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Bream up the creek
  |  First Published: August 2009



Bream inhabit all parts of an estuary, river or lake system and while the odd fish may be encountered just about anywhere, the majority tend to congregate in certain places.

Food is generally the main reason bream may be found in one place or another, but other reasons include water temperature, salinity and hormones which trigger spawning runs to sea or to enter an estuary.

One of my favourite environments to fish for bream with lures is a creek.

Whether it be a tiny feeder creek or the upper reaches of a larger river, I enjoy nothing more than poking around in the tranquil waters, casting lures as I go.

There is often much less boat traffic, crowds or noise up the creeks and the scenery tends to be pretty easy on the eye. In a way, it’s similar to bass fishing, apart from the fact that we are in salt, rather than freshwater and are also likely to encounter a number of other species such as flathead, estuary perch, long toms and even a jewfish if we’re lucky.

Even if you already do a lot of creek bream fishing, read on and there may be a few tips worth taking note of.

WHERE, WHEN

Some creeks are better than others and different sections of a creek may fish differently, according to the time of year and recent weather. Generally speaking, creeks that have a healthy water flow and plenty of food and shelter will be best.

Shelter may come in the form of weed beds, fallen timber, bridges, jetties and pontoons or simply good overhanging banks lined with mangroves or other vegetation. Really good creeks may have a mixture of all of the above.

Food items that bream seek include oysters, black mussels, small crabs, worms, pink nippers, prawns, shrimp or whitebait. The more food that’s available, the greater the reason for bream to hang around.

One of my favourite creeks on the Central Coast is full of tiny shrimp and also has plenty of fallen timber.

It’s easy to spot the clouds of shrimp taking refuge close to the bank around the bases of fallen trees and they shower in terror when a bream comes close.

Bream can be caught in some creeks throughout the year, while others are better in Winter or Summer. Overall, I’ve found the greater numbers of fish to be present through the warmer months and when Jack Frost is around there are fewer bream but they tend to be bigger.

In other areas I’ve fished there may still be good numbers of average size bream right through the year.

CREEK CRAFT

A range of different vessels can be successfully used for creek breaming. The smaller the water, the better it will be for a lightweight and portable canoe or kayak.

I do the majority of my creek fishing in a small polyethylene kayak and find it perfect. If you’re not into paddling, a small boat with a bow-mounted electric motor is ideal.

Boats offer the advantage of getting from one spot to another quickly but a canoe or kayak allows you to sneak up on the fish and if you’re really quiet and thoughtful about your fishing, you’ll probably catch more bream than from a boat.

Kayaks also have the advantage of being able to negotiate really shallow water where even small punts would get stuck.

TACKLE

The basic requirement for this type of fishing is the ‘flick stick’ outfit comprising a light, preferably graphite, rod around 2m long and a 1500- or 2000-size threadline reel spooled with 2kg to 4kg braid.

Nylon mono or fluorocarbon can be used for leader material, although fluorocarbon tends to be more popular these days. I use several types of leader material: generally Sunline FC Sniper but in areas where bream can run through sharp rocks, oysters or around fallen timber, I opt for a tougher fluorocarbon like Sunline V Hard or FC Rock.

With ultra-light surface lures I may revert to nylon mono, as fluorocarbon tends to sink and can drag down really small lures.

Leader around 3kg is a good all round size for creek bream but if the water is particularly clear there’s no doubt a finer 2kg leader will score more bites but in really tough, snaggy country I opt for 4kg or 5kg if big bream are present.

Quite a variety of lures interest creek bream, form soft plastics to crankbaits, surface lures and metal blades.

Scented softies like Berkley Gulps will take bream at any time of year, but they are particularly useful through the cold months when bream may take some extra encouragement to bite. Of course, quite a few other types of soft plastics will also catch bream, but scent really does help.

Through the warmer months plastics can be used with ultra-light jig heads, including those hidden weight system hooks, in shallow areas and over the top of fallen timber.

In Winter, though, a heavier jig head can be used to slowly work the plastic in small hops along the bottom, if that’s where the bream are.

Metal blades are amazingly effective and are great during the Winter. However, around fallen timber or snaggy rocks they can be snag-prone unless you retro-fit double hooks or singles. So they are at their best in deeper rivers with clear bottoms or in sandy areas adjacent to weed, bridges or jetties.

TACTICS

In many of the timber-lined creeks I often fish, surface lures or shallow-diving crankbaits tend to be the most practical lures because they rarely snag up and even then it’s generally only just under the surface so they are easy enough to free.

When the fish are in a very active mood, especially in prawn season from December to March around the new moon, my first choice is a surface lure like the Jackson T-Pivot, Lucky Craft Bevy Popper or Ecogear PX45.

If the bream are there but hesitant to hit surface lures, a shallow diver like a Yamashita Fake Bait, Viking Crank Minnow or Ecogear MX48 will usually do the trick.

When using such lures it’s always important to adjust your retrieve to see what the fish respond to on any given day. For the most part, a mid-paced retrieve with a few pauses along the way will get results.

Overall, work lures slowly and thoroughly in Winter and a bit faster in Summer.

Try to use some imagination with lure retrieves and don’t be afraid to simply let a lure just sit there motionless; many bream hook-ups occur on a stationary lure.

A last, but very important, tip is to be observant. The more you look and listen, the more fishy signs you’ll notice.

A swirl up against the bank, a shadow under a log, showering shrimp or a single skipping prawn are all indications of bream.

Sometimes one part of a creek is dead, while 100m further along it’s alive with fish.

So rather than just cast the lures and hope for the best, keep an eye out and if the water looks to be lifeless, then keep moving to locate active bream.

Small, finely balanced lures like this Lucky Craft Pointer 48 are amazingly effective on creek bream but they still require a degree of angler input to catch fish.

This big Winter bream took a Berkley Gulp worm slowly worked along bankside structure. Light 2kg fluorocarbon leader also helped the cause.

This fish was caught by very slowly trolling the lure along the edge of a weed bed. Slow trolling is a good tactic to fall back on if casting isn’t working on the day.

A number of other species turn up when fishing for bream up the creeks. Estuary perch are always welcome.

Small canoes or kayaks are the ideal craft for this type of fishing.

A great-looking snag like this will nearly always hold a few bream.

Perfect creek water is tranquil and well away from the crowds.

A small threadline, light braid and a simple collection of lures suitable for creek breaming.

Jackson Komachi, Yamashita Fake Bait, Ecogear MX48 and Lucky Craft Pointer. Cast these lures around fallen timber or up close to the bank and bream will find them hard to refuse.

This fish took a surface lure in very shallow water at the mouth of a creek. Don’t neglect even the shallowest of water.

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