I’ve lived next to the Gippsland Lakes for 25 years, and I have to say it’s fishing as good as ever! The bream and flathead have turned up in numbers as expected, along with other fish like tailor, mullet, trevally and pinkie snapper. The prawn run was exceptional this year, and I’ve also got some kingfish stories that have provided some rather unexpected, breathtaking and nasty battles – wins have been rare!
A new fishery is developing in the Gippy Lakes. Over the last few years, kingfish rumours have surfaced around summer but this year they turned up in big numbers. Most of us found them when ‘large torpedoes’ started following and even attacking the tailor, bream and pinkies we were pulling in. We then started to see big fish smashing surface bait at Kalimna, North Arm, Nungurner and Shaving Point. A few anglers started hooking the kings on bream lures – but most of us lost those battles quicker than they began! So we all got serious and geared up, tying on bigger lures and even using live bait.
The results have been frustrating, and I’ve learnt these fish are cranky tough customers! On big lures we got a lot of follows to the boat using large soft plastics, and every now and then a hook up. We tried live baits and boy do they work a treat – for about two seconds. But alas, the four kings Mark Ramsay and I hooked one morning and got close to the boat were all dropped! We got a good look at two of them, and one was at least 80cm. I won’t bore you with the many stories like that from other anglers but we ‘greenhorns’ need help cracking these kingfish!
Other reports have trickled in, and some anglers have had better success with kings between 55-130cm boated. Brendan Roworth netted a 67cm king in his kayak during a nervous 25-minute battle on a small blade lure using 5lb bream gear. Nice by-catch mate and thanks for the photo! I’m thinking the kings won’t hang around much longer as the water cools off towards winter but I can assure you of this – next time we will be ready and armed because although battles have been lost, we will eventually win the war!
I recently contacted Tony Pettie from Traralgon. He’s a bream competition guru in both kayaks and boat. It was time we met up so I could milk him for all he knows! We launched the kayaks at Hollands Landing and fished out into Lake Victoria. I showed him a few tricks I use on the locals with blade lures. A couple of hours later Tony had released over 15 bream to 46cm with most others at 36-42cm. His son Kyle joined in with at least a dozen fish and he found a new PB bream at 43cm.
Mick Caulfield and his wife Rita from Melbourne turned up in their boat to join us, and I swear they hooked up on every second cast using soft plastics. I didn’t see them catch a single little fish and I reckon Rita out-fished Mick by about two to one! It was a very hot session and impossible to keep count between all of us, but I know over 50 big bream were landed between 38-46cm. That’s not even counting the smaller bream, tailor or flathead we landed. I showed Tony a few more areas I like to fish, and by the end of the session I discovered he’s a top bloke and a crack bream whisperer!
It has been such a terrific start to the traditional bream season, historically run from early March and well into July. Plenty of happy anglers have used lure and bait over the last three months to land a pile of bream – most between 34-42cm. Matt White from Stratford is another keen bream angler who has pulled heaps of big fish to 44cm. His daughter Skye landed a whopping 46cm truck.
Other bream hotspots at the moment include the Mitchell and Nicholson flats, and the lower sections of those rivers. The Tambo has once again been the exceptional producer with bait anglers lined up along both banks in the lower reaches. Out into the mouth around the snags has yielded very good bream to 42cm on hardbody lures when the wind and water chop gets up. Another place to try is shallow lake areas like Bancroft Bay or even right up to Point Turner to target bream in skinny water with Bent Minnows.
Right now is prime dusky flathead season and the numbers have been modest but hardly disappointing. A lot of 40cm fish seem to be around this year and blade lures have once again accounted for most of them. Flattie hotspots are now the lower river areas, which is typical for late autumn and early winter. Interestingly, a lot of duskies are still hanging around in the lower lake areas. While I was live baiting for kingfish I used a fairly big tailor as a live bait on a 3/0 hook and cast out to where I saw a large kingfish smashing the surface on a school of mullet. About 30 seconds later my line tightened up and my rod bent right down on a very heavy fish moving off slowly and not even realising it was hooked.
My mate Mark Ramsay filmed the fight as we prepared to lose yet another battle on the elusive kingies. However this fight, to my total disbelief, I won! I filled the net with a whopper flathead that went 80cm! She was happy to scoff my huge live bait and there was no sign left of that tailor. The moral of the story? Flatties love big live bait!Reads: 702