Part 1 – The estuaries
OVER the past few years the humble bream has been transformed from a fish that people used to catch using smelly old mullet gut baits into a highly prized tournament target.
With such an increase in popularity, I thought it timely to do a piece on Central Coast bream fishing options. After all, I grew up on the Central Coast and have tangled with a hell of a lot of bream in the region over the years.
The two major estuary systems in this part of the world are Tuggerah Lakes and Brisbane Water. Although they are both home to plenty of bream, they are very different waterways. As well as these two, estuary-style bream fishing is also available at Patonga Creek, which empties into Broken Bay, and there are several semi-landlocked lagoons along the middle part of the Central Coast.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll run through the three main styles of bream fishing separately, covering where to catch them as we go. Because there are so many different options in the region and a huge variety of baits, lures and flies that anglers like to use, please take the following information as suggestions, rather than hard rules that must be employed in order to catch fish. In other words, what works for one may not necessarily be the most appropriate for another. If, however, you are new to the area or haven’t had much breaming success so far, I would recommend adhering to the following information closely.
You could throw out a bait just about anywhere in Central Coast waters and catch a bream. To have a chance of catching bream in quantity or quality, though, there are certain spots worthy of more attention than others. The basics of a good bream spot are a constant food supply and some form of shelter for the fish, so the spots we’ll run through have got that and perhaps a few more features that bream like.
In Tuggerah Lakes, some places well worth fishing are the rocky shorelines near Elizabeth Bay, Colongra Point, Buff Point, Toukley Bridge, Pipe Clay Point and Rocky Point. These spots are best fished from a boat, although you can cast a line out from the rocky shoreline adjacent to Toukley Bridge with some degree of confidence.
Any of the old wooden, or newer concrete, pylons around Toukley Bridge attract bream and so that’s not a bad place to fish if you haven’t got a boat. Other worthwhile land-based spots include Budgewoi Channel and The Entrance near the boat sheds or close to the channel mouth. The channels, weed beds and drop-offs just west of The Entrance bridge are other features to look out for if you fish from a boat.
In waters around The Entrance, baits such as locally caught live or fresh prawns, pink nippers, bloodworms and beach worms work well for bream. Unlike the rest of the lakes, tides are important here and the first half of the run in and first half of the run out tend to see the bream in a bait-taking mood.
Bream can be caught right through the day here, but it’s best if the productive tides coincide with an early morning or late afternoon fishing session. Breaming at night under The Entrance bridge can also be productive.
At other spots, like Toukley Bridge, Budgewoi channel and the rocky points, tides mean virtually nothing at all and the bream respond more to time of day. The best results come to those fishing at night or very early in the morning with lightly weighted baits of mullet gut or fresh tailor. A major tip when fishing at these spots is not to cast your bait out away from the fish-attracting structure. Don’t worry about getting snagged, you must get your bait right in close to the rocks or bridge pylons if you want to catch fish.
Brisbane Water offers plenty of diversity for the keen bream angler. Tides play a much greater role here and it has features like oyster racks and deep holes where bream are likely to congregate. Well known bream spots for the boating angler are Paddys Channel, Woy Woy Channel, around Rileys and Pelican islands and adjacent to The Rip bridge and further out into Booker Bay.
Shore-based anglers would do best to try Woy Woy Channel, the bridges near Woy Woy, Ettalong, Point Frederick, Bensville, Davistown and Saratoga. Keep an eye out at these places for prominent structure like rocky outcrops, sharp bends, drop-offs and wharves. The bream won’t be far away.
Because of the strong tidal flow that may be encountered around Brisbane Water, you may have to use a sinker that will hold the bait close to structure or the bottom. Keep in mind, though, that the lighter the sinker the better, so there’s no need for real heavy weights, just enough to do the job.
A number of baits will interest Brisbane Water bream, but some firm favourites are cut cubes of good quality pilchards, fresh tailor, mullet gut, pink or green nippers, fresh prawns and the small dark crabs that can be found under rocks at low tide.
Any type of rod-and-reel combo or handlines can be successfully employed for breaming with baits. When fishing close to line-cutting structure like bridge pylons I generally use 6kg Schneider line because of its resistance to abrasion, but if really big bream are present or there’s a real chance of hooking a jewfish (in Brisbane Water) I would go up to 8kg line. As for GSP lines, I like 8lb or 10lb Berkley Fireline but still use a length of Schneider or Maxima mono leading up to the hook.
Rigs are best kept as simple as possible, because snags and bust-ups are part of the game and there’s no point getting too fancy if you just have to re-rig all the bloody time. In Tuggerah Lakes I’ll go for a pea-sized ball sinker running straight up to the hook, but quite often there’s no need to even use a sinker, particularly around the shallow rocky points. In Brisbane Water there may be more of a demand for larger sinkers, especially towards the lower end of the system where the current can be quite strong. When using heavier sinkers it’s best to have them running above a swivel with a 40cm or 50cm trace leading up to the hook.
There are plenty of excellent bream hooks on today’s market. Brand names to look for include VMC, Gamakatsu and Mustad. I like to use small hooks for bream in local waters. Sizes from No 2 down to No 6 are quite effective, although a No 4 is pretty much on the mark most of the time.
Casting lures is a productive way to tangle with local bream. Although you can catch some bream on lures from the shore, a canoe or small boat allows you to fish the better spots. In Tuggerah Lakes all of those rocky points are prime lure-casting spots, but you’ll have to be on the water very early to catch the fish. By that, I mean when the water is still inky-black when you fire out the first cast and it’s time to finish the session only an hour after sunrise.
