Mersey River at Bells Parade, Latrobe

Leroy Tirant
The Bells Parade area at Latrobe seems at first glance an unlikely fishing spot. The Latrobe council has done a magnificent job at this park area and in conjunction with groups such as Rotary they have bar-b-que's, gazebo's and children's play equipment not to mention the well manicured lawns. But it's the magnificent fishing that's on offer here that were going to talk about.

The stretch of water we will cover starts at the Mersey Main Road bridge to an area downstream approximately 1.6km's.
The whole body of water here is tidal and open to many variables that can affect your fishing, such as flooding. This can occur any time of the year and whilst some fish may still hold in this water it does tend to put the angler off as a raging torrent of brown muddy water will put down anybodies spirits. It doesn't just bother the angler though as fish are put off by it to. As fresh water is pushed out in such large volumes in a flood it upsets the balance of certain species such as bream, whitebait and sea run trout.
These fish need a certain level of salinity to survive and so get pushed further back out the estuary towards the sea. It does not how ever take long for the fish to return once the fresh water has cleared. A few of the species you will encounter are seasonal here. Such as luderick(blackfish) bream, whitebait and sea run trout.

The luderick aren't targeted by many people which is probably a good thing as they aren't in great numbers in the Mersey system and would suffer from over fishing. They do however provide excellent sport on light tackle and at times dedicated blackfish anglers use 9-10 rods with very light tips that fold away upon hook set but with extremely powerful but sections to turn fish from getting back into the snags. Most Luderick fishing is done with floats and specialist rigs using green sea cabbage as bait but I have heard of a few coming on baits such as peeled prawn. The secret with luderick is to look for habitat and use as light a line as possible with very small hooks as they have a very small parrot like mouth.

Bream are only in the Mersey system seasonally to spawn. I am yet to see or hear of anyone catching a bream at any other time of year other than those caught from the spawning run. We know from scientific studies that bream in Tasmania move from system to system and so I'm convinced that Mersey caught fish are from other estuaries such as Port Sorrell. Any bream you encounter in the upper Mersey from September to February are there to spawn so please exercise restraint and only take what you need for a feed. Most of these fish are 20 years old and much older as bream are very slow growing. A fish of 2kg+ can be 30+ years old so stop and think about how many you take. Last year I bumped into a bloke that had five absolute crackers that were all over 2kg and when asked if he liked eating them he said "Nah just feed em to my cat most of the time". Needless to say he copped an ear full from me.
Bream are probably my favourite sport fish. I use and recommend rods for spinning to be fast tapered(stiff) and have plenty of power as these are big fish here and you need to be able to turn them. For bait fishing an 8-9ft rod with a soft tip action is ideal and the extra length helps around snags and with the height of the banks off the water. For bait anything from prawns, blue bait, whitebait and even squid will catch fish but it's the ever humble crab that produces better fish and you also don't have the problem of nuisance fish such as toadies and juvenile salmon pinching baits.

Sea run trout
Sea runners as they are so aptly called can be in the Mersey at anytime but usually they come in following whitebait as they enter the system to spawn. It can be difficult for anglers at times to distinguish a Sea runner form a resident trout as residents will move down a river into brackish water to meet the whitebait as well. Sea runners tend to have a real silver hue to them and will often drop a mess of scales when handled especially the smaller fish. Sea runners will often give away there presence by smashing into whitebait schools as they swim past the trout in his hiding position or in shallow water a bow wave can be seen as the trout chases the bait. The fact that these fish are chasing whitebait does not mean they won't take a lure or dead baits. But the more successful anglers whom match the hatch are the ones who year after year catch 10+ fish such as the Cadle brothers. Mark and David are unbelievable sea runner fishermen. Whilst I can't give away their trade secrets what I can say is use live bait and be prepared to put in some long nights. Lures and flies that represent whitebait can also work well such as soft plastics and clear glass minnow type hard bodies.

