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Finding Winter bream
  |  First Published: July 2013



Bream can be almost anywhere in coastal NSW, from creeks and coastal lakes to rivers, bays, beaches, rocky washes and even inshore reefs.

The bream’s diverse diet also makes it a target for all manner of fishing strategies and techniques.

Bream are frequent captures through the warmer months but are able to withstand incredibly diverse water temperatures and I can tell you from experience that they still respond to lures during the cold.

We hear less hype about bream through May-July as fewer anglers are targeting them.

The fish tend to feed in different areas through Winter due to differing food stocks, forcing anglers to change their game plan.

RESEARCH

YouTube clips, DVDs, magazines and the internet will provide you with a plethora of valuable information. Learning of the bream’s breeding cycles and whereabouts during certain times of the year definitely can aid your approach.

Winter bream are generally quite large and are worth the effort.

Winter breaming success relies heavily on locating the bream’s food sources, as opposed to peppering your favourite bream snag or honey-hole as you would during summer.

One particular location may be laden with bait and the next day it is gone, along with the bream. Documenting your efforts will help crack codes, and educating yourself about the local bait stocks will prove paramount. Winter bream follow the baitfish and the old saying ‘find the bait and find the fish’, has a lot of mileage.

WINTER DIET

Bream feed on anything during the warmer months and it is common to see them caught on big fish slabs and live baits that were intended for mulloway and flathead.

However, Winter can be a completely different situation. A lot of our coastal lakes host enormous schools of baitfish, typically anchovies, which become the primary food source for all estuary inhabitants.

These baitfish are rich in protein and provide the bream much needed sustenance to get through the cold of Winter.

I prefer to search for bream in the coastal lakes of the South Coast through Winter because these waterways are less affected by tidal movement than the rivers, making it easier to locate the baitfish shoals.

Salty water that becomes trapped in the landlocked lakes provides nourishment, (zooplankton) for the baitfish, and it’s these saltier pockets of water that host the majority of baitfish and bream activity.

Changes in salinity levels (or changes in water temperature) may show up on your sounder as a thermocline and are good areas to prospect. You will find feeding bream where these thermoclines touch the bottom structure.

Deploying a slowly worked soft plastic grub or baitfish imitation along the converging thermocline lake bed can reap rewards. You’ll often locate bait-balls on your sounder screen in these areas and these are ideal places to start prospecting if no other visual signs are present.

ANGLERS’ ALLIES

A fish finder is a useful tool, although not always required.

Telltale signs of baitfish may include surface-feeding tailor and flocking sea birds. Tailor can be a pain in the bum to the bream angler because of the way they destroy soft plastics, shred leaders and steal expensive hardbodies, but I consider them my close allies and value their presence.

They highlight and expose the baitfish schools and they provide good sport when caught – and are good tucker if dispatched quickly, bled and placed on ice.

Birds hovering and diving into the baitfish schools will often be your guides. Never ignore these vital signs; the numbers of bream (and many other species) that I have caught around the melee of a feeding frenzy is phenomenal.

The trick is to slowly move around until you see some action, then cruise to the fringes of the activity. Never race up or drive through the activity.

Position yourself within casting distance and present your offerings. Matching the hatch in these scenarios will pay handsome dividends and you may need to trim your soft plastics to size.

The typical size of the more prolific baitfish on the South Coast is around 3” or 75mm, but in some cases trimming the belly on your plastic to slim the profile pays off.

In my experience, a soft plastic presentation reigns supreme in these situations.

Sometimes the bream stay right on the bottom of the water column and tail the visible feeding activity, so it’s worth allowing your presentation to drop into these regions.

Or the bream may be right among the melee, so also work your plastic erratically and up high.

These surface bust-ups can take place in the deepest sections of the lake, or right into the shallows or out in the middle of nowhere. A soft plastic on a jig head is versatile enough to successfully work the entire water column.

Other methods and presentations work but I have found this strategy a proven performer.

WHERE?

Lake systems such as St Georges Basin, Lake Conjola, Tuross, Wagonga Inlet, Wallaga, and Merimbula lakes are all good places to look for Winter bream. Over the border, Mallacoota is a mecca for big bream.

The larger rivers host this soft of fishery, too, as do some of the smaller often landlocked lakes. Just rug up, get out there and get into it.

Once the sun is well and truly elevated Winter days can be glorious and the bream fishing can be surprisingly hot.

Facts

AUTHOR’S TOOL KIT

• 6’-7’ 2kg-3kg spin rod

• 1000-2000 size threadline reel

• 4lb braid, 4lb fluorocarbon leader

• 3” soft plastic shads, stickbaits and grubs

• Polarised eyewear

1

This 38cm fork length bream took a 70mm soft plastic shad cast to a surface feeding frenzy.

2

Check out those arches – bream underneath a school of baitfish. Even in water as cold as 14.8°, bream will actively hunt. The morning was so cold even the camera lens was fogging.

3

Never ignore signs of activity. It could be a surface eruption, a flock of sea birds or in this case…a few feeding tailor and a single tern. Never the less, it is worth casting a plastic at, as bream will be close by.

4

The boys are rugged up and bringing another Winter bream.

5

The author’s wife cast toward a patch of frantic baitfish and was rewarded with this handsome bream. Winter bream fishing is all about finding the baitfish.

6

Customising your soft plastics by trimming them with scissors will help imitate the prevalent bait-fish stocks. Here a 3” Atomic Shad was slimmed by removing the belly section to replicate an anchovy.

7

Check out the condition of this fat, healthy Winter bream prior to release. Most of the bream caught during the colder months will be large.

8

The author pinned this bream by presenting a soft plastic in the zone where a thermocline came into contact with the lake bed.

9

Finding the bait during Winter will produce bream like this.

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