ALTHOUGH lure fishing is growing in popularity, the majority of south-east Queensland anglers haven’t yet experienced the thrill of taking a bream on a lure. I’ve found that some of the techniques used to catch bream on lures can also be applied with bait, and I have dabbled a little with soft plastics and had reasonable success with them as well. Let’s have a look at a few of the options you can try on our local waterways.
My son, Will, had been nagging at me for months to do a trip with soft plastics only. The Pine River was firing, with bream were plentiful for almost the entire length of the river, from the Petrie railway bridge to the Hornibrook Highway at the mouth. In my experience, the bream in the Pine River are far better scrappers, pound for pound, than those found elsewhere in local waters.
First, we fished the gravel flats between the railway bridge and Petrie Bridge during the last half of the run-in tide. Not only were the bream on tap, flathead were also abundant. Will and I won all our battles here.
This wasn’t to be the case for our all-time favourite location in the Pine – the Pine Rivers Bridge. Unlike the open gravel flats of our previous spot, the fish here tend to be better quality – holding hard and tight to the pylons. Our first two hook-ups here left us with shredded lines. The fish here can hit so hard and fast, you’d be excused for mistaking them for mangrove jack or trevally. (That’s been my excuse in the past when the bream here have made me look beaten.)
The late Joff Purnell, one of this area’s most respected anglers, had similar experiences with bream under the Shorncliffe Pier. His frustrations led him to build himself a purpose-built nine-wrap rod, which he used with 25lb line. I have yet to see bruisers in our local waters that can match those Joff managed to extract from the structure beneath the Shorncliffe Pier.
My bream addiction goes far beyond catching the critters – I have spent years trying to understand the movements, habits and whereabouts of the larger fish. Smaller fish are more predictable, but the larger ones have stayed alive by being unpredictable! Until recently, the notes I’d made about kilo-plus bream baffled me. Now though, I have finally come up with some possible clues.
I’ve found that the bigger bream travel short distances and are more likely to be found holding tight to structure – rocks, submerged pylons and other submerged obstacles in preference to open, clean areas of estuaries or bays.
My favourite big bream haunts had me believing moon phase was the common denominator – first and third quarter. This theory was axed along with tides, weather and season. I have taken fish in this spot while dancing on deck to keep my balance in a foul one-metre south-easterly chop. In glassy conditions and clear waters, success came only with long casts and a stealthy and silent approach.
I have also taken fish here during run-in, run-out, top and bottom of the tide in all four seasons. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a great believer in the dawn and dusk theory when it comes to bream fishing for the numbers. Add moon phase and season to the dawn and dusk theory and it’s near bulletproof – for this location at least. I’ve taken roughly 30 kilo-plus bream in the last 12 months, and approximately 85% of these fish came within a two-hour period of the day, regardless of moon phase, tide, weather or season. This leads me to believe they are not coming out to feed until the sun invades their safe haven of a crevice or ledge somewhere nearby. Imagine if one could get to such a place!
Bream boring? Never!
If you’re not into lures, fishing treacherous conditions, or trying to extract big bream from barnacle-covered structure, don’t despair – southeast Queensland’s annual bream spawning run starts this month. This is by far the best time of year for the average angler to target the species, and brings diehard bream anglers out in droves to fish the waters inside our coastal bars. Speak to these people about their favourite bait, rigs, tides and time of day, and their anecdotes will vary considerably. One angler may be proficient with yabbies, where another may clean up with mullet gut. Likewise, technique for each bait may also vary with rod, line, hook or rig.
So let’s look at some of the where, when, dos and don’ts when targeting bream with bait during the winter spawning run.
I believe there are two contributing factors for a hot bream season. The first is a fair amount of rain during or just prior to the season. This, I believe, flushes the bait fish out of the upper reaches of estuaries into the lower reaches, drawing fish in from outer reefs, beaches and channels.
The second factor is a good cold snap prior to or during the season. This may also see fish moving downstream from chilly, clear, shallow waters. A combination of both spells a great bream season.
Tackle comes down to personal choice as far as rods and reels are concerned. My general preference is for a rod that’s 9-12ft, medium to whippy. My preferred reels are Alvey side-cast 5 1/2in to 6 1/2in models, spooled with 3-5kg good quality fine line.
To see some suitable hooks and rigs, check out the diagram on this page.
Mullet gut is one of the more popular baits among bream specialists, though you have to be careful when selecting the right gut. Selecting and preparing gut can make all the difference between a good or poor session. Avoid buying frozen gut as it is generally washed out and too soft when thawed out.
The gut has two sections – the intestines (commonly known as the strings) and the onion (a rubbery, bulbous piece that’s usually attached to the strings). Even fresh gut can at times be of poor quality if the strings are full of ocean or river scum on which the fish have been feeding. Putting frozen or scum-filled strings on a hook is like trying to thread soft custard. Choose a gut which is clean and firm, rich in colour, not pale and not too soft.
Once you have found the good gut, preparation is easy (note: mark it clearly as ‘bait’ if you leave it in the fridge. I once returned home to find our overseas exchange student cooking up my precious bait for his lunch). Place approximately 150g of coarse cooking salt to 1kg of gut in a sealed container, and roll the container around until the salt is evenly mixed with the gut. This will preserve the gut and strengthen the strings.
Poddy mullet, hardiheads, yellowtail, gar and tailor are all good flesh baits for bream. To keep these baits in tip-top condition, put them in ice slurry of seawater as soon as they come out of the water, and keep them there until it’s time to use them.
Other baits include pilchard or bonito cubes, live yabbies, prawns, mud ark (Moreton Bay muffle), pipis, cockles blood worms (a day time option), and chicken gut. Chicken flesh – an easy, clean bait to obtain – has also become popular with some bream anglers. I have yet to try it.
The bream in the Noosa River are absolute suckers when bloodworms are on offer in June. Use the same tackle as you would for whiting – a long, whippy rod with 3-4kg line and a no. 4 long- or short-shank hook, depending on your worm supply.
Day and night fishing are both viable options when targeting bream. If chilly dark nights are outside your comfort zone, you may like to share a good daytime bream session with the up and coming young anglers of the family. If you have friends who are struggling for fishing success during the day, night fishing may be the best option.
Weather pending, a 7am start on the 7th, 8th, 21st and 22nd are good times to fish the edges of the deeper channels during the last of the run-out tide in the lower Noosa River. Early afternoon sessions will also be good on the 14th, 15th, 28th and 29th. If worms aren’t available, use yabbies or prawns.
Caloundra can also fish well during the daylight hours around the major channels, though clearer waters here may at times see the fish somewhat timid. Fishing the shallows at night with mullet gut or flesh baits here can be very rewarding. Try the larger tides of the month around new and full moon. If daytime is the only option you have, look for deeper areas or more discoloured waters. Prime times are the full moon on the 14th and new moon on the 30th.
Finally, wherever you decide to fish this winter don’t forget to pack the thermos flask and wear your winter woollies.
1) After a hard battle, another one is finally in the net!
2) Craig Wilson with a kilo-plus bream taken on one of his own lures – a deep diving Flatty Fetcher.
3) The Petrie railway bridge provides ideal bream structure.Reads: 3731