Bream in freshwater, what the…? Well those were my thoughts when I pulled my first freshwater lake bream. And to this day I’m still a little amazed about how well they have adapted to these non-saline environments.
The first freshwater bream I stumbled across was in the well-known Clear Island Lake. It is situated among the numerous lakes and canals of the Gold Coast and can easily be located on a map. It consists of artificial structure, such as bridges and pontoons, and has a lock and weir system that allows a minimal amount of saltwater intrusion.
The lake has a large amount of natural weed growth, a big indicator of a freshwater system. This weed has infiltrated the lake via Mudgeeraba Creek with the constant supply of freshwater. It consists of thin and wide val, ambulia, water lilies and the noxious Salvinia.
Some of these patches of lilies have produced bream and bass on consecutive casts. There is a healthy population of bass and bream that co-exist side by side, along with trevally, mangrove jack and the odd flathead close to the weirs. It also houses gar, bony bream and XOS mullet.
The most memorable session I’ve had here was a few years back when two good mates and myself loaded up my trusty canoe, and headed out early one summer’s morning.
We launched at the dog park on Robina Parkway and motored across to a pontoon lined bank in the early twilight. Within minutes my lightly weighted plastic was engulfed and the canoe was being towed towards the spot I had hooked the fish. Moments later we were taking photos of a healthy 35cm bream and anticipated many more.
It was not long before my mate, Dickers, hooked on to one of his own and again we were being turned around as his fish went deep and away from structure. This time a 37cm fork length bream came canoe side and we repeated the process, photo then release.
We rounded a corner in to a pontoon filled bay with long grass in the back. As we approached the first dock on timber poles I hooked up and was smoked in an instant, wrapping me up in the stumps. While I was re-rigging, my other mate, Oz, took up the challenge. He hooked another similar sized fish off the next floater. With no poles to wrap around he steered it clear and into my homemade net, which consisted of a ring of wire and green mesh for cradling fish on board.
We received a few bumps and knocks but did not hook-up again until we hit a patch of lily pads. Instantly we had a double hook up of fish that took off in different directions, and as Dickers and I did our best to steer them clear of the lily pads mine made it back in. With gentle pressure I laid the lilies over, lifted the line clear and after a short tussle we were both smiling at the camera. We thought it had already been a good session, but little did we know it was going to get even better.
As we approached the point of the bay we cast at the long, thick strands of grass and I hooked something that felt different to the bream we had been hooking all morning. As the fish carved water and took off deep I felt more weight than I initially thought and after an impressive battle I had a fat bass out of his element. We managed one more bass, with the end tally from the session at about half a dozen ripper bream, a few small ones and a couple of bass – not bad for freshwater.
The other lake, which I’m going to keep a little closer to my chest, is very similar to Clear Island Lake, the differences being the species that live alongside the bream. In this land-locked lake it is believed the bream introduced themselves along with flathead and various other species almost 20 years ago during floods. Since then these species have lived in an ever-changing environment due to a small but very influential feeder creek.
Slowly over time, with every downpour, more and more freshwater along with the same weeds I have already mentioned have been introduced into this creek. Years of this constant supply of fresh has most likely killed off all of the flathead that used to inhabit this lake years ago and now introduced the noxious tilapia. Through all of this the bream have endured a lifetime of change and appear to have come out on top with specimens up to 45cm fork length and weighing close to 2kg being caught on a regular basis.
I was first introduced to this lake almost three years ago now and that memorable session is something I will never forget. It all started when I moved to the north side of Brisbane and met up with a new clique of keen anglers. As stories transpired the boys talked of a lake that produced monster flathead but had not been fished since they were teenagers. This was all the convincing I needed to go and throw the canoe on the roof of the 4X4, load it with the fishing gear and head off.
