Pink Snapper (Pagrus auratus) are a popular reef fish found along all the southern WA coast to as far north as Exmouth (and sometimes a bit further). They are a common catch by line fishermen throughout much of the State, however as a rule they are a very difficult fish to spear, particularly in local Perth water (Rottnest). Up north in some locations they can be easier to spear such as Steep Point and Carnarvon etc.
Pink Snapper are classed as a "Demersal Finfish" in all WA bioregions. You may take 3 pinkies per person per day most regions, however in the west cost bioregion (WCB) the bag limit is 2 per person per day (remember in the WCB you may only take a combination of 2 fish from the demersal list per day!). They have a minimum size of 50cm south of Lancelin and 41cm north of Lancelin. There are seperate rules and a maximum size of 70cm within Shark Bay. To further confuse the issue Pink Snapper are also subject to seasonal closures and for current information please refer to
Pinkies have firm white flesh but are best eaten fresh. I don’t recommend freezing them
Characteristics and habitat
Pinkies have an amazing ability to blend into their surroundings, turning ghost white over sand or very dark over weed. On all types of habitat they have small bright blue spots on the upper half of the body.
The WA spearfishing record for these fish is 12.75kg held by Glynn Dromey. The average size for west coast waters would be 3 to 6kg with the odd fish to 10kg. Any fish taken over 6kg is definite bragging material simply because they are not that easy to shoot. Undersize snapper are a common sight in metro waters.
Places where I’ve speared these fish include South Australia, New South Wales, New Zealand and Western Australia.
Western Australia- a few places to try:
Pinkies are usually a wary fish that will hear you and bolt away if you’re clumsy with your gun etc or if you have squeaky ears. They can be shot occasionally at Rottnest and any Pinkie speared there is a genuine accomplishment for a free diver.
The use of bait is important generally speaking. Try Buff bream or use you frozen scrapes from previous fishing days, for example abalone stomach lining and cray remains.
A good breath hold is a plus when hunting pinkies.They are curious like all fish, but only up to a point. When Pinkies do come up towards you head on they will flick away instantly as soon as they turn side on. Consider shooting directly head on at the fish. If you can get inside a cave adjacent to a Pinkie this can help. The fish can not see you in the blackness of a cave but they know you are there, and may investigate.
Try placing bait in a gutter where Pinkies frequent. Swim away for a few minutes returning out of sight i.e. swim along the bottom hugging the reef from well back. Try to sneak up on the fish so to speak. It is possible to approach within a couple of metres of a big Pinkie if you are quiet.
In open water, i.e. off the West End of Rottnest, in 20 to 25 metres of water chopping up burley may bring Pinkies in. If you are going to dive on them while they are feeding on the bottom, use the slide technique, i.e. no finning or moving any body parts with your gun outstretched ready to fire. Being able to equalise without using your fingers is an advantage. Sinking down you might get a chance for a shot.
Simply laying on the bottom for several minutes might bring a Pinkie within range but usually they will be just out of range.
Pinkies sometimes just sit on the bottom, apparently asleep. You can be lucky sometimes with these fish.
A 1.2 to 1.5 gun with a quick spear is useful with this fish i.e. 7mm shafts.