Sight fishing for bream
by Isaac Harris.
Most of my fishing for bream is done after I see them. Casting to ‘sighted’ fish is the greatest thrill ever! Polaroiding for trout is common enough, but my passion is bream – from the shore. I’m going to explain the highs and techniques of sight fishing in this article.
Being a school kid in Hobart, without a car to tow a boat, restricts me to fishing shore-based or ‘shorebashing’ as many call it, whilst dad (transport) is working. Mostly I fish weekends and holidays or any chance I get really. No matter where I get dropped off, or whatever time, I usually get to see some unbelievable stuff in the good weather, but also the bad.
This article relates mostly to the Derwent River, but applies to similar waters all around Tasmania.
The best days are calm days or light wind days with clear blue skies, it makes it easy to see the bream. Most people are put off by calm weather. This is because they think it makes the fish spooky and scarce. I disagree.
Walking a shore on a bright sunny day on the Derwent, Prince of Wales Bay to be precise, a few months back, I polaroided over 200 bream feeding aggressively, tailing and bow waving in the shallows with their backs and tails out of the water, this is the ultimate thrill. Putting a lure, either it is hard-body or soft plastic right in front of a feeding or cruising fish is exciting. You don’t know what to expect – or what the bream are likely to do. But you hope its feeding time.
There is nothing better than seeing a big blue-nosed bream coming up behind your lure, than gently sucking it in. Strike and you’re connected and have tricked one of these hard to fool fish - it is an awesome thrill. On bright days I use dull coloured lures, something with no flash or translucent and clear. I personally think flashy lures on bright days scares bream off. Most of the bream that bright day spooked away when they saw the flash, but as soon as I put on something dull they switched on to it. Getting them to eat it is another thing.
Bream are opportunistic feeders. They follow their prey to see if it’s worth chasing and eating. They often will follow a lure and not eat it, but once they like the look of it, there is no stopping them from inhaling it. It all depends on the lure and retrieve.
Often on good days with high tides, bream will sit five metres from the shore. We pray for less!
Casts far enough away that the bream don’t spook from the plop of the lure is needed. Then it also needs to be in front of them or to the side, never ever bring a lure up behind a bream towards its tail, they will all spook away. No baitfish will swim back towards a fish. When a bream follows the lure, pause it. It will often come within a metre of it and seem to study it. A super slow floater or suspending lure is what you need. Some take a little interest and stare, others will turn away. Give the lure a small twitch to keep them interested and keep them thinking that it’s food - injured and about to die and an easy target for them. I’ve had bream come back seven times after swimming away and eventually eat the lure at my feet.
The hard part is hooking a fish. Once that happens in shallow water there is not much you can do but hold your rod high. It is time to pray there aren’t any oyster covered rocks nearby. They always seem to find you when you have a $30 lure on. Most bream will scream off into deep water, but the odd smart one will run along the shore into the rocks cutting the line.
Recently, on the Derwent, dad and I went to a spot I like in the lower Derwent. I had already landed a 40 cm fish and was on a high. I cast along the shore as far as I could, because I saw a slight tail come up and a boil. I was winding and twitching, letting it pause for a second and the drag started singing its song along the shore, this fish knew where it was going. It was going fast and hard. I opened the bail and free spooled it, but it cut me off. I’m pretty confident it was the biggest bream I’ve been connected to. Lead the fish into the deepest and least snaggy spot you can find. Another recent story is where a good friend and I went to the east coast to a small lagoon near St Helens, managing 65 bream in one and a half days, all fish caught on surface lures. This is where you see the bow wave from the bream’s back in super shallow water follow the lure. Than a boil from the displacement of the tail. You can see the Bream pull the surface lure under for a better look at it, than pop back to the top of the surface when they let go if it, than most of the time they eat it, with a big sucking noise, its really loud surprisingly. It’s like clicking your tongue to the roof of your mouth. I had one instance where I saw a bream in 15cm of water come behind the lure in clear calm conditions, it pulled the lure under to look at it three or four times. It sat behind the lure for twenty seconds than just sucked in down after a small twitch. Amazing stuff.
