Persistence pays during tough times
  |  First Published: October 2012

My job is to tell it the way it is – unfortunately this month’s article is not full of joy.

Most of the feedback from my top contacts was all about how tough the fishing has been recently. Not unusual for this time of year really and spring is notorious for cranky bream, cold dirty water and windy days.

Testing times

The most frustrating thing for those chasing bream on bait or lures is to see huge mobs of them on your sounder only to find their jaws firmly zipped. Sometimes you get a little bite window of a few hours when they tentatively play for a while. More often they are shut down for days on end.

The alarm bells rang for me recently when a top bream competition angler Chris Burbidge spent the whole day searching the Mitchell and failed to raise a single scale. Then shortly after, I searched far and wide in the Paynesville area for half a day and barely scratched up two squeaker bream at 22cm. The next day I spent seven hours on the Nicholson and covered about 5km in the kayak for a grand total of five bream to 35cm. Not all that bad until I mention they all came in successive casts during a thirty minute period.

As you can imagine there was a lot of casting (and cursing) in between. I could only trick them with a black blade slowly ‘tea-bagged’ directly under my yak and the tiny little pecks were just detectable. This all adds up to super tough fishing and a smarter angler would have been back home earlier in front of the fire with a can of beer, or three!

Bait fishing

Other reports from bait anglers also expressed the shock of fishless days, including the area around Hollands Landing. Live shrimp always seems to pry the mouth open of a shut down bream, but guys using these baits in the Straits and Toms Creek came home fishless. In fact they failed to mark any decent numbers of bream on the sounder, and the murky water with carp swimming around is usually another bad sign.

To make matters even worse this is also the time of year that flathead will totally shut down; where they hide nobody knows.

It’s hardly an inspiring report, but let me assure you that towards the end of this month the bream will be back on the chew and even the big mumma dusky flathead will wake up.

EP save the day

The one shining light has been the estuary perch that seem to love cold water. Darren Mays sent me some good news recently via email and told me about a decent run of perch he got in the lower Tambo. Not far at all from the boat ramp and sitting out in the middle right on the bottom. Thanks for the tip mate. I went and found them with blades and soft plastics.

This river always seems to hold a good number of small- to medium-sized perch in it and if you want to find them over the next month or so, try up around the highway bridge.

The EP have also returned to the Mitchell River backwater and around the pylons of the bridge in town. They are heavily targeted in this area and will often only take lures right on dusk or first light in the morning.

Looking ahead

Well the good news is that at least things can't get any worse! In fact as the water temps rise it will stir the bream and flathead out of the doldrums to provide more of the good fishing the Gippy Lakes are renowned for.

I’m certain that bait anglers will be the first to get the bream sorted and as usual the upper reaches of the Mitchell and Tambo will see another big spawning run.

Word has it that a dryer El Nino weather pattern is taking shape for the next year or so and this will hopefully spell the end to all the dirty flooded rivers over the last two years. It also means the upper fresh reaches of the rivers will stay clean and provide excellent fishing. This is when lure anglers will rejoice and I’m hoping we can all make up for the tough days of the last month or so.

Dusky regulations

Just a quick note about the proposed new dusky flathead size limits. There is talk that a slot limit of 30-55cm be introduced, which seems to welcomed by nearly every angler I’ve spoken to.

Some have commented it is three or four years too late and that noises were made and ignored a long time ago. Some have said that 35cm as minimum would be more appropriate to give all flathead a chance to breed at least once.

All I know is this – a 27cm flathead is a ridiculous size when you end up with a fillet about the size of your ring finger. I also fear that the damage has already been done in a lot of estuaries and it will be interesting to see if these great fish can recover. I think the days of scoring flathead 70-85cm on a fairly regular basis are now behind us.


Estuary perch have saved the day! Even little 30cm models from the Tambo or Mitchell are a welcome catch during these lean times.


Black blades are the best searching tool when bream are shut down in cold murky water.

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