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Presented from Issue 94

With the cold and wet winter days now behind us, as we move into the peak of spring, we can look forward to some truly spectacular fishing ahead.

As Matt Byrne details here, mid-late spring is the prime time to hit our popular coastal estuaries and rivers in search of our iconic sport fishing species – the southern black bream.

Mid to late spring is the time that all keen

Tasmanian sports fishers eagerly await. This period marks some slightly better weather and the annual spawning cycle of the southern black bream and this means that our coastal estuaries, rivers and creeks literally teem with schools of these big bronzed hard fighting machines. Although all of these same estuaries, rivers and creeks hold viable numbers of bream throughout the year, the spring period indeed could be considered prime time purely based on the sheer volume of fish and also the increased size range of fish available.

The first task ahead is choice of location and while there are endless opportunities in this regard, we have chosen here to focus on four productive and easily accessible locations with those being the Swan River, Little Swanport River, Upper Derwent River and Browns River.

The second task ahead is of course choice of tackle, lures and techniques. The first part of this question is quite easily answered by saying that your favourite trout spinning outfit consisting of a 6’6 -7ft light spin stick, 1500 – 2000 threadline reel and 4-6lb fireline and 6lb fluorocarbon leader is perfect for just about most situations. Ultra light gear is definitely an option but if going with that approach be prepared to lose a lot of fish in the process as you attempt to steer these strong fish away from oyster leases, rocks, submerged trees, weed etc.

Arguably of most importance is the final part of the question in terms of dealing with lure selection and techniques and as these strategies are indeed often location specific, this will be addressed for each scenario below.

Swan River The Swan River is located near the East Coast town of Swansea and is a very diverse and fish - rich river system. The river is essentially divided into three parts consisting of the river mouth and open river flats near Dolphin Sands (access via Dolphin Sands Rd, off Swan River Rd) the middle reaches not far from the Swansea township (access off Swan River Rd) and the upper reaches (access off Boathouse Rd).

Great bank fishing access is available at any of the above locations but not surprisingly a boat delivers the best and most efficient way of exploring all sections the river and of course assists in finding the larger concentrations of fish more easily. Boat launching is available off both Dolphin Sands Rd and Swan River Rd.

In the vicinity of the river mouth and flats area , there are some real hotspots for targeting schooling bream in open water. Although this area is essentially quite shallow, there are a series of deeper channels of water running between the prolific weed growth and the bream frequent these areas. Simply drifting these areas in your boat and keeping a keen eye out with a good pair of polaroid glasses will see you locating these schools. In these scenarios, lure presentation can either take the form of a natural soft plastic such as a Squidgy wriggler (Avocado colour) or GULP camo sandworm fished on a 1/16th jig head on the drop, or a small and slim profiled hardbody such as a Daiwa Presso or Stiffy minnow cast well ahead of the fish and twitched in front. The reaction of the fish on the day will be one of extremes in terms of either aggression or hesitation, so be prepared to tailor your approach to the behaviour of the fish on the day.

If the open water fish are proving a bit challenging (and be aware that they can be!) then move back into some structure and fish in the vicinity of the various oyster leases and weed beds. Again, it can be a toss up between soft plastic approaches or hardbody lures. As these fish tend to be more aggressive in striking lures out of the structure, for excitement try a hardbody minnow such as those mentioned above as there is nothing quite like feeling that initial strike from a freight train that then attempts to head for cover!

For a change of scenery and style of fishing, you may choose to fish the middle to upper reaches of the Swan River. The river environment in these locations tends to be quite deep right from very hard up on the banks and as such, I favour slow lift and drop fishing of soft plastic lures. Slow working a GULP turtleback worm in watermelon colour or a GULP sandworm in either natural or camo colours is a very good method in targeting bream in these sections of the Swan River. As with most other forms of soft plastic fishing, it is a good idea to mix up your retrieve and if fishing with the above plastics definitely allow plenty of time for ‘the drop’ before commencing your retrieve again, as fish will not hesitate in picking these natural looking plastics up off the bottom.

I have found that the middle to upper reaches of the Swan can fish better towards the end of October and into November. By this time, there are also a host of other species that have entered and made their way up the system including hard fighting Silver Trevally, Australian Salmon and even Tailor. If you are actively targeting bream in the Swan River then you will inevitably connect with these additional species and if things are slow they can indeed be a welcomed by-catch.

