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Flat-out on Bream and Whiting
  |  First Published: October 2009



The month of November has historically been a time for much anticipation among Gippsland Lakes anglers.

Most species of fish come to life and anglers can have a tough time of deciding what to target. Whiting, flathead, bream, estuary perch, garfish, salmon, tailor, luderick or maybe a big mulloway?

Spring finally loses its stormy grip and the winds will slowly swing around to an easterly summer regime. This usually means very calm mornings before a breeze rises from the north and then after lunch that usually builds to a windy afternoon of 30km plus winds out of the east.

So my message is quite simple – get on the water early.

The terrific drop of rain in late September gave the rivers a much-needed flush but the dirty waters made for tough angling. As a result there have been fairly low catch rates of bream and most other fish as well, so rather than give you a few of those scant reports I’ll concentrate instead on looking ahead, with where and what to do over the next month.

Dusky Flathead time again

The huge spawning migration of flathead down into the lower parts of the lakes will be a big feature over the next few months. They move out of the rivers and upper lakes region and head for the breeding grounds that generally cover from Metung down to, and just past Lakes Entrance.

The real hotspot is the northern banks of the Reeve Channel from Nungurner and then all the way to Kalimna. Most anglers have traditionally drifted the area with baits but you will more than triple your catch rate if you cast and retrieve lures. Biodegradable or edible soft plastics are the go and best thing about chasing flatties, is that they will eat anything!

Forget colour, shape or scent, just chuck out a heavily weighted lure and work them fairly quickly close to the bottom. Don’t be scared of using smaller lures because you might be surprised with a by-catch of bream, whiting or luderick as well.

If you fancy hooking a really big dusky then get serious and go to a 10kg leader and tie on plastics up to 15cm and slow your retrieve down a little. The first thing you’ll notice is that even small flatties not much bigger than the bait will still attack the lure! Metal blades are like lollies for flathead and many a bream angler will at some stage curse the ravenous duskies for eating and indeed chewing off these ever popular sinking lures.

Size and bag regulations

The new 2009 and 2010 size regulations and bag limits on flathead must of course be followed. Everyone tends to adopt their own rules these days and I don’t think anyone kills big flatties over 60cm or 70cm and the minimum size of 27cm is still considered a joke by all – have you ever seen a fillet off these tiddlers? Consider your own ‘slot size’ and aim to keep a couple of duskies between say, 35cm and 50cm and return everything under and over.

You will find nearly all the flatties you catch fall into this size bracket anyway and in years to come, logic will prevail and a slot size approach should be introduced just like up in Queensland. It gives smaller fish a chance to breed at least once in their lives and leaves the big fish around for longer, so that more of us can have a trophy catch and release experience and get plenty of photos to prove it.

Bream stalking

The warmer weather and longer days will also see bream move out of the rivers after spawning and take up residence in the lakes. If you have yet to try sight fishing for bream around the shallow lake margins then this is the time to give it a go. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea because it requires a lot of effort to find the fish and plenty of frustrating stealth to then trick them.

You will however be rewarded with thrilling hook ups and learn an amazing amount of bream behaviour as they scrutinise your lures. Small suspending hard bodies are the go and for even more exciting fishing try surface lures. Very few anglers have yet to realise that poppers can get you more bream on some days and this will be a huge growth area over the next few years in the sport of Victorian bream luring.

Locations to try some sight fishing include the mouth of the Nicholson River and right out into the margins of Jones Bay and work your way southwest down to The Cut where the Mitchell River comes through. The mouth of the Tambo is also a hotspot but sadly you will have to put up with a lot of boat traffic so try this area midweek and very early morning for best results.

Whiting

There are some positive signs of seagrass making a comeback in the lakes now. It was totally wiped out after the 2007 floods and with this regrowth will come the whiting. The last few summers saw the catch rates of these fish well down but don’t be at all surprised to see whiting bounce right back this year.

Mussel bait is very popular with the hardcore whiting anglers and they usually dry it out in the sun for a while to toughen it up. It lasts longer on the hook and it might even mature a little while drying and give off more scent when in the water. Speaking of growth areas in lure fishing, this year will also be a chance for whiting on poppers to take hold in the Gippsland Lakes.

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