Areas to fish

Map of Bells Parade

looking downstream from 1looking upstream from 2
 looking downstream from 3
 looking downstream from 4
 looking downstream from 4
  looking  downstream between 4 and 5
 the BBQ Area looking upstream from 5 to the Weir
 looking downstream at 5

1. This run from the bridge down to approximately the first bridge. This area is a straight fairly shallow run unless the tide is well up. Very little structure on the eastern shore and willows and trees on opposite bank. This area see's very little fishing pressure but don't be fooled by its luck luster look. It's a great stretch to spin or work a fly over. I generally wouldn't bait fish it as there is not much fish holding structure and would see more transient fish moving through here. I would stick to lures that dive less than 5ft and from up on the high bank these should work at about 2-3 feet with a slow roll. When the whitebait are about I switch to a stop and start twitching retrieve. A floating lure works well to if you see a fish working cast well ahead so not to spook it and let the lure float down to where the fish is before beginning your retrieve. Never cast straight at a fish.
2. The fork where the "back river" meets the main channel. This is an extremely productive spot for trout and bream and can be fished from the eastern bank or from the island. Casting lures up current and working them back will see strikes as will floating baits under a clear bubble float half filled with water to aid in casting distance. The are more fish holding lies here and don't be scared to fish hard in against the edges as this is where a lot of fish will lie in ambush.
3. This is probably the most popular spot for people bait fishing as there is good holding structure in the form of boulders protecting the bank and it's also where some of the deepest water can be found. All species can be caught here. Be aware that it is a high bank though and a long handled net would be a necessity. One rig I am yet to try but convinced would work here is to fish a one hook paternoster rig with a sinker heavy enough to just hold on the bottom and a 6 inch dropper tied up the line about 18 inches from the sinker. On this I would put a straight shanked #1 hook and put on a 3" minnow or wriggle tail soft plastic and just cast it out and let the current work the plastic. In the water it just looks like a little bait fish swimming.
4. This long stretch of water is usually quite shallow unless fishing a rising or high tide. Immediately below the bridge is a good riffle fairly close to the Eastern shore and spinning here or drifting a bait over it often produces a fish. I quite often see anglers spinning here and watch them get follow after follow and notice they aren't wearing Polaroid sunglasses and can't see what's going on and leave dejected thinking there was nothing about. This is one of my favorite spots for spinning for Bream on the first of the run in tide and the first of the run out. I prefer using 4lb fluorocarbon straight through (no Braid) in this water as it's usually clear and shallow and the bream wary. Small lures in green or brown glass hues are best.
5. The water blow the weir is the most favored and productive spot for luderick and bream. Usually this water is discolored because of the mud banks but it's lined like a natural riverbank with plenty of scrub and fallen logs to provide structure. The area right behind the weir is a great spot to Polaroid fish traveling over the weir with the tide. Access is very limited with a small car park a hundred meters or so from the weir. Be careful if walking the bank as it's difficult to negotiate and has soft edges. This is prime country to use crab baits but prawns will suffice.
6. This is the start of what is referred to as the back river. Good depth and plenty of structure see plenty of fish caught here each year. A favorite spot for sea runners hard in on the shore and good for bream out deeper.
7. Shallow water through area is great for spinning and using plastics. I haven't seen any bream through here but they would have to be there. Trout can be caught all along here and will be seen chasing whitebait.

This park area is beautiful and is great place to take the wife and kids for a picnic or bar-b-que whilst you have a fish for an hour or so. During the summer there is quite a vibe here and lots of people will be doing the same as you and throwing Frisbees to there dogs. Even though the banks are high off the water it's a safe place to teach kids to fish as the grassed edges provide a comfortable classroom and gear can be laid out without fear of snagging a bush behind you. There are plenty of good fish caught here each year and it keeps producing but whilst keeping a feed is quite ok I do advocate catch and release on the bream and only keep trout for your immediate needs. You can always come back and catch more!

Leroy Tirant

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