Little Swanport River

The Little Swanport River is located on the East Coast between Swansea and Triabunna and much like the Swan River, offers a very diverse bream fishery in some wonderful surrounds. This river could be considered very much a trophy bream fishery as there are some outstanding fish to be found throughout this river. Although ‘weighing a dead bream’ wouldn’t be condoned these days for personal favourite a watermelon GULP turtleback worm – be prepared to experiment but just think natural plastics. I rarely use hardbodies in this section of river, purely because I have again found these fish to be quite ‘spooky’ on occasions and prefer the finesse approach delivered by soft plastic fishing to be the best bet.

Make sure that your gear is up to standard in this river and especially that you check your leader regularly for any abrasions. These fish fight hard and dirty and in some cases you will need to apply a bit of pressure in order to turn them away from the snags, not to mention the very real chance of connecting with a real trophy fish.

Upper Derwent River

There has obviously been a lot written about the bream fishing potential throughout the Derwent River system. It is again such a diverse fishery that is a consistent producer of great bream. The section of river that deserves particular mention for the mid to late spring period is the area of river between the Bridgewater Bridge and the Ski club just below the Norske Skog Paper Mill. The rush-lined banks of this entire area of river provide perfect habitat and ambush points for bream and with an increase in fish inhabiting this area over spring, the fishing can be excellent. A boat is essential for this style of fishing, in order drift parallel to the banks and cast and retrieve along the drop offs.

While a number of the above mentioned lures in the other locations will take fish in this area also, I have done surprisingly well on a bibbed 5-7cm Rapala minnows in Brown Trout pattern. As for plastics, a 3 inch Gulp Minnow in Smelt colour fished on either a 1/16th or 1/8th jig head really is just about all you need and if you had to buy just one plastic then that would be it!

In terms of notable drop offs, give the few small points in and around ‘Lime Kiln’ point (including those on the opposite side of the river) a try, there is some old structure in these locations in the form of old standing and submerged pylons. The current moves around these points and the fish appear more than happy to wait here in ambush. Use a soft plastic here on a 1/8th jig head for best results in order to get down to the strike zone.

For those prepared to experiment catching bream on the fly, then there may be no better place to try. I have managed a few bream on fly in this area and while obviously not claiming to be an expert obvious reasons and none other than the fact we are now much better educated, a keen bait fisherman that knew this river well and fished it religiously managed to pull a bream from the Little Swanport some 10 years ago that weighed in at a massive 6.75lb. Not sure what that equates to in centimetres but you get the picture of what this river is capable of producing nonetheless!

The lower reaches of the Little Swanport River in the vicinity of Saltworks Rd, provides for boat access allowing for both flats style fishing and also fishing amongst structure consisting of Oyster leases and small rocky points etc. A boat is essential in order to fish the full potential of the area and like the lower Swan River, enjoy the best of the sight fishing opportunities. Hardbody lures work very well here and recommended lures to evoke a strike from these bream include bladed vibes and minnows, give the lures a try and you will not be disappointed.

If your style of fishing is more tailored to walking the banks and casting to bream holding in submerged snags and rock ledges then fishing upstream from the Tasman Highway bridge on the Little Swanport River is for you. This area is one of my favourites and I have polaroided (not necessarily caught!) some of the largest bream I have personally seen anywhere in Tasmania.

I prefer to fish the section of river between the bridge and ‘flat rock’ (located just upstream) with fairly natural soft plastics, fished finesse with ultra light jig heads. Approach is very important here and simply strolling the bank without taking some caution is sure to result in ‘spooking’ a lot of bream here. Stay up high on the banks near the tree line and take time to polaroid and observe structure in the water before attempting any casts.

Soft plastics of choice here are Squidgy wrigglers in Avocado or my personal favourite a watermelon GULP turtleback worm – be prepared to experiment but just think natural plastics. I rarely use hardbodies in this section of river, purely because I have again found these fish to be quite ‘spooky’ on occasions and prefer the finesse approach delivered by soft plastic fishing to be the best bet.

Make sure that your gear is up to standard in this river and especially that you check your leader regularly for any abrasions. These fish fight hard and dirty and in some cases you will need to apply a bit of pressure in order to turn them away from the snags, not to mention the very real chance of connecting with a real trophy fish.

