spooled with 20lb braid. This outfit offers plenty
of pulling power in a relatively light
set-up. It must be one of the most versatile outfits a boat angler can purchase. If you really want a sporting fight, try fishing with a 6’ to 7’ bass rod, with a 2500-sized fixed spool reel and 10lb braid. It’s still plenty strong enough to manhandle any snoek, yet light enough to give you an awesome fight!
How to spin
Since snoek are predominately found deeper in the water column – usually between 30m to 40m deep, it is imperative that your spinner should get to that depth quickly. Normal procedure is to cast out as far away from the boat as possible and then to let the spinner sink to the bottom before you start retrieving. Sometimes it takes quite a while for the spinner to get to the bottom, as there might be a current running. Experience will teach you
when to start retrieving. You will lose
a few spinners snagged on the bottom, but that’s simply part of the learning process. Think of it as school fees.
Once you’re happy that the spinner has reached the bottom, or very close
to the bottom, it’s time to start reeling the spinner back to the boat. On some days, the fish prefer a very fast retrieve, on other days, a medium fast retrieve and sometimes a slow retrieve. So, vary your retrieval rate until you’ve found out what works best on that particular day.
This is the easiest way to catch snoek – very little skill is needed and it’s the method I would recommend that novice anglers use. The beauty of trolling with lures is that there is no bait to dirty the boat. Now, this might seem unusual – for an angler to worry about a dirty boat – but when you have your wife/girlfriend or even the kids onboard, it makes
a world of difference to them.
It also allows them to be part of the fishing experience, right from shouting ‘Strike!’ to removing the rod from the rod holder and fighting the fish.
Tackle for trolling
Anything will work! I normally troll with Shimano TLD25s mounted on Penn 15kg stand-up sticks, loaded with 24kg line. These are my all-round trolling outfits, as they can be used to troll for snoek, yellowtail, longfin and smaller-class yellowfin (40kg to 60kg). The reason for the thicker line is simple: it has better abrasion resistance than thinner lines. This means fewer fish lost, especially when you have novices or children fishing with you.
When I want some fun, I’ll scale my tackle down and use 7kg to 12kg mono on small multipliers, like my Diawa SL20SH or Shimano Trinidad 14. If you’re a novice, I’d suggest trolling only two rods, as this way you will have fewer tangles and double-up strikes can easily be landed without tangling each other up.
With the advances made in the tackle industry over the last few years, smaller, more powerful reels and lighter and more powerful rods have been developed to handle anglers fishing with braid. My favourite braid-trolling set-up is a Jigging Master Sabre 100 rod matched with an Abu Revo Toro Winch 50 baitcasting reel, spooled with 20lb braid. This outfit is my wife’s favourite and offers insane fun!
The deeper the lure can swim, the better. Rapala X-Rap 30 dives down to 30’ (about 9m) and works brilliantly for snoek. They are, however, pricey. The much more affordable Storm Deep Thunder lures are half the price and work just as well. What colours work best? In the X-Rap range,
I like the chartreuse and the blue-coloured lures, whilst in the Storm range the blues and oranges have worked very well for me.
However, always carry a variety of colours, as some days the fish can be finnicky. The old standby lure, the redhead in both makes also works very well.
The general rule is that natural colour lures are best in clean water and brightly coloured lures are preferable in dirty water. This is merely a guideline, as fish don’t seem to know about these rules and will often do the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. For example, over the past season, the orange lures have been working exceptionally well at Robben Island in clean water.
I set my lures 30m to 50m behind the boat, depending on the conditions. Trolling speed is usually anything from three to five knots (5.5 to 9km/h). With snoek, I’ve found that the slower trolling speeds, i.e. three to three-and-a-half knots (5.5-6.5km/h) seem to work best. When you get a strike, keep on going and the second rod will normally also go vas. Once both rods are vas, stop the boat and throw a spinner in the direction of the fish on the lines. Let it sink deep and then start retrieving it back to the boat.
You will normally get a hook-up
like this and you’ll have three anglers vas at the same time. After boating all the fish, try and troll through the same
area and see whether you can find that same school again – very easy to get your quota of 10 snoek per angler
in this manner.
You will also find that the fishing is better for trolling in shallower water,
for example, water depth of 25m to 30m. So if you have a choice, try the shallower areas first.
This new sport has taken the angling world by storm. Snoek are very easy
to catch on jigs and they offer great sport on light jigging tackle.
Simply drop your jig down to the bottom and start jigging your lure back towards the boat. Your rod will just bend over double as the voracious snoek slams your jig. Snoek are not very fussy and will eat almost any lure, so use your inexpensive jigs for them. Make sure that your assist hook is rigged with wire/cable, as they will bite the Dyneema off.
That pretty much sums up how to go about fishing for snoek. Follow these guidelines and you will catch snoek.
For more advice or to see where the snoek are currently biting, anglers can visit my forum on www.boatfishing.co.za, where the snoek scene is reported on almost daily.
Enjoy the fishing!