OVER the last couple of weekends Barraddiction has been heading offshore from Darwin prospecting the deep contours for golden snapper. I am pleased to report that a number of weighty nuggets have been pocketed from the depths, which helps offset the considerable effort being put in.
Now you might be thinking that all the effort is in trying to find the snapper on the sounder, getting them to bite a jig and then muscling this tasty species back to the boat before a shark or large mack decides to eat it for you. Well that is partly true. However, most of our effort stems from battling the countless 4-10kg GTs and other trevally species that often get to the jigs before the snapper do. Thus most of our dedicated snapper trips are in fact trevally landing ones with some good snapper showing up in between.
That last line actually reminds me of a famous one a Canadian judge delivered many years back while presiding over an assault case between two ice hockey teams. He said, "It would appear that people were in fact attending a fight which was temporarily disrupted when a hockey game broke out." Well if there was a fish version of that game then I reckon those bruising GTs would most likely end up in the sin-bin...
Darwin Jigger John Mitchell with a local
hard-pulling trevally – a very frequent by-catch when targeting golden
snapper on jigs. Pic: Peter Zeroni
When it comes to GTs, it is seriously draining pulling these never-say-die opponents up from depths of 100 feet or more, all under a steaming tropical sun. On some trips the GT to snapper ratio is up to 10 to 1, hence the hard yakka. Luckily like other species such as kingfish and Samson fish caught down south, our trevallies are great release candidates as they are able to handle rapid changes in depth without suffering the deadly effects of barotrauma. Unfortunately this is not the case for goldies, jewies and other reef dwelling species that get the bends if pulled up quickly from depths of 30 feet or more.
One way we northern snapper jiggers try to make it easier on ourselves - while chipping through the quartz to reach the gold - is to choose specialised rods that are harder on the fish than on the angler. To explain this logic you first need to think back to your school days when the science teacher taught you about levers. Along with the invention of the wheel, the discovery of levers is one of mankind's big advancements. Using a pitchfork in the garden or a long handled car jack are two examples of levers working for you. However, when it comes to fighting stubborn fish the longer the lever – in this case the rod - the greater the force a fish can apply back against you. This is why so many northern anglers dislike GTs because when hooked down deep they can really work you over, in spite of using a heavy boat rod with the thickness of a broom handle.
Now that's one great looking curve! Pic: Peter Zeroni
For the above reason most jigging rods are not only shorter in length, but while under load they bend in a wicked parabolic arc (i.e. an inverted U shape). This tight curve dramatically shortens the overall working length of the rod therefore giving the angler much more advantage over a hooked fish. Further, these rods can impart massive drag forces on to the hooked fish. So in addition to making it easier on the angler, a good jig rod will also shorten the length of the fight which helps increase the survival rates of fish to be released. Lastly, purpose-built jig rods are considerably lighter and thinner than others and thus a pleasure to use all day. For some awesome footage of jigging rods in action Google the words Jigging Master.
So before the big guy in the red suit arrives this Sunday, some of you may want to nip down to your local tackle store and check out a few jig rods for yourselves. And if you've been good all year then just maybe there might be room to slip one more pressie under your tree. Merry Christmas to you all and here's to a very fishy 2012!
Bud Walker with a thumper of a golden snapper landed on his new Shimano Trinidad/ Jigging Master outfit. Pic: Peter Zeroni