Scott Species – pink snapper, a stunning favourite among recfishers

One of the most popular species for recreational fishers in WA, as they are found across a wide area and often school up in massive numbers, pink snapper offer exciting fishing opportunities. In this week’s Scott’s Species, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan takes a closer look at the sought-after pinkie.

Species: Pink snapper, Pagrus auratus
Eating: 4 stars
ID: Striking pink colouration, often with small blue spots across the back.

In many locations across WA, pink snapper have very defined seasons when they move into areas en masse.

Ocean Reef has proved to be a fruitful area for Chris Mearns to catch pinkies.

Found right through the southern half of Australia, they are usually encountered as far up the west coast as Coral Bay. They grow to 16kg, but any fish tipping the scales at more than 6kg is a worthy capture.

The iridescent blue spots along silver flanks with a pinkish hue make them a stunning-looking fish, and they are also great eating.

One of the most remarkable traits about pinkies is their ability to turn up across an incredibly vast array of oceanic locations, from inshore to well offshore.

They can be found from just a couple of metres of water all the way to the depths of the Continental Shelf. They are also a very hardy fish that handles release well, even when caught at significant depths.

This wide range has made them a staple of Perth fishing, with boat, shore and kayak anglers all catching good pinkies every year, often in very shallow water.

Pinkies are probably the most accessible trophy fish for metro anglers.

There is a dedicated band of land-based fishers who wait for big storms and north-westerly winds to chase them from shore platforms, catching some top quality fish as they move along rock walls looking for food in the dire conditions.

Perth land-based fishing fanatic Burak Erdogan loves catching pinkies from metro rock walls.

Drifting around bottom structure is the prime way to locate pinkies for offshore anglers, with big schools of fish usually easily identified on the fish finder.

Using a baited rig with a ‘snapper’ lead is a time-honoured method, especially when a paternoster rig is attached to the lead.

They will happily take fish baits including mulies, squid and octopus. Anchoring and burleying is also a very effective method in shallower water, as pinkies will respond well to burley and a lightly-weighted bait sent down the trail can be deadly.

Jigging with metals and using weighted soft plastics are other methods that will work on pinkies, while slow trolling with diving minnows can also be effective.

This pink snapper couldn’t refuse Kim Bunt’s stickbait at the Abrolhos Islands.

Sometimes pinkies will hit a trolled lure when the engine is cut, such as when a fish is hooked on another line.

Pinkies are often also caught from the shore by those soaking baits at Kalbarri, Steep Point and Quobba, while Shark Bay has long been famous for its pink snapper schools and the Abrolhos Islands is another hot spot for them.

Denmark’s Wilson Inlet is a unique little fishery for prolific smallish pinkies to around 70cm, including in the unlikely Prawn Rock Channel.

These days many anglers at Busselton and Perth beaches are having great success targeting pinkies using drones to fly out their baits.

For boat and kayak fishing, light gear of 4-8kg is sufficient to stop even the biggest pinkie when they are in shallow water, while more traditional heavy boat outfits, with braided line of at least 23kg and heavier leader, will be required in deeper water.

For jigging, 10-15kg outfits are sufficient. Pinkies have been subject to heavy fishing pressure at times in WA, and are subject to several fishing restrictions as a result.

Unfortunately, this year’s annual community-driven stocking event Snapper Guardians was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, Recfishwest and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s aquaculture team still released 20,000 hatchery-bred pinkies into metro waters.

The annual demersal closure includes pink snapper and there is the annual spawning closure in metro waters. Shark Bay also has localised seasonal closures.

Pinkies are definitely a staple of the WA fishing landscape and a fish that I love to catch.

Brendan Stemp with a nice pink snapper off Bunbury. Picture: Lean Back Fishing