This 10.18kg snapper from Mark Cotton took out the local ‘Dawnbreakers 2019 Snapper Cup’ in Nelson.
Mark Cotton has been fishing the Nelson waters since the age of 7 and has been working in the industry for the past 20+ years. If you can’t find him in his Senator boat out in the bay then you’ll see him at the local Big Blue Dive ‘n’ Fish store offering all kinds of advice to everyday anglers stopping in for their bait and tackle. Over the years Mark has accounted for over forty 20lb+ snapper in the Nelson region so naturally we decided to pick his brain for tactics that others can use to improve their chances of finding and catching the big one.
Fishing in Tasman Bay and around D’Urville Island
Mark says the snapper fishing in Tasman Bay is generally great all year round. In the summer he will fish in depths of 5-40m with strayline and flasher rigs but in winter he will go deeper and primarily use flasher rigs or jigs. Heading out to D’Urville Island is the usual plan of attack in the winter as there is good holding ground there for big snapper and kingfish between 50-190m. “The aim of the game is to drift and bottom bounce your flasher rigs. Starting in the shallower water and drifting to the deep is our best tactic. So sussing out the wind and tide direction to anticipate your drift will help determine what side of the island you target”, says Mark. He also said that the outgoing tide is the best for snapper fishing in the winter and on the incoming he will switch to targeting kingis with bigger and heavier jigs. One other key insight from Mark was that the big tides around D’Urville can make things tricky, “if the high is over 3.6m then the current will be surging and you will have better success closer to the slack of the tide. 1 ½ hours each side of the tide will be key”…so take that onboard and plan your trips accordingly.
The Best Tackle/Tactics for Fishing around D’Urville Island
Tackle choice is key. When asked what tackle Mark uses he responded saying he likes to fish as light as possible for snapper. “15-30lb braid is a good mainline. As for the terminal end you can never go past the Black Magic Snapper Snatchers or the new Snapper Snack rigs, they’re simply the best bang for buck rig on the market so don’t muck around with cheaper copies”, says Mark. He will also use the Black Magic Flipper or Flutter Jigs in 100-150g if the fish are responding better to jigs, but “9 times out of 10 the Black Magic rigs haul in the big one”.
Mark Cotton’s mate Craig caught this 20lb snapper on the Snapper Snatcher ‘Original’ colour in Tasman Bay.
Bait Choice at D’Urville Island
Bait choice is important and obviously the fresher the better says Mark. You want a bait that is oily to give out a good scent and will stay on the hook for the deep decent. “Most pilchards in Nelson are a much better quality to those sold in the rest of the country, so they are always a good bait choice. Otherwise, I’ll use squid or barracoota. Mix it up and have different baits on each hook if you like.”
Mark Cotton’s mate Daniel caught this 16lb snapper on the Snapper Snack ‘Super Lumo’ colour in Tasman Bay, using half pilchard (head end) for bait.
Take it Easy During the Fight…
The last piece of advice Mark wanted to give to anyone wanting to land their first trophy snapper is to, “take your time when you hook up. There is little to no structure out in the 50-190m depth around D’Urville Island, so you will get away with letting the fish run. 2-3kg of drag is plenty when fishing light line, just ease them in slowly and enjoy the fight!
A range of Mark Cotton’s favourite Black Magic tackle when targeting big winter snapper at D’Urville Island.