Two large snappers caught in Wallaroo, Steve Cooper

The small SA seaport of Wallaroo, north of Moonta, offers an excellent base for anglers wanting to catch big snapper, King George whiting, Australian salmon and yellowtail kingfish. Many of the reef systems are close to the port, and the boat-launching facility in the harbour is sheltered. There is plenty of parking for cars and trailers, and the three ramps allow you to launch the largest boats you can legally tow.

Wallaroo pier is a popular fishing destination. Unfortunately, due to concerns over vandalism and public liability, it is fenced off about halfway along. This may change, as there is a push to open the entire pier to fishing when boats are not in port.

Never mind: half the pier is better than no pier at all and even up to the halfway mark, anglers catch big snapper. Every so often a school of kingfish runs along the pier, creating excitement. Sometimes when you are in a boat motoring alongside the pier you can spot schools of kingfish swimming between the mussel- encrusted pilings.

I fished for kingfish near the end of the pier from a 5.8 m boat. It was all about berley. The berley mix had just started to sink and drift away when the kings showed up, small fish averaging 4–6 kg. Even at this smaller size, kingfish have serious pulling power and are great fun on light tackle, using lures or flies. Some of the locals complain about the hordes of kingfish in many parts of Spencer Gulf. Most of them are claimed to be escapees from a fish- farming venture further north.

To the north of the boat harbour is Point Riley, well regarded as a land-based snapper fishing location. A couple of kilometres offshore from this ledge is the Wallaroo Tyre Reef. Water depth is about 20 m and the bottom is mud. The reef is a well-known mark for snapper to about 4 kg. On the day I fished this reef, most of the snapper were on or just below the SA minimum legal length of 38 cm. There is a bag limit of ten small snapper (38–60 cm) and a boat limit of 30 fish in this size range. Larger snapper are limited to two per angler or six per boat.

You know there are plenty of snapper in the trail when your bait is taken before it sinks to the bottom. At the reef, snapper were munching on the berley at the surface. Any bait I dropped in was taken, even saltwater flies. The method wasn’t rocket science and there was little skill involved. It was simply a matter of putting the rubber-tailed fly in the water and watching the snapper hit it as it sank. After a while, I became a bit blasé – rather than strip the fly in and work it, I waited, and a snapper just hooked itself.

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