Wyong, Ourimbah and Wallarah creeks are great places to catch bream on artificials. Again, it’s best to start fishing well before the sun breaks the horizon. If the sky is overcast, there’s still a chance of some good breaming up to two or three hours after sunrise. If there isn’t too much wind blowing, a late afternoon session around the rocky points or in the creeks can also be productive.
Through the warmer months, the lower sections of the creeks within a kilometre of the mouth generally provide the best fishing and bream may move further upstream in Winter, but this can depend on water temperature and recent rainfalls, so you won’t always find the fish straight away.
Brisbane Water is quite a different place from the big lakes. The main difference is that fish aren’t quite as sensitive to sunlight and tides come into play. Having said that, it’s still best to fish around dawn or dusk, rather than in the middle of the day. The first of the run-in tide is generally quite good in the deeper spots, while the last of the run in and first hour or two of the run out are good for shallow areas, creek mouths or around oyster racks.
Bream also move up into the mangrove-lined channels near Woy Woy and Pelican Island around the top of the tide. Tides that peak at around 1.5 or 1.6 metres are quite fishable and productive.
Threadline gear is generally much more practical than baitcasting tackle for chucking lures at bream. The outfit that I use is an Okuma AV-15 reel spooled up with 4lb Fireline matched with a Silstar EVO601SPXL rod. As far as bream-spinning tackle goes, this outfit would be categorised as mid-priced. The EVO rod is quite a nice piece of equipment, casting tiny bream lures with ease, yet still having plenty of fish-fighting power.
The variety of small lures suited to bream spinning these day is tremendous, but there is a shortlist of reliable performers that I recommend. For hard-bodied lures, Rebel’s Crickhopper, Crawfish and Frog (small sizes), 5cm Nils Masters and 5cm Attacks combine for a pretty impressive arsenal.
As for soft plastics, the 2” and 3” inch Storm Naturistic Shrimps and 2” AusSpin grubs are a good starting point. AusSpin jig heads are top quality stuff and in shallow water, try a 1/32oz jig head with its No 6 hook and for deeper water, a 1/16oz No 4 head is about right.
I strongly recommend not getting too fussed about lure colour for bream – while you’re thinking too much about that you should out there casting. If in doubt, though, go for greens, natural browns, olive, black or even plain white.
The soft plastic scene has really placed fly-fishing for bream in the shadows over the past two years. But for those who are still interested in using the long wand, the Central Coast offers plenty of good breaming options. Perhaps Tuggerah Lakes is a bit more user-friendly than Brisbane Water for fly casting but the fish are to be caught in both systems. On top of that, a unique fishery exists in the lagoons at Wamberal, Terrigal and Avoca.
A canoe or small boat is required to make the most of Tuggerah Lakes bream. Once again, the creeks and rocky points are the places to be when using fly gear and the same guidelines we looked at for lure-casting apply to fly as well. It’s largely a matter of being on the water nice and early and getting your fly right up close to structure like drop-offs, rocky points, the edges of weed beds, fallen timber and the old boats that line the banks of the creeks.
You can certainly use a canoe at Wamberal, Terrigal and Avoca lagoons, but you don’t really need to. As a matter of fact, the best fishing may be enjoyed with your feet firmly planted on the ground. This is especially so towards the mouth of Wamberal after heavy rains. If nature’s way doesn’t burst the lagoon’s water through the sand dunes, the local council will. As water drains from the lagoon out to the sea at Wamberal Beach, bream congregate in large numbers along a 200-metre stretch just up from the mouth. Crowds gather here with their fly rods in hand and I’ve seen figures like 50 legal-sized (25cm, bag limit 20) bream caught and released here in less than an hour. One of the key points, though, is to know when the lagoon bursts open and to be fishing there within the first 48 hours.
Appropriate fly tackle for Central Coast bream consists of a five- or six-weight rod with a matching floating or sink-tip line. The reel isn’t important as even a good bream is unlikely to take you down to the backing. Some folk get quite fancy with their leader set-up for saltwater fly-fishing – not me. I generally use a metre of 20lb Schneider connected to another metre of 9lb or even 6lb Schneider or Maxima line. Most keen fly-fishos seem to be using fluorocarbon line for their leaders but that’s your choice.
Bream have certainly fallen to all manner of flies over recent years. Generally speaking, they will inspect almost anything under 60mm that looks symmetrical and is cast close enough to them. Clouser and Crazy Charlie types of patterns tied in darker colours on No 4 to No 8 hooks work well on local bream, as do small bug-like patterns tied with deer hair and used as miniature surface poppers.
All in all, the golden rules when seeking bream on bait lure or fly are: Present your offering very close to structure, fish at peak times like dawn, dusk and at tide changes, and don’t be in a hurry – successful breaming requires patience.
A lightweight canoe or kayak can open up plenty of first class breaming options on the Central Coast.
Not all local bream are whoppers, check out this little fella !
This bream fell for a dark brown fly cast close to fallen timber in Wyong Creek. Key points to remember with this sort of fishing are to be out on the water nice and early, cast flies or lures right in close to bankside structure and to keep on the move until you find the fish.
Small hard-body lures are generally the best bet for local bream, although this fish snatched an unweighted soft plastic fished on the surface at first light.
At the southern end of the coast, Patonga Creek offers plenty of breaming options on bait, lure or fly.
Paddling a canoe up one of the local creeks is a very enjoyable way of finding a few bream. Remember to get those lures or flies right in close to the structure.
A variety of lures will interest the local bream population. Some firm favourites are pictured here. Regardless of how good a lure is, keep in mind that it won’t catch fish by itself. Casting accuracy and bit of patience certainly help.
The big concrete pylons at Toukley Bridge attract some good-sized bream at times. Once again, baits must be placed right next to the pylons if you really want to catch a few fish.