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Anglesea River
  |  First Published: February 2005



Anglesea is a relatively quiet surf coast town located on the Great Ocean Road, about 40km west of Geelong. The town is bisected by a gentle flowing medium sized river of the same name.

The river remains clear almost year round except for periods of excessive rain. I wouldn’t class this river as a ‘trophy water’ as far as bream go, but for sheer numbers of fish it sure makes up for it!

I wouldn’t write it off as a small fish water either, as each year anglers land fish in excess of 1.5kg. These larger fish are very flighty and suspicious of just about everything so they sure take some catching. Species I have caught out of the river include mullet, black bream, salmon, King George whiting, trevally and juvenile snapper.

There are reports of estuary perch in here, but I am yet to grass one – partially from lack of effort on my behalf!

Being a relatively small estuary, fish feeding habits are more susceptible to external influences such as fluctuations in the weather and tides.

Best Times

Over the past few years, the mouth has remained closed on all but a few short periods after heavy rain. It is during these first few days after the mouth breaks through that brings out all the fishermen that know the river. The larger bream in the Anglesea River seem to throw caution to the wind when the mouth breaks through the sand bar and this sees more regular captures of fish hovering around the kilogram mark.

There is an influx of new salt water after the mouth opens and all the brackish stuff gets washed out.

Around the start of October through to the end of December and again from late March to early May is when the larger fish seem to fire up with a bit of consistency. Bream in the river pretty much bite all year, but there is a definite increase in quality captures around this time.

Bait

The pylons on the car bridge are laced with mussels. These are often found in the gut of fish taken from this river so it makes sense to use this shellfish as bait.

The river also has a population of shrimp and small baitfish, so if you can catch these, they are dynamite bait. Having said this, there are many regular frozen baits that work well in the river such as pipi, prawns and squid – especially after dark and with little or no weight. Sure you catch a lot of small stuff, but every now and then you’ll tangle with something a little better.

Freshwater yabbies, and small crabs about the size of a 20 cent piece can weed out the smaller fish as using larger lures can.

Bass yabbies are the number one bream bait, but unfortunately just about everything else loves them too. Garden worms are a great standby if you’re really stuck for something to use.

Tackle

Hooks should be as sharp as possible, as the mouth of a bream is very hard. Leaders need to be at least 3kg as even 30cm bream can wear through 2kg line if he’s on there long enough.

Two kg mono line is ample for this river although most lure casters prefer braided lines coupled with a leader of about 3 – 4kg.

A rod and reel capable of handling 2kg line with a relatively light tip is ideal for this river and I’d call 3kg as heavy as you should go due to the larger fish being so fussy.

I’ve taken a few fish on fly gear here and this is a very rewarding way to target the local bream. My success so far has been on a ‘blue dun’ coloured Matuka (wet fly). This looks grey in colour and imitates baitfish well. This fly is far from the ‘be all and end all’ in the Anglesea River, but I have had some good days on it. Other flies to give a swim include; pink crazy Charlies, black woolly buggers (great for dirty water along the undercut banks) and black BMS.

Flies can be fished either with intermediate lines if the river has good flow and the mouth is open, or floating lines with a leader and tippet totalling about 10ft.

Fish seem to bite best on fly when the mouth is open and the river is flowing well. Cast the fly upstream and allow it to drift downstream and give it a twitch here and there using a slow figure eight retrieve. My theory is that the fish see the fly go past and think “I better get that before my mate does or it gets swept away!” Whereas, when they have a bit of time to inspect it, they will often follow, but not take.

The same goes for lures. I know of a bloke called Stephen (who his last name escapes me – sorry mate) who spent many hours on this river refining the art of catching bream on lures around that time when everyone scoffed at the thought of catching them on lures in Victoria.

Stephen used suspension dots on his minnow lures so they hung in the bream’s face as well as all sorts of complex retrieves and had these bream down pat. As far as I know, he was one of the very few people doing this sort of thing down here. He was (probably still is) a very fine fisherman indeed. Anyway, all his hard work came crashing down around him when I rocked up and caught one first cast on a Jensen Insect retrieved flat out.

Weird things fish aren’t they?

I’m sure Stephen would be very happy to know I’ve never done this since.

Lure fishing

There are many lures that work well in this river and since it was where I caught my first bream on a lure, I rate it very highly as a bream on lure water. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there is a heck of a lot of bream in here! On any day you can walk up to the bank and see at least a few small fish scooting about. This is why this place is very good for the use of artificials. Because of the clarity, you can watch their reaction with different lures, colours and retrieves as you bring your offering right past their noses – all very good for research.

Hard bodied lures that have worked for me include; Rapala CD3 and CD5, Merlin, Predatek Min Min (all four in ‘fire tiger’) and RMG Scorpion in gold.

Soft plastic lures have done well for me down here too. Among some of my favourite colours are, lime green, amber and salt ‘n pepper in small single tailed grubs. The Squidgy range has done very well in most other places and this is no exception. The best results I’ve had down here have been with the ‘Gary Glitter’ coloured Wriggler.

The Anglesea River is a great river to teach the kids the finer points of fishing. Just be prepared to do a lot of baiting up as there are literally thousands of pickers in here. This, of course, can satisfy the junior anglers amongst us with a little less patience!

Anglesea is full of tourist attractions including the famous golf course with its resident kangaroo population. The town caters well for its attractions and has accommodation ranging from campsites to hotels.

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