Peak snapper fishing time all round Cockburn Sound

Peak snapper fishing time all round Cockburn Sound

MANY pink snapper will be about 11 years old when caught during the peak period of recreational fishing.

That will be before Cockburn and Warnbro sounds close to protect breeding stocks for four months from September 31.

“Many of these fish are the result of a very good population recruitment pulse from 2007 and are likely to form part of the aggregations,” Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development fisheries management officer Shane Walters said.

A large recreational fishery for the prized species has developed in the months before the closures each year, which followed a 2001-2004 study of their spawning in multiple places in the sound.

It is not unknown for up to 100 small vessels, including kayaks and tinnies, to fish spots in evenings and dawns where a pre-closure school of snapper has become known, in part because of social media posts.

Mr Walters said the number of snapper annually joining the population comprised one to two strong years, with weaker seasons between, each decade.

“Spawning activity is usually at its greatest between October and December, but typically peaks around the new moon at the time when water temperatures reach 19C to 21C, typically in November.

Some recreational fishers opposed to a new outer harbour at Henderson say adjacent wharves and groynes are a prime site for breeding.

However a Journal of Fish Biology paper shows snapper spawning areas throughout the sound, starting in its deep basin and moving clockwise as breeding progresses.

Mr Walters said there was no evidence the population had been affected by the death of 250 snapper because of low oxygen levels near Garden Island in 2015.

Research into the pink snapper population continues, including using acoustics to track the fishes’ migrating paths into and from the Cockburn Sound, and that work’s results will soon be published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.