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Bream from a kayak

Craig Vertigan loves chasing all sorts from his "yak, but one of his favourites is Tassie's bream. Take some tips from him, get your "yak and go looking.


Targeting bream from a kayak is a challenging and rewarding activity. Bream provide a challenge for the angler whether fishing from the shore, boat or kayak. They are an elusive fish, and you can spend many hours trying to find them. When you do find them they can be equally hard to catch and will do their best to make sure you don't land them, with blistering runs for cover.
The place to find a bream is in just about any estuary or coastal lagoon around Tassie. Some of the better known spots are the rivers such as the Derwent, Ansons, Scamander, Swan and Little Swanport, and Georges Bay. Perhaps, some of the most rewarding spots for kayak based fishing are the small coastal lagoons and rivers, where it's impossible to launch a boat. These places don't receive as much angling pressure and are usually pristine waterways, where a paddle in beautiful scenery is reward in itself, and catching a fish is a bonus.

Fishing heavy structure
Some of a bream's favourite hiding holes include rocks, pylons and fallen trees all encrusted with oysters, mussels and barnacles. Needless to say fishing in these conditions can be tough on your gear, and you're bound to have your fair share of bust-offs as the bream cut your line and give you a good roasting. But that's half the fun isn't it?
Recently I spent a few hours on Prince of Wales Bay on the Derwent for a mixed bag of flathead, couta, salmon and eventually a fat 39cm blue nose bream. Damn those couta can be a pain, grabbing your lure and slicing the line before it has a chance to get down to the bream! Just one more challenge to make the pursuit interesting, I suppose.
When fishing around the pylons you need to be able to do short and accurate casts. The idea is to get a soft plastic as close as possible to a pylon or under a jetty and let it sink down with a few twitches. I like to use a 1/16th jig head in this type of area. When the lure is near the bottom you then give it some gentle lifts and pauses while you retrieve it. Don't be scared to lose a lure or two on the pylons. You need to have the soft plastic in the zone to be in with a chance. Bream are real ambush feeders, lying in cover waiting for an easy meal to chance by and then pouncing. I prefer a short fast action graphite rod for this purpose. You can cast lightweight lures accurately with such a rod around 6" to 6" 6".
It pays to think about your angle of attack and how you're going to land a fish if you get one on when fishing the pylons and other dense structure. A good sized bream can tow your kayak deeper into structure and get you into a bit of trouble. The fish I got today did two good long runs away from the pylon I pulled him from towards more open water, and then changed tactics. He then did a number of solid runs back to the shellfish encrusted pylon from whence he came. I had to tighten up the drag a few notches to stop him about 50cm short of getting back to it. He did manage to tow me a couple of metres towards the snag too. By the time I gave him the comfort lift into the yak I found myself under the jetty and surrounded by pylons. Exciting fishing! The bream went 39cm to the fork and was a fat pig!
When targeting bream in tight snaggy spots it pays to have your paddle on your lap ready to go. On a previous trip I pulled a 41cm brute out of a similar wharf. That time I had to use the paddle with one hand while I played the fish with some side pressure with the other. You can paddle one handed by using your body as a fulcrum, bracing the paddle to your chest and pushing to go backward or putting it behind your other arm and pulling to go forward. That extra couple of metres can mean the difference between a lost fish and landing the fish of a lifetime.
Another thing to think about when fishing around jetties and wharves is being aware of where your second rod is, if you are taking a couple with you. I usually take two, so that I can troll a hard body minnow between snags and then swap to another rod rigged with a soft plastic for probing the snags. My second rod usually sits in the rod holder behind me or in the one up front. But when fishing around wharves it could easily get snapped in two while you paddle under the wharf or get pulled in while fighting a horse bream. So after a couple of near disasters, I now strap my second rod in the paddle keeper on the side of the boat, making sure that the tip of the rod is inboard and won't get snagged up on anything.

Coastal rivers and lagoons
These places are built for paddling. Often times when the wind is blowing hard offshore in the bays, you can find a sheltered spot on a coastal river to get amongst some bream. There are some large rivers on the East coast which contain a large population of bream. But you'll also find them in a number of other systems around the Southeast and the North coast. Around Hobart there's Browns Rivulet and the Jordan River. Further a field there's any number of rivers that hold populations of bream.
I had a session recently on a small creek on the Tasman Peninsula. I worked a lightly weighted soft plastic around all the likely looking snags, such as fallen timber, and rocky drop offs. The place was alive with cocky salmon and I ended up landing about a dozen of the lively critters. Using the stealth of the kayak, I was able to park myself on the side of a few snags and plonk a lure down amongst the branches. I love this style of fishing more for the excitement value than the success at times. Since the fish often can't resist the soft plastic when you gently jig it up and down at their front door. But sometimes they seem to sense at the same time that something isn't quite right. Consequently this makes for exciting polaroiding and fishing as the bream sometimes come out for a slow inspection and you're meantime willing them to take it and at other times they dart out at a million miles an hour, grab your lure and head straight back into the snag. I probably lose the same amount of fish as I land in these conditions, but I love every minute of it. I ended up catching and releasing 4 good bream between 35 and 40cm, but lost another 4 or 5 and got a good close look at a monster. That's the kind of thing that will keep you coming back for more.
A good technique when fishing a good snag in these rivers and lagoons is to use a small anchor to keep you in prime position if there is a bit of a breeze. Make sure you lower your anchor slowly and gently so as not to spook the fish. I like to make sure I try all the angles of the snag before drift fishing down to the next one.
That same trip I saw real eye opener. The bream started feeding on the surface on mass. I attempted flicking resin head soft plastics at them, but soon realised that it was futile, since they were only feeding on the surface in heavy weed cover. I think the only thing that would have worked was a floating weedless rigged soft plastic or fly fishing with a dry fly. What they were feeding on was a mystery to me. But I decided to just sneak up on a few of them and observe. They didn't seem to sense the kayak until I was a couple of metres away. So I managed to get a good view of them coming up on their sides and grabbing something from the surface before splashing their tails and heading back down. It didn't matter that they seemed uncatchable, it was just a joy to observe this activity close up. Such is the stealth factor of the kayak that you tend to see some amazing things. In fact on a previous trip in the same spot I saw a sea eagle swoop down and grab a salmon from the surface about ten metres away from me.

Observations from the yak
Kayaking has also been a big learning tool for breaming for me. In places where I previously have not caught anything I've been able to observe that there are fish about, but they are so deep in the structure that attempts to cast a lure in there from the shore would result in many lost lures and some serious frustration. It's an eye opener to see how many casts around a snag result in no interest until you park yourself in the snag with branches on either side of the yak. At times I've dangled a soft plastic for what seems like a ridiculously long time, before a bream has come out of nowhere to swipe the lure. Another trip recently I came across about five schools of bream so far inside the fallen trees that it was impossible to coax them out. One tree had a school of about 20 and I attempted to get some photos of them, but they were spoilt by the glare on the water. I can highly recommend a paddle and a fish in a river chasing these truly magnificent sportfish. They are just about the perfect sports fish. Challenging and rewarding to catch, they put on some brutally good fighting, and when they're ready to land are the most well behaved fish I've encountered. I love the way you can give them a simple comfort lift with your hand underneath their body, bring them into the boat, take a photo, get the hook out and set them free and all that time they don't tend to do any flapping about at all. It's as though they are designed for catch and release fishing!

Craig Vertigan