The Gippsland coast at Corner Inlet offers a great chance of tangling with some seriously big snapper if you work with the tides.
Over the years I have fished Corner Inlet at Welshpool as often as I can and had some good fishing, but just like many waterways this area can provide you with the best day of your life, or just as easily send you home with your tail between your legs. What keeps me going back is the reality that this waterway can put you in with a shot at some big snapper, with 20lb reds not uncommon.
Back in 2008 I headed there in search of a big snapper with my cameraman Andrew Clarke, and as we headed down the highway we both agreed if we could get a fish or two on camera in the 6-8kg size we would be over the moon. What unfolded still sits right up there in the endless bundle of great fishing memories. As we headed up the Lewis Channel we stopped to get a few squid for bait, then headed to a rough area where we had heard a few fish being caught. However, rather than target the deeper areas we sounded along the edge of a bank in 10-12m and marked a couple of solid fish, so quickly anchored up.
It didn’t take long to get a bite and soon we had a fish of 6kg in the boat – we were stoked. About 20 minutes later, in the blink of an eye, one of the rod tips touched the water with a fish screaming off. As the rod was wrestled from the snapper rack the fish didn’t slow down – there was no way it could be a snapper – then it stopped, put in a few massive head shakes and took off again. It was a snapper, and a big one.
After a crazy fight the fish was finally in the net and it was a genuine monster; the decision was made to let the big fish go as we had it on film and got photos. While we never weighed it, we both agreed it was around the 12kg mark, and if you ever described what a big snapper should look like this was it, with a huge fat body, big head and a nose that was more like a moustache Merv Hughes would be proud of. While not every snapper out of these waters is that big, if you put in the effort – or, like me, get lucky – you’re a good chance of getting yourself a truly big snapper.
Where To Start
This expansive estuary is very tidal, with an entrance that faces to the east and flows up into myriad arms and branches – much the same way that Western Port does closer to Melbourne. Offshore from the entrance to Corner Inlet it’s very shallow for several kilometres before it flows into the actual entrance and an area known as Singapore Deep. This entry to the waterway drops down to over 30m deep and is extremely tidal; the undulating bottom here has patches of reef and rubble that hold a lot of snapper as they move in and out of the system.
Early season some of the first snapper bites will often be up in the higher, top end of the system, where the water temperature is often a degree or two warmer due to the extensive mud flats warming up in the sunlight, and in doing so warming the water that covers them. This can be one of the more productive areas, especially on a run-out tide, and while these shallower channels look like they are just made up of mud and sand, it’s what lies beneath that can really put you into a prime area to start fishing. By this I’m referring to watching your sounder closely, by using bottom lock, then zooming right in on the bottom two metres.
From there, adjust your colour correctly to highlight minor detail and you will be able to find areas of short weed and rough bottom – these are the areas where the snapper will tend to hold and feed. In the deeper water such as in the main channel and the Singapore Deep area, the bottom is more aggressive so look for lumps and patches of reef and hopefully a bunch of snapper marking up.
With big tide flow in these parts, fishing the two hours either side of the tide is generally the best as it’s easier to keep your bait down there. The week before the full moon can be a good time to fish the deeper areas as the tide flow will be less, meaning longer fishing periods, while the shallows can be good on bigger tides. I like to target the shallower edges of the deep channels in the 8-14m depths, where you will have less tide flow.
Rods and Reels
Rods and reels in these parts are generally heavier as the strong tide flow requires large sinkers, plus there are big snapper, gummy and school sharks and an endless supply of eagle rays that love to eat your baits, and take some stopping in the current. Rods are generally in the 10-15kg range with reels such as the Shimano Saragosa 8000-10000 sizes probably the most common. Personally, I love to use overheads such as the Shimano Speedmaster 10, a small lever drag overhead that is compact, affordable and tough as nails. When it comes to line, braid is definitely most popular and for good reason as its thin diameter and no stretch allows smaller sinkers and bite detection. However, I do love fishing mono as I find it often gets the bites on slow days. Some anglers feel you can’t fish mono as it’s too thick, but these days there are some very good thin, low-stretch options available.
Due to fishing tidal water, you will need a big range of sinkers to suit depths and tides, which are attached to a running rig using a plastic slider. I like to remove the metal clip from the slider, then attach the sinker with a 30cm length of 15lb mono. It lifts the bait up a little and if the sinker gets snagged, you snap off the sinker and get your rig back. The slider runs down to a quality rolling or crane swivel then a 4ft leader. Keeping the leader short makes it easier to land the fish in the tide, with my own choice being 40, 50 and 60lb Black Magic Tough Trace. Hooks are a personal choice but I find it really hard to go past a single Black Magic KLT circle in 7/0 and 8/0 sizes. If I’m running a two-hook rig then I like a KLT circle snelled at the top and a Black Magic DX 6/0 hook on the bottom – this is great when fishing long squid strips and fillet baits. The other thing you can do is add an attractor to the bait in the form of a glow bead, small skirt or – as I like to do – use the rubber skirt off the Black Magic Snapper Snack. This rubbery skirt sitting on the top of your bait has accounted for a bunch of fish for us.
Another option is to use a paternoster rig with the Black Magic Snapper Snatchers, with Snapper Whackers being my favourite.
Like any fishing it pays to have a range of baits on offer, with calamari (fresh or frozen) being dynamite, fished in rings or strips. I’ve also had great success on the boxed Californian squid, perfect snack-sized baits that are easy to rig and sit well in the current. As for fish baits, anything fresh is good such as salmon or whiting, and just like anywhere you’d be crazy not to have a pilchard or two out. It’s no secret that fresh bait is often best, so if you’re chasing fresh bait then the shallow banks along the edge of the Lewis Channel hold squid, whiting, garfish and salmon, so an hour or two spent fishing this area can make the difference to your day.
It’s no secret that snapper eat lures as they are very efficient predators, and while they love a soft plastic it can be hard to get them down to the fish in the tide so a great option – especially in deep tidal areas such as Singapore Deep – is to use flutter or slow-pitch jigs in the 100-150g size. You can sound around till you mark fish, then go slightly uptide of them, drop the jigs and drift back through the fish – it’s proven deadly, with guys like Will Thompson from Always Angling in Traralgon having lots of success on big fish.
As I said at the start, this place can be amazing, and it can also send you home with your tail between your legs, so a bit of time is needed to work it out, just like any location. As a guide, working around your tides is the basis of it, with run-out tides pushing fish off the shallows and along the channel edges. Early season the run-out tides are also often good as they have warmer water, while later on in the season when the water is warmer the run-in can be the pick. It will also depend on the area you’re fishing whether it fishes best on the run-in or run-out tide.
Words & Images: Lee Rayner