Bream in the washes
  |  First Published: May 2010

Bream are the flavour of the month in June as they gather in the washes around the headlands, in the sheltered bays and along the beaches. They are just about everywhere and they aren’t all that difficult to catch at the moment.

As always, for a good catch you will need that one simple ingredient that is essential to enhance your fishing activities and that is berley, even off the beaches.

Ever noticed how many small fish are attracted around you on a beach when you are swishing the stink bag around as you try to entice a few worms to poke their heads out? Little mullet, whiting, small bream, small spiky flathead, sand crabs and stingrays are all drawn by the smell and the tiny pieces that inevitably break away – and that is only in the shallow wash around your feet.

Half-fill an onion bag with fish scraps and attach a string, then stake it into the sand with a steel rod or the like. Place it in the wash zone of the hole or gutter you are fishing and it will draw every fish in the area right to your feet in no time.

For the bream, don’t be too keen to fish the area straight away. Give it a while and throw a few chopped pilchards or tuna flesh into the wash as well and see just how good it gets when that first bait hits the water.

On the rocks, the same bag can be used or, if you can get one, the old trick of using a bonito or tuna you catch as berley. Remove the fillets for bait or just make a few cuts in the sides of the fish and then hang the frame on a string in the wash area of the rocks and let the waves do the job for you.

This will bring everything for hundreds of metres right to your feet. Then cast lightly weighted baits into the berley zone.

If this is all a bit hard, a bucket of bread with tuna oil soaked in will do the job, too. Just take a rag to wipe your hands so you don’t throw your rod in on the first cast with hands covered with slippery tuna oil.

Most of the bream are school fish of 30cm to 35 cm but there are also a few cracker big fish among them to make the catch look that bit bigger.

The berley doesn’t just attract bream, there are plenty of trevally in the mix as the water cools and if you are using bread berley then there will be plenty of drummer around the rocks as well.

They are not all black drummer (or rock blackfish as they are rightly called) but a few big silver drummer can get in on the act.

These are creatures of the whitewater and are strong. They run hard and put up a tremendous fight and if you are lucky enough to land one, take a pic of that beautiful big silver fish and let it go. They have to be right up there with green eels and weed cockies as the worst eating fish on the planet.

Elsewhere on the rocks there are still bonito and the odd mackerel tuna on the deeper ledges while live squid are attracting a few large kings and there is still a chance of a longtail tuna on live yellowtail or slimy mackerel.

If the swell is up, as it can be at this time of year, head for the sheltered harbours and bays for bream and blackfish.


I just don’t understand these characters who still have to fish the open rock shelves when the swell is massive, particularly at Honeycomb at Port Kembla.

Yes, it is a very good fishing spot but for god’s sake, some of these guys get smashed, rolled on the rocks and get up to fish again, bleeding and battered! They should be playing footy if they can take that sort of punishment, they would be unstoppable on the field.

The sad thing is a few waves, later they get washed in and drown or someone drowns trying to save them. Another life was lost a few weeks back and we will probably lose another before the year is out if they keep going they way they do.

If the sea gets too big, stay at home or go back home even if you have travelled a long way to get to your spot.

‘The fish will be there next time but if you take on the waves, there may not be a next time.

The beaches are holding some nice tailor. That first hour after dark is the prime time with fish better than 2kg all along the coast.

The ever present salmon will keep you occupied most days and can be a nuisance when chasing bream, but the main drawcards are the big jewies that seem to turn up at this time of the year.

Large fresh baits during the evenings on the big tides this month will produce a few big fish for some. The sneaky little whaler sharks will create havoc but that is what you have to put up with when chasing big jewies – patience is a virtue.


The estuaries are mostly quiet with a few bream around the rocky foreshores, islands and around the lake bridge, and some blackfish along the weed beds in the channel.

Now I have to ask: what is it with our local estuaries at this time of the year?

Last year it was a marlin and sharks feeding in a little creek at the back of Port Kembla Harbour, this year we have a great white swimming around in Lake Illawarra.

It turned up in mid-April and has been swimming up to boats in shallow water. Good thing it is was April and not a few months earlier – you wouldn’t want to be dragging a prawn drag net in chest-deep water in the middle of the night with a 2m-plus white hanging about.

It mightn’t want to eat you but it only has one way of finding out what you are and by then it’s too late.

Offshore can be tough this month with the flatties all tucked up in the sand and only a few mowies, trevally, leatherjackets, pigfish and heaps of sweep.

Farther offshore, if the weather allows there are yellowfin tuna around the continental shelf and beyond and plenty of striped tuna inside the shelf. They make good bait for snapper that should start to show over the coming weeks and build in numbers towards the end of the month as the cuttlefish start to spawn if the water temperature drops to the required level.

Divers are already reporting good numbers of cuttlefish on the shallow reefs so the snapper won’t be far away. As usual, cuttlefish will be the best bait for everything with fins so get hold of some one way or another – if you have cuttley, you catch fish.

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