Through our warmest time of year, the coastal lakes of the Central Coast can really fire up with bream luring opportunities. Considering the high prawn population that thrives within these lakes and vast, shallow margins, surface lures are right at the top of the list. Let’s take a closer look and see how best to make the most of the months ahead.
Although they have many things in common, the Tuggerah system and Lake Macquarie are also quite different in some ways. The biggest individual difference is that Macquarie is a lot deeper. In fact, without getting too specific, it’s probably around three times as deep as Tuggerah Lakes overall. This simply means that all three lakes that make up the Tuggerah system warm up much more quickly so the bream tend to kick into gear a month earlier than Macquarie.
Another obvious difference is the inflow of sea water. It’s much greater at the mouth of Lake Macquarie, near Swansea, than it is at the shallow, sandy Tuggerah entrance. However, as far as bream fishing goes, this isn’t really of any great significance.
What about the nets? It’s interesting that despite the continual, year-round commercial netting throughout Tuggerah Lakes, bream luring here can actually result in a greater number of fish caught over a given period than fishing in Lake Macquarie. Forty years of fishing these lakes has proven that fact to me.
Having said that, there’s also no doubt that the biggest bream are far more likely to be caught within Macquarie. Sure, the occasional fish over 1.5kg is hooked around Tuggerah’s waters, but if a trophy class bream is on your wish list I recommend you head straight to Lake Macquarie.
There is no shortage of areas around both waterways where casting surface and subsurface lures produces the goods through the warmer months. Popular places like The Entrance or Swansea can fish exceptionally well at times (although holiday periods also mean crowds) fishing from the shore, kayaks or boats. The area west of The Entrance Bridge can house stacks of bream and whiting, but an overabundance of weed can make for problematic and frustrating times.
Perhaps the best approach, rather than thinking in terms of specific spots, is to look for the ingredients that make for productive lure casting. Generally speaking, that means seeking out a combination of weed, rock, sand and water movement. These lakes are incredibly weedy, so you won’t have to look far to find that. However, there needs to be plenty of sand between patches of weed to attract bream – ideally a 50/50 mix in knee deep water.
Rocky points are another common feature of both lake systems, and when you get that mix of sand and weed just off a point you’ve definitely got a good bream spot. Of course, some points may be better than others and each may fire at a different time. So, like lure casting for bream anywhere along the NSW coast, it’s largely a matter of moving around to find the fish because they’re not going to come rushing to you!
Other bream-attracting structure can be found in the form of bridge pylons, jetties, fallen timber, overhanging foliage and moored boats. It’s all in plentiful supply around the lakes. Some of the deeper cockle beds in Lake Macquarie can still produce bream at this time of year, although the majority of fish are in shallower water and often looking for their food near the surface.
As with most forms of fishing, some sort of water movement will see the fish in a more active mood. There are some minor currents around these lakes and closer to the mouth it’s the usual tidal scenario. In more isolated bays or backwaters, a breeze will also create enough movement to encourage bream to feed more than they would in dead still water.
Boats and kayaks both have their advantages and disadvantages when fishing the lakes, and bear in mind that shore-based lure casting can also work well in some spots. My personal preference is to fish from a kayak, as I like the simplicity and stealth. Yaks are also great when working the super-shallow lake margins, where boats may struggle to get in close enough to the fish.
On the other hand, it’s a million times easier to cover a lot of different spots with a boat. You can cross Lake Macquarie in 10 or 20 minutes in a boat, as opposed to an hour or two of hard slogging in a kayak.
Northeasterly wind blows most days at this time of year and it really picks up strength after midday. Dealing with that in a kayak can be a nightmare, especially if you’re trying to cross an exposed part of a lake. You may cop some salty spray in a boat, but overall those northeasterlies don’t pose much of a problem.
Overall, I would say yaks are best for extremely shallow flats, early mornings, creeks or sheltered bays. Boats are best for open water at any time, without worrying about the wind, especially if you’re not entirely sure of where the best fishing may be on the day.
