I’ve chased bream with varying degrees of enthusiasm, in a wide variety of locations, using an even wider range of baits and techniques, for the majority of my life.
I’ve lobbed mullet gut into a bran/pollard berley in eddies at Cow Rock on the Hawkesbury River, I’ve done long-range casting at Catherine Hill Bay Beach in Winter with pipis and mullet strips, flipped peeled prawns into the North Coast rock washes, peppered the Central Coast oyster racks and Narara Creek rock ballasts with tiny minnows and I’ve cursed when another unwanted bream took a bait off Greenwell Point Wharf while trying to quickly load up with live bait to beat other anglers onto Jervis Bay’s outer LBG ledges.
Nowadays, when you find me bream fishing, if it’s Summer or early Autumn I’ll most likely be tossing floating thong poppers at surface-feeding bream in the deep, tree-lined waters of a brackish North Coast creek. If it’s late Autumn, Winter, or early Spring, I’ll be tossing yabbies or mullet gut onto a rock wall that’s going under fast on a rising tide – or, seemingly like the rest of NSW, I’ll be throwing little plastic grubs at oyster leases, floating and fixed.
It’s difficult to say what method of bream fishing is the best. There’s no doubt that the current trend to soft plastics will pull a lot of legal bream during times of the day when bait anglers would struggle. But come nightfall, the right tide and a skilled operator with bait and berley to burn and you’ve probably got an equally effective, yet completely different, bream system.
One of the greatest ironies I can see developing are groups of anglers who know nothing else but high-tech boats filled with creature-comfort gadgetry and the latest lure delivery systems. These ‘experts’ know nothing about bait-fishing. Give them a six-inch side-cast, some 2/0 suicides, ball sinkers and a tub of mullet onions and they’d struggle to catch a feed if their lives depended on it!
The greatest thing about bream is that no matter how low- or high-tech you want to fish, there’s always somewhere or somehow you can put a catch together. Depending on time of year, there will be big aggregations of bream in different locations around the beaches, rocks and estuaries.
In May, June and July, bream move into their spawning cycle and, along with mullet and blackfish, they form massive schools in the beach gutters before skirting around headlands and into the estuary systems, where they spend the next couple of months spawning and feeding.
It’s at this stage of the season that lure anglers throwing tiny soft plastics and crankbaits will have their greatest successes on really big sea-run bream that tend to hole up on the deeper oyster racks and wave deviation walls in the more tidal parts of the system.
If you are using small plastic grubs and tiny jig heads, then casting into the current close to structure and letting your lure sink with the threadline reel’s bail arm open will get you quickly down to the level at which the bigger fish will be holding. Sometimes bream will hit your lure on the first drop but, more often than not, it will be during or at the end of the first or second hop down the wall that you’ll get a full blooded hook-up or possibly a few pecks telling you that a bream is interested. It’s at this stage that your skills as an angler will be tested: Turning lookers into takers is one of the most interesting and, at times frustrating, aspects of fishing plastics on bream.
Another method of fishing plastics that can be devastatingly effective is to make a cast into the current parallel to the structure, let the lure sink and then retrieve at speed for three or four handle turns before letting the lure free-fall again. This initial burst of horizontal movement can drag bream from under structure and cause them to follow through with a strike on the second sink.
When using ultra-light hard-bodied minnows in the estuary, a variety of crafty techniques can be employed. These lures are particularly effective cast over the tops of oyster racks on high water and slowly worked through oyster lanes in shallower water. In general, hard-bodied lures are most effective next to structure, in shallow water and through the back end of estuary systems.
In Summer on the NSW North Coast thong poppers, either home-made or commercially produced, leave all in their wake in the top ends of estuaries where there are overhanging trees and insect activity. Small pieces of thong rubber with trebles attached, these little weapons are cast underneath overhanging trees and blooped on the spot. Apart from the fact that they catch lots of bream, they are also spectacular to use. A lure blooped in the strike zone can attract multiple attacks from competing bream, with water and fins flying in all directions. The bonus of using these special little lures is that bass, mangrove jack, trevally and flathead are equally fooled and aggravated by their drowning insect impersonation.
A bait angler’s greatest assets when chasing big bream are darkness, berley and a rising tide. Rocks that submerge on the top half of a tide are particularly successful. Bream rarely fail to succumb to either oily fish strips like tuna or live baits like poddy mullet, or yabbies when fished with a small ball sinker down to a 1/0 or 2/0 hook on 5kg to 6kg line.
On the beaches, darkness, extra-long traces and thin strips of mullet, beach worms, pipis or live yabbies can be spectacularly successful and each year bream of more than 2kg are caught this way up and down the coast.
If you’re after big bream on bait during the day, your best option is to fish the ocean washes with peeled prawns or live yabbies. The catch-22 will be that if you specifically target bream using 5kg to 7kg line and a suitably matched rod, you’ll probably get smashed up by the odd really big drummer. Running a ball sinker straight down to a 1/0 or 2/0 hook and lobbing into sand filled and stirred up water, with a bit of bread berley thrown in for good measure, can make for exciting ‘bream’ fishing!
• Next Month: Hairtail.
A nice big silver bream caught from a wash on the rocks.
Some quality bream caught on tuna chunks fished without weight from the rocks.
Mike Colless working the fixed oyster racks for bream.
This bream ate a hard-bodied lure near the fixed racks.
The author with a soft plastic-munching estuary bream.Reads: 1972