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The black bream goal
  |  First Published: March 2015



Is there anything better than setting yourself a challenge, working hard on planning and preparation, and then watching it come together? All anglers who are serious about their sportfishing will know what I mean. Over the years, I have set myself many fishing challenges and continue to do so, and happily tick them off the list along the way.

For me, the challenges have changed over the years, but are equally as important and take just as much effort and time to achieve and are every bit as rewarding when accomplished. On paper or when talking to mates about them, some may sound more challenging than others, or more important, but I don’t find that to be the case. There is just as much planning and preparation in chasing a small fish as there is in a large fish such as marlin or tuna.

For my wife and I, we travelled up and down the NSW coast to achieve our game fishing goals. We have dragged our trailer boats to South West Rocks to land marlin, to Bermagui to chase yellowfin tuna, and more recently towed our kayaks to the Victorian town of Mallacoota in an effort to achieve a goal that was very important to me and every bit as important as the trips up and down the coast chasing game fish.

I wanted my first-ever black bream and the plan was to catch them on lures from our Hobie kayaks. Sure, you can talk up the game fish trips, the big boats, the big dollars involved, and the big fish at the end of it all (if it goes to plan), but at the end of the day there is very little difference in the effort required to achieve these goals. They are obtainable, they are fun to plan, they are great fun to carry out, and they are extremely rewarding. Hopefully in this article I can provide a little info into what’s involved in preparing for such a trip, and after reading about our recent challenges it might just inspire you to plan your next trip and make it happen.

Things to consider

Now regardless the type of species you’re chasing, there are a few requirements that are pretty well standard. You need to consider the locations where have a greater chance of finding them, the gear required to catch them, and the vessel needed. You need to look at the types of accommodation available to ensure they are suitable for those going on the trip. Is there fuel nearby, and other essentials such as food and water must be considered. You need to know the best time of year for the weather and for your best chance of catching that particular fish. As you can see, regardless if it is marlin off SWR or bream at Mallacoota, the preparation is the same.

For the past 5 years now, I have been right into lure fishing for estuary species such as bream, flathead, mulloway and the like. I am certainly happy with the fish I have landed so far, but I was after something else. I had read plenty about those big black bream of the south, and they are 1 fish that I wanted to tick off my list. Ideally, it would involve a trip to Tassie, but on this occasion it wasn’t possible, so I looked at our other options.

It came down to a pretty little coastal town in eastern Victoria — Mallacoota. It was within reach for us, had what we needed for an enjoyable holiday, and also had our target species.

Before heading down, we researched suitable launching spots, fishing spots and all the tackle required. Being owners of a tackle shop, we had all the gear we needed for the trip; now we just needed to fit it all in!

There are plenty of fishing forums and social media sites to ask the questions before such a trip. I also like to not only take the word of others, but confirm a few things for myself as well. On this side of it, I get issues of NSW Fishing Monthly for the previous year or 2 and read how the fishing was at the time I am planning to head there.

All looked good for us, and the plan was made to head down for a week during the summer holidays. We researched real estate sites and secured a property that met our needs. It was within a good distance to launch sites and also to other considerations such as food, fuel, and entertainment for the family on those days that didn’t allow for fishing. With a 6-year-old daughter, it’s important for us to mix up the fishing with some other activities to make it fun for all. For others it may be important to be near a pub or bottle shop, or doctors, hospitals and the like. This comes back to doing the research first to ensure it all goes as smoothly as possible on your trip.

We had decided our best shot at a black bream was going to be working a variety of lures around the snag-filled shorelines, and also over the many mudflats throughout this particular system. It is always hard fishing a new spot for the first time and even harder to achieve your goals on the inaugural trip.

Sure, we were just after our first black bream, but for this to be a success we wanted to ensure we encountered large black bream over the 40cm mark. We carefully selected as many suitable lures as we could carry in our tackle trays, as we don’t like to overload the kayaks and make unnecessary extra work for ourselves with excessive weight aboard. We had a good selection of soft plastics, deep and shallow diving hardbody lures, and also a range of blades. We had 3 rods per ’yak and they were spooled with a variety of line from 3lb straight-through fluorocarbon, to 6lb braid with 8lb leader. Rods for this trip were 1-3kg and 2-5kg, around 6’8”-7’ in length. Our ’yaks are also fitted with quality sounder/GPS units, so we had all bases covered for this trip.

Keeping an eye on the weather, we knew we had 3 good days out of the 5 available in which to achieve our goal. The first day there is always lost in unpacking, and the same goes for the last. Two of the 3 days were looking great, and the 3rd was looking ordinary, but suitable for a solo trip, as I don’t mind fishing in uncomfortable weather if the fish are on the chew.

Day 1

Our first day had us fishing the shoreline around Gypsy Point. It’s such a pretty location and we chose to work a range of diving hardbody lures and blades to begin with. It was a slow start, but it wasn’t long before my wife Caroline could cross black bream off her list. Working a Strike Pro Cyber Vibe in close to structure, she was soon onto a nice 32cm bream.