Upon arrival we had to carry the canoe several hundred meters to the lake’s edge. We wasted no time rigging up and soon were casting our plastic offerings towards the grass and weed lined edges. We had covered no more than 50m when one of the boys came up tight to what he called as a good lizard. With noticeable headshakes on the rod tip he backed off the drag and proceeded to steer the fish towards deeper water. After some surging runs we were all on the edge of our seats, but what we saw was totally unexpected.
A massive flash of silver and the shape of huge bream dove down for one last run. My mate turned the fish and cradled the biggest bream I had seen on board. A few photos and a measure confirmed it – 43cm to the fork of cracking freshwater bream. I was now keener than ever to get my lure back in the water for a shot at a bream of this calibre.
As we paddled along the bank we could see an island and drawing closer we spotted a large area of rocky shallows dotted with weed growth. At this point we thought the first bream might have been a loner but as we cast out to the edge of the shallows my mate hooked up and the fight we witnessed earlier unfolded all over again
This time the bream was not as staunch as the first. But it still measured over 40cm and carried on like a cut snake in the shallower water, constantly trying to find something to bust up my mate on.
As we rounded the island I punched out a long cast up into the shallows. I twitched the minnow as slow as possible without fouling weed and I felt the slightest of bumps. I took up the slack and set the hook on what I thought was going to be a small bream, (I now know there aren’t any small bream in here,) and the fish raced out of the shallows straight towards me. When I finally felt its true weight I knew I was in for a tussle. I backed off the drag as not to pop the light leader with the bream’s aggressive headshakes and powerful runs and waited for a chance to get some line back. Knowing that I was possibly hooked up to my own PB, I was not going make any mistakes during this fight. I was soon rewarded with a 42cm bream.
In the end Longy got one, I managed two and one bust off and my other mate boated three. Making six bream all over the magic 40cm mark, all in freshwater and a session I will never forget.
The success to fishing any of these lakes is perseverance, because there is no tidal influence and peak times can vary from season to season and day to day.
One thing I have noticed over the years is that fish are always on the move searching for warmer and cooler water temperatures and various depths. Plus the fish move around in sync with their ever-moving food supply. Taking this into account it does not usually take too long to crack a pattern on the day. The fish will either be in shallow or deep water, aggressive or a little shut down and you just choose your set up suit their mood.
The gear I use consists of a 4-8lb G.Loomis DSR spin stick coupled with a 2500 Daiwa Sol, spooled with various strength PE braid, up to 10lb.
Fishing in very clear water requires very light fluorocarbon leaders. I usually fish 3-4lb with a light but strong jighead. I find the TT range of 1/20oz heavy wire size 2 to 1/0 to be enough weight to fish the deeper sections of a lake that has no current. When fishing the shallower grounds I find the hidden weight system in a 1/40oz on the same size hooks to be perfect, wind permitting.
One thing I can’t stress enough is make sure you use heavy wire hooks because I have seen these big lake brutes arch out the heavy wire, even when fished on light leaders. They simply chew them up like snapper do.
I have not had much success on hard bodied lures in either of these lakes so stick with plastics. In Clear Island Lake I found paddle and curl tailed plastics work well. When I was fishing this lake Gulps were just starting to appear on the market, so we were mainly throwing Eco Gear Minnow M’s. Another one of my favourites was a Slider in avocado. We also started experimenting with scents at this time and found the prawn capsules to be a very successful application.
When we started using Gulps we noticed we no longer required scent, as the fish continually were attracted to these baits. Gulps are still always in my tackle bag, but lately I have returned to using old favourites spiced up with the new array of scents on the market.
Once you choose your set-up, the technique for these lakes is the same. All of the action takes place around the edges, which is where the food is and where you are most likely to find active bream in a feeding mood.
You need to fish a lot slower in these environments due to the lack of flow. This means the bream don’t have to make quick decisions and will often spend more time looking at your presentation.
My last piece of advise is don’t rule out any fishing environment until you fish it. You may get a sweet surprise in your local freshwater lake. Ss they say you’ll never know unless you give it a go. – Liam FitzpatrickReads: 2421