While a sounder isn’t necessary when flicking lures over the shallows, a decent electric motor is essential for boating anglers. Anchoring up and casting around may result in a few fish, and freely drifting with the breeze is workable, but you’ll definitely do much better with an electric.
The general aim of the game around the Central Coast lakes is to fish very early in the morning or the last few hours leading up to sunset. This is much more important in Tuggerah, Budgewoi and Munmorah than it is throughout Macquarie. In fact, it’s the norm to enjoy first rate action from about 15 minutes before sunrise up until 8am, and then by 9am it’s almost a complete waste of time continuing on. Many times I’ve seen a hot bite shut down altogether only an hour after sunrise.
Lake Macquarie bream may act like this too, but it’s not uncommon for some of the bigger fish to be hooked around 9-10am. After a good session in the shallows with surface lures, it may also be productive to start working the deeper parts with small blades or plastics.
When there’s a lot of boat traffic on the water this may also affect bream behaviour and they’ll shut down earlier or only become active again an hour before sunset. They can also be harder to tempt if the barometer is rapidly falling, a northwesterly is blowing or during the first few mornings after a full moon.
On the other hand, if it’s the new moon period, there has been some light rainfall in recent days, the barometer is reasonably high and the sky is overcast you could just keep on catching bream all day, even around the Tuggerah system.
These are the general guidelines, well worth noting. Ultimately though, you won’t catch fish unless you get out there and start casting. Fish don’t read rule books and the next 2kg blue-nosed thumper that’s caught in the middle of the day, with a barometer sitting at 1002, won’t be the last!
We are so lucky to have an enormous variety of excellent lures to choose from these days, ranging from cheapy jobs found in bargain bins, through to expensive, hi-tech Japanese masterpieces. They’ll pretty much all catch bream at one stage or another, and experienced anglers have their favourites.
I prefer the smaller surface lures such as Jackson T-Pivots and Ecogear PX45s, but I mainly use these while fishing from a kayak, where casting distance isn’t a priority. If you’re casting from a larger boat though, it’s often best to cast as far as possible, particularly if the vessel isn’t able to get in close enough to the really skinny water. Therefore, lures with a bit of weight to them will do a better job.
Although this is the season for topwaters, it always pays to have some other types in the kit as bream aren’t always going to be receptive to surface presentations. Depending on exactly where you’re fishing, this could mean deep or shallow running hardbodies, vibes or soft plastics. Some of my personal favourites for the lakes include Jazz Bokun and Ecogear ZX30 blades, Daiwa Gekkabijin Vibs and any of the smaller Berkley Gulps, with pumpkinseed, camo and motor oil being my choice of colours.
The world’s best lure won’t catch fish by itself. While it’s certainly beneficial to be armed with a top notch lure, it needs to be cast in the right place and given some thoughtful rod work in order to score a bite.
In most cases, the best thing to do when a surface lure splashes down is to simply leave it sitting motionless for a few seconds. The splashdown would have been enough to attract the attention of any nearby fish, so they’ll zoom over to investigate. If it’s early in the morning and the bream are in an active mood, the lure will probably get smacked.
If not, the next step is to commence the retrieve. Rather than just work it back at a steady, constant pace, try to mix things up a bit with some speedy rips, pauses and whatever else may come to mind.
Take a look at any prawns that may be getting chased around and try to imitate their hurried, nervous movements. If you see a bream zooming right in to the lure, rip the lure away quickly, just like a real, fleeing prawn. When the bream catches up to the lure again, it won’t want to let it get away a second time.
Bream are predictable in many ways, but due to variables like the weather, water temp or clarity and the exact spot you’re fishing, things can quickly change. What worked yesterday, or even ten minutes ago, may not be so successful later on. If one approach doesn’t work, just try another and another until you catch a fish.Reads: 4244