Basically all I use are hard body lures, which are small bibbed minnows that dive to a certain depth when retrieved. This is because of the skinny water I’m usually fishing in. I like the lure to hover just above the bottom not getting snagged up.
I personally think that black bream prefer long slender type lures. People having success of late have been using Ecogear MW 72s, MX48s, Daiwa Pressos, Rapala X Raps, Stiffys, Lucky Craft and Zipbaits.
There are short chubby lures, with a shimmy action have been working also. These include Ecogear SX40s, SX43s and Strike Pro Pygmys.
A surface lure can also be worth a try at times. The best retrieve is a slow or fast retrieve, depending on the mood of the fish. Its called’ walk the dog’ twitching the tip of the rod down and winding at the same time, to get the lure to dart sideways imitating a panicked baitfish or prawn. Than a short or long pause, depending on the mood once again, mix it up and you will get results. But mainly try shallow water. Good lures to try are Daiwa Gekkabijins, Megabass Dogx Jnrs and Bassday Sugapenns. And Damien Viriuex’s ‘special’ lure, a Daiwa Doctor minnow with the bib broken off.
Fishing hard-body lures
A rip-pause retrieve is the basic retrieve; basically cast it to your designated spot. Wind the reel a few times, maybe 5-10 times to retrieve the slack and get the lure to the preferred working depth. Then pause it, rip the lure again about a metre or so and once again pause. Repeat this until you see or catch the fish. Each pause should last anywhere from 3 seconds up to anywhere near 15 seconds depending on the buoyancy. The most recent Tasmanian Bream Classic saw my fish being caught on a 10 second long pause when the lure was sitting on the surface after floating back up. Often I will wind it fast with twitches and just pause it near the shore. Bream are so aggressive here, smashing it as it sits helplessly. Also, getting a lure with a big bib on it, digging it into the rocks will attract their attention.
If you are lucky and willing to use a surface lure sight casting can bring great rewards. Cast to your intended victim, now point the rod tip downwards and jig it down whilst winding the reel, this will create the ‘walk the dog’ retrieve, making the lure swim side to side. Do this for about ten metres, and then pause. You can let it pause as long as you like or need. Then begin the retrieve again.
I go for very light heads fishing from the shore. Often I use a 1/40th ounce hidden weight jig head with a Berkely Gulp plastic. The slow sink attracts them and they pick it up off the bottom, the only nemesis is snags. I suggest wearing waders so you can just walk out and get the lure off the snag. Just don’t spook the fish!
Soft Plastics I’ve had been using recently that are perfect for these foraging bream include Berkley Gulp Sandworms, Frys and Turtleback worms and Squidgy Wrigglers.
I use a long rod, 7 foot with a 2500 sized reel. Most people use braid with a fluorocarbon leader. Now I’m using three pound straight through fluorocarbon to cushion the take of the bream and the first run to prevent pulling the hooks. Also you don’t spook as many fish because there is no line to see and anything that makes a disturbance. If I fish around structure I use 6 pound leader with braid to muscle the fish out.
Where to fish
Anywhere with rock flats, sand flats, oyster racks, timber, undercut banks and marinas. Derwent River hot spots include Old Beach, Lindisfarne Bay and Prince of Wales Bay.
Generally high tide is best, one hour or so before and two hours after the turn of high. But I have fished dead low tide and still sight cast to them in the shallows. I find that the big fish tend to hang out deep waiting. But the ones in close seem to be cruising fish. Not sitting feeding. Don’t neglect low tide. But make the most of the high.
Sometimes when ‘breaming’ I see some monster trout. I go to one spot and often see one trout that’s well into double figures chasing bait. I’ve had him on once at my feet, didn’t take long till he was gone. He was eating mullet that were 30cm long! But some smaller fish are still sighted to around the 1, 2, 3 and 4 pound mark. Sometimes it’s difficult getting through the millions of small undersize Australian salmon and pesky flathead. But I suppose this is fishing and I shouldn’t complain.
Tasmania is blessed with some awesome days and awesome fishing. So get out there and give sight fishing a crack, you can’t beat it.