Upper Derwent River

There has obviously been a lot written about the bream fishing potential throughout the Derwent River system. It is again such a diverse fishery that is a consistent producer of great bream. The section of river that deserves particular mention for the mid to late spring period is the area of river between the Bridgewater Bridge and the Ski club just below the Norske Skog Paper Mill.

The rush-lined banks of this entire area of river provide perfect habitat and ambush points for bream and with an increase in fish inhabiting this area over spring, the fishing can be excellent. A boat is essential for this style of fishing, in order drift parallel to the banks and cast and retrieve along the drop offs.

While a number of the above mentioned lures in the other locations will take fish in this area also, I have done surprisingly well on a bibbed 5-7cm Rapala minnows in Brown Trout pattern. As for plastics, a 3 inch Gulp Minnow in Smelt colour fished on either a 1/16th or 1/8th jig head really is just about all you need and if you had to buy just one plastic then that would be it!

In terms of notable drop offs, give the few small points in and around ‘Lime Kiln’ point (including those on the opposite side of the river) a try, there is some old structure in these locations in the form of old standing and submerged pylons. The current moves around these points and the fish appear more than happy to wait here in ambush. Use a soft plastic here on a 1/8th jig head for best results in order to get down to the strike zone.

For those prepared to experiment catching bream on the fly, then there may be no better place to try. I have managed a few bream on fly in this area and while obviously not claiming to be an expert at this form of fishing, consider this to be a very satisfying form of fishing – nothing pulls harder than a bream on fly gear. I have settled on using a 6 or 7 weight set up in conjunction with an intermediate line or floating line and extra long leader, alternating depending on water depth and tide movement.

As far as flies go, I have tried all the noted ‘bream flies’ like BMS and shrimp patterns etc but have had best success on a very standard # 8 weighted streamer style wet consisting of a dyed light brown rabbit fur strip with a combined orange seals fur/ synthetic glister body. This fly works equally well on the Trout here also and no doubt is taken as a rough resemblance to the local Whitebait. A slow and standard ‘Trout’ strip and pause retrieve seems to work just fine.

The added advantage of fishing the Upper Derwent at this time of year is of course the abundance of both resident and sea-run trout, with the whitebait runs well and truly in full swing. I remember a particular outing to this area in early October 2010 targeting bream, where the tally at the end of the day was 6 bream to 41cm, 2 resident browns and 3 sea-runners ranging from 1 – 3lb. There aren’t too many rivers in Tasmania where you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

The Derwent River literally is a paradise for keen sport fishers at this time of year and judging by the interest from both locals and mainlanders alike, I would now suggest is no longer the underrated fishery it may have been a few years ago!

Browns River

The other Prime Time bream location particularly for southern based anglers is Browns River situated right in the heart of Kingston. Perhaps not the cleanest waterway in Tassie but as we know, this means little to southern black bream! Of late, this river has been dishing up some real surprises in terms of the size of fish available and the quality of the lure fishing options present.

Browns is a shore-based fishery that is easily accessible both by foot and vehicle right from the bridge at the river mouth to the golf course and beyond. The access road from the Esplanade connecting through to Balmoral Rd, follows the length of the river, meaning there is no scrub bashing involved here.

The river is surprisingly deep, contains a lot of drop offs and is very conducive to fishing hardbodies in the form of blades and vibes, bibbed minnows as well as soft plastics. Virtually all of the river is fishable and I would advise anglers to utilise similar techniques and lures to those mentioned for the Upper Swan, Derwent and of course Little Swanport Rivers. Alternating between hardbody lures and soft plastics, varying jig head sizes and varying retrieves and lifts and drops of the rod is the best way to find what works on any given day.

Time to explore the options

The above has focussed on just but a snapshot of bream fishing options for the coming months. There are a smorgasboard of other rivers and Creeks including the Ansons River, Scamander River, Prosser River, Bream Creek, Huon River, Lune River etc etc where there is no better time than the present to get out there in search of big southern black bream. If you are still looking for excuses and need more incentive, In the case of the southern rivers you have the peak of the whitebait runs occurring which means that resident and sea run trout are a very common by-catch (if you choose to call them that!)

Finally, we have the best and most diverse bream fishery in Australia and these fish are our saltwater sport fishing icon, so please enjoy the moment from the best fighting fish there is pound for pound, take some photos and return them to the water to complete their very important spawning mission.

Matt Byrne