How To Catch White Steenbras On Light Tackle?

The White Steenbras is one of my favourite fish to target, and has been nicknamed The Steamer; because the speed of their first run is the equivalent to a steam train speeding off. In the Eastern Cape we call this fish a Pignose Grunter; because when the mouth is fully extended it resembles a snout and it is very similar to the Spotted Grunter in many of it's habits.

Before I go into detail about catching the White Steenbras on light tackle in the surf or estuaries, please note that this fish is often confused with the Sand Steenbras. The juveniles can be very similar in appearance, especially in their body shape and mouth shape. However the Sand Steenbras has 14 vertical bars spaced very close together, compared to the White Steenbras' 7 or so vertical bars. The Sand Steenbras often is more brown in colour and sometimes a freshly caught specimen has brown bars, opposed to the White Steenbras, which has grey bars. Please see the images below for a comparison. You will often encounter these 2 species living side by side in estuary systems.

Sand Steenbras
Sand Steenbras
White Steenbras
White Steenbras

There are 3 different methods or categories when it comes to targeting the White Steenbras on light tackle, I will discuss them all below.

White Steenbras On Dropshot

At the time of writing this article I have only ever caught one White Steenbras on Dropshot, but have seen others being caught with a similar method.

A half ounce jighead rigged with a Berkley Gulp Camo Worm seems to get their attention nicely. The trick here is either to work the Camo Worm very very slowly along the bottom, or to drop the Dropshot into the path of the current and free spool your reel so that the worm moves with the current, at the same time bouncing along the bottom and disturbing the sand, which often gets the Steenbras' attention. This is best done from a boat in an estuary system, but works from the side as well.

White Steenbras In The Estuaries

White Steenbras caught in an estuaryWhite Steenbras frequent estuary systems, and you can catch all different sizes of them in the rivers. When targeting White Steenbras in estuaries I use a size 6 Mustad baitholder, with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader. The only baits to use for these fish in the rivers are Mud Prawn, Sand Prawn and Bloodworm. I will use a small coffee grinder reel with 7lb - 10lb main line and anyone of these 3 traces: Sliding sinker above the swivel; normal bottom trace with a bottle sinker; weightless and letting the bait drift. A 6-7 foot rod with a bit of backbone will do the job.

White Steenbras In The Surf

White Steenbras caught in the surfThe White Steenbras is one of the most challenging and fun fish to catch in the surf. They love to hang around sand banks, often close to white water or rocky areas. When targeting the White Steenbras in the surf on light tackle, I will use a 6-9 foot rod with a size 4000 coffee grinder, loaded with 7-15lb mainline. A 0.45 leader is perfect, preferably fluorocarbon. Here I will use between a size 2 and 2/0 short shank Diachii. The only bait to get a Steenie in the surf in my mind is a chokka and sand prawn combination. A tenderized strip of Chokka as the backbone of the bait with 1-3 sand prawn loaded on top and cottoned together. Good luck trying to strike the fish on with this bait. Nine times out of 10 the White Steenbras will, out of nowhere, eat your bait and scream off with it. Keep your rod tip up high and let the fish take you on the first run, if you do not lose the fish on it's first run your chances of landing it increase tremendously. I have lost a few Steenies on their first runs in the surf, one being about 5-6 kilograms which I hooked on 5lb line. Strangely enough the hook pulled, and I did not get burned off.