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SA snapper comeback

Recent efforts to protect snapper fisheries in South Australia appear to be paying off as evidence suggests stocks are continuing to improve for both commercial and recreational fishers.

Since an annual closure of several weeks – a controversial move at the time – was placed on the taking of snapper by professionals and recreationals throughout SA waters in 2000, there would appear to have been a dramatic increase in stocks. Big catches of large fish reported by commercial long-liners in upper Gulf St Vincent are backed up by strong recruitment showing up in trawl surveys conducted by fisheries scientists from SARDI, the South Australian Research and Development Institute.

The current large biomass of snapper in the gulf is supported by anecdotal evidence from yours truly relating to commonly fished grounds off the metropolitan coast. Never before in my 40 years of fishing off Adelaide are so many snapper showing up on inshore grounds. A few years ago it was rare to catch even undersize snapper (in SA the legal minimum size is 38cm, which is also the size at which snapper attain sexual maturity).

The turnaround is quite stunning. Snapper are being caught on most grounds where previously King George Whiting were the sole target. Many more legal size snapper are also being taken. A friend and myself recently enjoyed our best session on snapper, taking six keepers to 4kg during the run-in tide in the afternoon. Not huge fish by any means, but comfortably legal and well worth the effort of cranking up the barbie.

I can honestly say that this show of snapper in the gulf is unprecedented in the four decades I’ve fished off Adelaide. And judging by the number of boats launching from the Barcoo Road ramp at West Beach, especially late in the day, you can bet the word is out that reds are available in good numbers and tackle shops and boat dealers must be rubbing their hands together.

There is, after all, nothing quite like the decent fight a snapper puts up and that telltale show of iridescent blue as a good red emerges from the depths.

Fisheries is presently reviewing the current November closure with various measures under consideration, including increasing the legal minimum length to 40cm, a two week extension to the annual monthly closure and cutting the maximum number of hooks that can be used by professionals on long lines from 400 to 300. Commercial netting for snapper is not permitted in South Australian waters.
Peter Muirhead

Snapper stocks are on the rebound in SA
Snapper stocks are on the rebound in SA.
Image credit: Al McGlashan.

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