Scott’s Species – ruby snapper, a prize from the depths

Looking like a gigantic goldfish, ruby snapper are a common deep water catch in northern WA, writes Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan in the latest edition of Scott’s Species.

Species: Ruby snapper, Etilis carbunculus

Eating: 4 stars

ID: The colouration of these fish makes them easy to identify. They are red/dark orange across the back, slightly fading to white on the belly. The margins of the dorsal and caudal fins are red. The tip of the lower lobe of the caudal fin is white.

🎶 Ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby 🎶! Picture: Peak Sportfishing Adventures

Ruby snapper are well-known for their great eating qualities, meaning they are a prized catch for bottom fishers in 90m to 400m of water.

However, if you suffer badly from sea sickness then rubys aren’t a fish you’re ever likely to encounter!

They are found as far south as Kalbarri at times, and there have been whispers of the odd fish showing up off Perth in recent years.

However, they are commonly found from the waters off Shark Bay north. Exmouth is a noted hot spot for them, with the relatively short distances required there to access the depths in which they are typically found.

My first encounter with ruby snapper was at the Montebello Islands with gun charter skipper Bernie Vale.

Fishing in around 300m after dark on a glassy evening, we dropped baits to the bottom on electric outfits and caught a number of striking looking big rubys.

We tried manual jigging for them, without success, and I’d suggest electrics make far more sense in that depth of water anyway!

Alessando Gismondi with a BIG ruby snapper from the depths off Exmouth. Picture: Peak Sportfishing Adventures

Rubys grow to about 1m in length and around 20kg, but most caught will be around less than half that size.

Those who target rubys prefer to fish in 240m to 300m and use their sounder to find showings of fish.

Although they school up, they are not usually in large numbers. Look for showings of fish on the top edge of a drop-off, rather than down the side or at the bottom.

Rubys often hold a reasonable distance from the bottom and one trick is to use a long leader from the sinker as they can be caught around 20m to 30m from the sea floor.

Most popular baits will work including cut fish and squid, while rubys will aggressively hit jigs as well.

Lights and lumo can work, but can also attract the dreaded green-eye sharks. As mentioned earlier, electric reels are the preferred way to target them.

The smile on your face says it all – the joy of manually reeling a ruby up from 300m!