For my first report on the Gippsland Lakes system, I can sum it up with one word – flathead! They are everywhere.
In the past couple of months I’ve fished the Tambo, Mitchell and Nicholson rivers and I’m continually surprised at where the flatties are turning up – and very pleased with the numbers! Bream have been tough and the perch even harder to find, but on each outing I’ve tagged and released about a dozen flathead ranging 26-58cm. One trip saw me return over 40 flathead, and I also dropped at least a dozen others.
When I have pulled a few perch and bream out of the snags, it’s been within an hour after first light. They seem to shut down after 7.30-8.00am, so getting on the water early seems to be the key. It’s worth the effort, too, as I’ve tagged and released some nice stud bream to 44cm (1.6kg) and a few perch around 40cm (1.2kg). They’re hard to find, but at that size, landing just a few fish can make a trip worthwhile.
I’ve been using 85mm Squidgy Wrigglers and colour doesn’t seem to matter much. I’ve mostly tied the 24 Carat colour on. The right amount of lead weight is more important, and a slowly retrieved plastic will always account for more fish. Too much lead and you risk sinking too fast and snagging the timber regularly.
The Mitchell River has had a good run of mullet through winter, and a few are still being caught on worms, with the odd nice bream among them down at the Grassy Banks. Down at The Cut, bream and flathead have turned up in reasonable numbers, and one angler bumped into three nice estuary perch down there. These perch may well be on their way to spawn down at Lakes Entrance in the salty waters they need for breeding. In Jones Bay, flathead have again been a feature and plenty have been caught by those putting in the time and effort.
The Tambo River was also fishing well for those soaking worms, and I watched a steady run of good-sized mullet being caught by anglers off the bank, as I fished the snags. Most anglers said the area either side of the Highway Bridge was best.
I also saw countless tiny bream being returned, and quite a few small luderick, too. Finding the bigger fish might mean being on the water at first and last light. It was sad to see a few people taking little care to return the small fish. ‘Chucking’ them back from the high banks will do little to help their survival. I don’t know what it takes for people to realise that these undersized fish are our future sport? It’s a pitiful sight to see small dead bream floating downstream.
A good fishing buddy of mine, Anthony Havers, caught eight thumper bream in one morning session, with the biggest going 1.7kg. He also tangled with a few others that shredded him on the sticks. Again, all on Squidgies, but he was using the little Fish pattern in Rainbow Trout.
The Nicholson River has been fishing a lot tougher, but a few bream were taken on soft plastics well up the system, and reports of perch in the same area. Of the three rivers I fished, I found this the toughest, with one four-hour stint failing to see me turn a fish.
A late report from Loch Sport has tailor turning up in patches, but plenty for the taking on trolled lures when the schools are found. Remember, watch out for those teeth!
The Straits, from Hollands Landing to the Seacombe end, have been very quiet. There are always reports of a few nice bream being caught, but this is probably due to the sheer number of boats and anglers on the water at any given time.
Nearly all the anglers who have put in a few solid hours fishing recently have failed to raise a scale. Toms Creek was an exception, with good numbers of bream for those putting time in. Contrary to common belief, winter and spring has been very tough going in the Straits for the past few seasons. But fear not, this place will fire again.
Bruce Robinson was probably one of the last anglers to take advantage of a good run of bream in the Straits. Bruce has pioneered catching of bream on the pink and silver Galaxia Minnow hard-bodied lure in this area. He consistently tags and releases bream over 40cm. Just as incredible, he even has small bream to 25cm attack these large bibbed lures. Another example of the extreme predatory nature of black bream.
The Avon, Perry and LaTrobe rivers and Lake Wellington experienced probably one of the most disappointing years for the lack of bream and mullet this winter. In fact all estuary species were well down in numbers. Many blamed the lack of frosts, and others the poor run of freshwater feeding the system. This is probably just a natural cyclical event and for the time being, with the lack of fish around, it gives us locals a chance to explore options further down the system.
There was a release of about 25,000 bream fingerlings into the Gippsland Lakes earlier this year. There are concerns about bream stocks and fisheries tell me it’s been several years since there has been a big recruitment of naturally spawned bream into the system. Give this some thought the next time you land a good run of bream. It’s nice to have a feed, but just as rewarding to return them.
1.Bruce Robinson with a 41cm bream caught on a Galaxia Minnow hard-bodied lure. Tagged and released.
2. Bruce Robinson with a blue-nosed bruiser bream of 42cm. Again on galaxia minnow, tagged and released.
3.The author with a Tambo River estuary perch ready for release.Reads: 11404