fingermark
Different sizes of fish from the same school, one on a 3” Berkley Gulp Shrimp and one on a 95mm Zerek Fish Trap.

Catching fingermark in Gladstone

Golden snapper – more commonly known as fingermark – are a common species caught throughout the Gladstone harbour.

Though it has been only in recent years that I’ve worked out the techniques and areas that consistently produce good numbers of this fish.

A change of techniques – fishing vertically and deeper when fishing in rivers – was the first thing that had me catching better numbers and sizes of fingermark.

Before this, I would catch an occasional GS when targeting barramundi around fallen trees or near rock bars when looking for grunter.

This would be infrequently and the size, rarely worth a mention, but I was happy to catch some variety.

It has taken a little time fishing the harbour and figuring out tides and locations to finally catch them in consistent numbers and sizes.

For a starting spot, I look for structure and water depth of about 4.5m, this is usually the shallowest I’ll target golden snapper.

Structure typically is a headland or the rock formations throughout the harbour, yet pylons, simple depth changes or a small lump in the ocean floor can also hold fish.

If bait is present – and typically the harbour holds good schools of herring, pike and garfish – the better the chances are that fish will be in the same area.

fingermark
Phil with a common sized fish from the harbour on a 5” paddle tail plastic.

 

Sounding for fingermark can be difficult because they usually hug the bottom, and it can be hard to tell them apart from the structure.

At times they will show on the sounder as they rise off the bottom to feed on the bait schools they’re typically underneath.

Now, I’m not saying this is the golden rule – a good golden snapper coming from shallow water wouldn’t be a surprise.

While I’m an avid lure fisho, if a lure is repeatedly ignored and I know fish are in the area, I will drop an occasional live bait down.

The majority of my GS are caught on two lures.

The first is a 95mm Zerek Fish Trap, though any good vibe will work.

The other is a 3” Berkley Gulp Shrimp on either a 3/8oz or 1/2oz jig head, depending on the depth and current flow.

The Berkley Gulp Shrimp will get a bite when everything else has missed out or if there are big schools of herring present and the fish are finicky.

I started using these only over the past few years and am still trying to understand why they work so well with such little action.

Regardless, they definitely work!

The 3” Berkley Gulp Shrimp worked well for golden snapper. Sebastian caught a decent fish from a rocky headland in the harbour.

 

It would be hard to find a rod in my boat without one of these tied on it.

Plenty of other lures work and everyone will have a favourite or different opinion, though I use paddle tails or jerk shads, simply because they’re my go-to lures.

Don’t rule out trolling a deep diving lure over structure either.

Plenty of lures will reach 5-8m, and the hit from a good golden snapper on the troll is very impressive.

For live bait, I find it hard to go past a large live herring, however fingermark will take just about anything with mullet, and garfish is a good back-up.

Fresh cut bait or a pillie will also get a few fish, but I would prefer live bait to these.

My tackle ranges from spin gear to barramundi baitcasters and I will change it depending on the location I’m fishing and whether I’m lure or bait fishing.

Typically, a 30-40lb leader is enough to deal with most situations, though I do use a slightly lighter setup of 20-25lb if they’re hard to get a reaction from.

When bait fishing, I use a 40–50lb leader because occasionally GS will get a head start and take you into the structure with some loose line.

A nice sized fingermark from the Calliope River caught on a Zerek Fish Trap.

 

I have braid on all of my reels and this ranges from 15-30lb, with 20lb the standard, which will stop any fingermark you can hook in the harbour.

The size of the fish will range from just legal to mid-60cm – I’m still on the hunt for consistent fish over the 70cm mark.

While you can get bigger golden snapper on the outside of Curtis Island and the wrecks offshore, the appeal of using less fuel and being able to start fishing within minutes of leaving the ramp makes up for the lack of very big fish.

Many other species can be caught when you’re targeting fingermark in the harbour.

I’ve caught plenty of reef species, with sweetlip emperor, tuskfish and coral trout all an option.

The typical by-catch is the ever-present estuary cod, grunter, blue salmon, as well as an occasional jewfish and barramundi.

It has taken me some time on the water to figure out the fingermark in Gladstone harbour, so I won’t give you exact spots, though I can say spend the time on the water, be patient and try different techniques.

If you can crack the right code, you can expect to consistently catch golden snapper and, at times, in good numbers.

Get out on the water, enjoy the hopefully more stable weather conditions during winter and explore the harbour.

Cheers and happy fishing from Gladstone.

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