Fickle bream but flathead fire for winter
  |  First Published: August 2014

As we all know, the one guarantee we get in fishing is that there are no guarantees!

In my last report I wanted to predict such a rosy picture and promise everyone bags full of winter bream. That's what happens every year, right? I've written enough reports to know that even the best of us can crow too early. As it turns out I would have been partly right because some really big fish have turned up but so far the large schools of winter bream are yet to congregate. However flathead have done the right thing and turned up in surprising numbers and sizes. That frigid cold snap a few weeks ago finally hit us and finally put paid to an almost warm winter. The news is definitely not all good and I'm going to tell you how it is for this report so let me share with you the ups and downs of the Gippy Lakes.

Bream in hiding

The last month or so has seen the bream slowly but surely shut down on bait and lures. And I mean a serious case of lock jaw. Catch rates have taken a severe dive and none of us can work out why. In years gone by July and into the middle of August has always delivered some of the hottest bream fishing for the year but this season has been the exact opposite. For lure anglers each trip has seen some of us put a modest tally of 8 or 12 fish together but at least some of those bream have been between 38cm and 43cm. Up on quality but way down on quantity.

The biggest surprise of all is that very few bream are responding to blade lures fished in the deep and most bream are taking soft plastics right up hard against the river edges. Almost everywhere most lure anglers have fished over the last month including the lower Mitchell, upper Tambo, Hollands Landing, Toms Creek, Metung, Painesville and Duck Arm, all of the better bream have been caught on soft plastics close to the bank. In most of those same locations where perch were very common just a month ago, EP have also either shot through or refuse to eat lures and bait. In fact the bream fishing has been so tough and disappointing that it has caught most of us totally off guard.

We were all thinking that this winter was going to be one of the best on record and I have absolutely no idea what has gone wrong! I can only put it down to one of those bizarre unknowns that we anglers will never understand let alone predict. Most days anglers will find around 10 good sized bream but it's a far cry and dismal comparison to years gone by. The last two winters provided excellent numbers of bream with unbelievable bags of 50 or even the odd 100 tally of bream mostly caught on metal blades. Not this year though.

Some people will call me spoilt and unappreciative because just 5 and definitely 10 years ago a bag of 12 big bream caught on lure was a ‘woo-hoo’ moment. These days we seem to expect so much more. So what the next month will throw at us nobody knows but with the rivers flowing fairly hard it will be another ripper spawning season for our black bream.

Dusky flathead numbers up

The really good news is a terrific positive for the flathead population right across the whole Gippy Lakes estuary. Their numbers are again on the rise just like back in 2004 to 2007.

Over the last few years the dusky flathead catch rate has been well down, especially over summer and I thought 2014 was going to be another very quiet year. This is a prediction I got totally wrong!

Incredible numbers of duskies have now been caught in the Tambo, Mitchell and Nicholson rivers, as well as Hollands Landing. The size of these flatties has also surprised us all with a lot of fish in the 50-60cm range but 90% of them are 30-45cm.

It amazes me yet again that the colder months see anglers hook countless flatties compared to what was a dismal summer. Prawn baits have jagged a few duskies but as usual the best way to target flathead is with blades or soft plastics and when you find them, it's nothing to land 10, 20 or even 30 a session.

Looking ahead

My crystal ball is a tad foggy at the moment but I just know those bream are now pushing into fresh water for the breeding season so all the upper rivers will now become the main focus. Also keep in mind that some bream have spawned early and will be very hungry, so the lower parts of the main rivers could produce even better as those fish return to saltier water. This hot flathead bite will as usual probably shut down by the middle of August but feel free to prove me wrong!

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