Frost, beanies and bream
  |  First Published: August 2016

The recipe is perfect, and all you have to do is mix the following ingredients: frost, short sunny days, beanies, sinking lures, no wind, warm gloves, icy mornings, hoodies and clean water. Stir it all up and then cook for a little while, and what you get is big grouchy bream and even bigger spiteful EPs!

Winter is my favourite time of year and 2016 will go down as one of the best on the bream and perch fishing for nearly a decade. More rain has lifted river levels over the last month or so and this will provide excellent spawning conditions for our precious black bream stocks.

Bruiser bream and punchy perch

Those first chilly days of winter saw the bream and EP come out to play right on cue. Big bream either side of 40cm have been common with lure or bait anglers finding them in the Nicho or Mitchell rivers, Newlands and Duck Arm and Hollands Landing.

The real hotspot for numbers of bream has once again been the lower Tambo and the average size is well up on other years, so by all means make this area your first stop during any trip. This year the upper sections of all the rivers is where we have found the much larger bream and most of the perch.

Even the lower and mid sections of the Latrobe River between Sale and Lake Wellington has been fishing well. Most of my lure sport has been in the snags using sinking hardbodies, and I’ve been brawling with quite a few big bream to 45cm and hefty perch to 49cm. Most fights I’ve won because I have beefed up my leaders to 16lb but I’ve lost the odd battle when hooks are ripped off my lures or the fish break away due to my locked up drag.

It’s been so exciting to see so many EP back on the scene. During most sessions on the water my average score would be about 8-10 bream with sizes mostly 38-45cm and 6-12 EP between 42-49cm. The numbers are modest, but the quality and size of these fish is about as good as it ever gets.

Nearly all of the perch are the biggest and hardest fighting brutes I have encountered for a very long time. Big muscled up, round-shouldered fish with tiny heads and I can just tell they are exceptionally fast growing and healthy EPs. It makes my heart sing to see them back in town and each and every perch I net is then watchfully and gently released.

Deep blading for bream

It’s been a strange winter with the blade lures. All anglers are reporting in with fairly low tallies and the size of the bream is a little down on usual. The last local bream competition back in mid June proved this, with some of the best lure anglers telling me just how tough the bream were proving to be. As usual the large schools showed up in the deep sections of the Straits and the typical river haunts, but all of those bream had major ‘lock jaw’ syndrome.

Thinking back, the last three winters have been the same and it wasn’t until about late September that the bream started munching on blade lures. I’ll bet the same thing will happen this year, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, to trick these cranky bream with blades you need to employ a lot of sneaky finesse. Find the deepest water and flick your blade over the side of the boat, as a long cast is simply a waste of time. Drop your lure directly down into the school of bream and use tiny hops to get their interest. Sometimes, the longer you pause the blade without any movement, the better your results will be.

Here’s the problem; how long do you leave it motionless? Some anglers are telling me 10 seconds is not too long. For me, leaving a lure at a standstill for three seconds is like leaving it abandoned for a whole month! I’m not good at long pauses, but my advice is let the bream tell you how long to leave the blade sitting still. Experiment until you get a few fish hooked up.

Be ready for no bites at all, and when this happens, leave those fish and make a move to find another school, maybe in deeper water. Sometimes a school of bigger or smaller sized fish will bite and even the time of day can be a trigger point. On other days, after hours of no bream and frustration, it’s best to go home early and seriously assault a fridge full of comfort food!

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