It was a very satisfying capture for her, as she selected the lure she wanted to use, paddled off to pick her own location, and she landed it solo. For the wife — mission accomplished. For me — still struggling. We managed a few more fish, including a mix of tailor and flathead, but unfortunately no more black bream were added to the day’s tally.

Day 2

The weather had turned for the worse, but it was still safe enough for me to undertake a solo session in my efforts to get this particular monkey off my back. I worked some very fishy looking water, but after an hour flicking lures I still hadn’t had a touch.

I decided to head over and fish the location that produced Caroline’s bream on the first day. It was not too long a wait, and I soon had my own black bream. It was not a huge fish, but such a rewarding one. We had travelled a long way to fish this location and towed our ’yaks 9 hours to be here, so to finally have my target species was a great feeling.

This fish was only just legal at around 29cm, and although very happy to have landed it, I certainly came for much bigger specimens. I continued working the area for another hour, but was unable to upgrade.

I decided to explore some new water, and following the GPS I found a couple of small arms and shallowish bays that looked like they might be worth a flick. I found a semi-submerged tree sitting in the middle of a bay in around 2m of water. As I quietly approached it, I could see through my Tonic sunglasses that a large bream was hanging off one of the submerged branches.

My first cast was off the mark, but to my surprise the bream was still there. My second cast was on the money and I was soon tight to a solid southern black bream that was peeling 3lb fluoro off at speed. Initially relieved as the bream swam into clear water, I was soon very worried as it was now heading for the tree once again. With 3lb fluoro obviously not a strong line, it does still allow you to apply pressure with the right rod for the job. I squeezed as much as I could and it was enough to hold the fish back from the timber.

A few long runs and some tense moments, and it was soon in the net. Not only had I achieved what I came here to do, but I had set myself a new bream PB in the process. The great thing about black bream is that they are very calm when out of the water, so it took no time to grab a few pics and a quick measure before the fish was released. I was very happy to see it measure 43cm in length and a weight of around 1.4kg.

I finished off the session working some sandy dropoffs, and managed some nice flathead that came home with me. I kicked back that night, cooking fresh fillets, enjoying a cold beer with my family, overlooking the water from our holiday home, and thought to myself, “Yep, that’s what we came here for.”

I had such satisfaction at landing a quality fish and on light line. When it is actually planned and not a just bycatch, it makes it so much sweeter.

Day 3

The weather gods were not smiling on us, so we resorted to the backup plan. A trip to the beach and a round of putt putt golf, followed by a great lunch, and we were then back at home making plans for the following day’s assault on the bream. Judging by the weather reports, it was possibly our last shot at them.

Remaining days

With the weather looking patchy at best for our remaining time, we had to make the most of it and my wife and daughter again joined me on the water for 1 last effort before I ventured out for another solo mission. We worked a variety of locations including the lower lake and The Narrows, but aside from a few small flathead, tailor and undersized bream, we had nothing to brag about, that’s for sure.

We opted to again venture to the waters above the Top Lake and immediately came into contact with a few more bream, but unfortunately there was no real size to them. With the weather now leaning towards uncomfortable and tricky to fish, my wife and daughter opted for the comfort of the house and a hot coffee and hot chocolate, while I persisted in my pursuit of southern black bream.

I found some solid fish about, but not in the numbers I had hoped for. I managed a few to 36cm and eventually pulled the pin on my efforts, giving in to the calling of hot coffee.

The wrap up

Even as I write this article, I am still not sure whether this trip should be classed as a success or not. I guess it was successful in that I achieved what I set out to do, with my wife and I both landing our first black bream, and I was rapt to have landed such a chunky one as the PB 43, but I guess the numbers were the letdown for us. I will certainly be back for round 2 when the time is right, and I’ll be carefully researching when the place is best for good numbers and will plan accordingly.

In summary, the standout lures for us were Strike Pro Cyber Vibes, Pro Lure D36 and Asakura hardbodies. A variety of colours worked, with more natural browns, blacks and dark colours in general producing the goods. Well there it is, another goal set, planned for, and achieved, and every bit as pleasing as any other in my fishing career. The question now is, what’s next?

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The highlight of the author’s trip was sight casting to a lovely 43cm black bream on this semi-submerged tree.

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A magnificent view of the Bottom Lake, home to some very big bream.

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Caroline with her first fish from her new Hobie Sports; a nice 31cm black bream that fell for a Strike Pro Cyber Vibe.

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My new Hobie PA14, thanks to James from Hunter Water Sports, loaded and ready for a day chasing some Mallacoota bream.

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The author’s PB bream from the trip, a nice 43cm specimen from a semi-submerged log on a Pro Lure D36 hardbody.

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This black bream took a liking to an Asakura lure. It went 36cm and was pulled out of some very snaggy country.

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The author’s new Hobie PA14, thanks to James from Hunter Water Sports, loaded and ready for a day chasing some Mallacoota bream.

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Not huge, but it was the target species for the trip. The author’s first-ever black bream was only 29cm, but was a very satisfying capture nonetheless. It took a liking to an IMA Tetra lure.
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