Bream Tips and Tricks
Bream would have to be one of the premier estuary species sought after by salt water anglers during the summer. Fickle, hard fighting, and great tasting, they present an excellent target for holidaying anglers.
In this article, east coast salt water guide Michael Hayley gives up some of his closest held secrets to the editor.
The north and east coast is home to bream in a wide variety of river systems, starting with the Rubicon and Frankland, then across to Bridport and the three rivers there: the Brid, Little Forester and Great Forester, the Piper, Boobyallah, The Great Mussleroe, Ansons River and Bay, the lagoons around St Helens, as well as the river and wharf area, Scamander, Four Mile Lagoon, Swan River, and finally Little Swanport.
All these estuaries have much in common, what follows is general run down on how to target this most desirable of species. There are three main elements to Michael Hayley's bream secrets, the bait, the tackle, and of course, the special tactics.
This is perhaps the greatest point of discussion amongst bream addicts. There are great tales of special brewed baits, or using chook guts, or even the entrails of four-day dead ducks! Rest assured that the best baits recommended by Michael are fresh, clean, and able to be eaten should you strike a blank day.
The key to good bream bait is that it must be fresh. Frozen baits are ok, but fresh is definitely best. The following baits are among the finest: nippers, rock crabs, pippis, pretty fish, striped tuna, garfish and trevally strips, prawns, and in dirty flooded water, garden worms. Add to the list mussels, sandworms and sardines, and there aren't too many bream that will swim past your offering.
As the bait must be fresh, then it follows that you will have to find your own bait, not too many shops will stock the above items in a fresh state. Finding rock crabs and mussels is simply a matter of searching the rocks at low tide, and collecting enough to use in only one session. It's pointless collecting too much bait; as all that does is deplete the bait stocks for everyone else, including you. This is a case in point with the nippers, too much harvesting of the bait supplies have led to a shortage of natural stocks, which means no nippers for bait!
Sandworms are excellent bait for a variety of fish including bream. Finding them is again a trip out at low tide, look for the little holes in the sand, and then pump them out with a bait pump. Take only what you need. Pippis are the same, simply search the low tide sand flats, your toes are probably the best things to use.
Pretty fish are a difficult one, the old way was to net them in the estuary mouths with bait nets, however the regulations for nets and netting have changed in regard to this, so check before you get too excited. Buying them snap frozen is the alternative.
Strips of garfish and trevally mean catching those fish, but remember the size limits, just because you want it for bait doesn't mean the laws don't apply! In many ways Tasmanian anglers are being influenced now by the mainland angling media, and are finding that our bream and their baits and methods work very well. We do, however, need to take great care of our bait resources.
Starting with rods, a light spinning outfit is ideal, from between 6" and 8'6", with a light and sensitive tip. The better brands of rods will give longer service, and have better fittings, such as reel seats, line runners, and good quality hyperlon grips. The old Jarvis Walker Black Queen was the standard for many years, and are still available. Reels should be smooth and trouble free, with good quality drag mechanisms. Bream are a hard fighting fish, so a good reel is essential. Shimano, Jarvis Walker and Penn all produce great reels for this style of fishing. The ultimate would probably be the bait runner style of reel, a premier piece of equipment.
Nylon should be coloured to fit in with the environment, dull greens and browns are best, Michael feels that the new types of flouro lines are best used for other types of fishing. The breaking strain should be around 6lb for good equipment and experienced anglers, for those new to hard fighting fish then perhaps 8lb would be more suitable.
The terminal tackle, (hooks and sinkers) are best kept simple. The most effective rig is simply a single unweighted hook, mounted with your favourite bait. Where the current is a little strong, or depth is the problem, then a small round sinker allowed to run right down to the bait is best. Michael recommends against using swivels or stoppers on the line as they can contribute to snagging, or can tangle when being cast. The sinker resting against the hook gives the most natural of presentations, as well as assisting in ensuring a good percentage of hook-ups.
The hooks used vary with the bait used, for prawns and nippers use a #8 to #6 long shank, for pippis and mussels a #10 or #8 bait holder fits best. For strip baits either will do according to the size of the strip used.
In weedy conditions experimenting anglers could use a light paternoster rig, with a light sinker on the bottom. This can help get the bait on top of the weed so the bream can see it.
There are a number of different aspects to the Michael Hayley bream techniques, including bite detection, reading the water, time of year, and the different habits of the bream.
Where are they?
There is a popular notion that all bream are in deep water; the reality could not be further from that! The best bream are in shallow water, often so shallow that they display the same behaviour as tailing trout! Bream will move over shallow water to source out food supplies such as sand worms, crabs, nippers and the like. In fact, where you collected your bait at low tide might just be a great place to fish at high tide. Don't be shy to try different locations, and have confidence, the bream are there, don't worry. The only time bream will head for deep water is when there is a lot of fresh water in the river, after heavy rain. They head down deep to stay in the salty water, so when the water runs brown from runoff, look for the deeper holes. Other wise, though, keep to the shallower, food rich areas.
At the beginning of the year the bream are at the top of the river systems, then as the summer approaches they move back down to the estuary mouths and surrounding areas. Basically from January to April they are right at the bottom reaches of the estuary systems., this is where most anglers will be able to access them.
There is much debate as to whether bream venture out into the surf, Michael is convinced that they don't, his many contacts if the professional fishing industry have never seen them in nets set in the surf and surrounding areas, which is probably a fair indication.
Other places to search for bream are around old oyster leases, channels and gutters in river systems, as well as around snags such as submerged trees and big rocks.
The best bream anglers are able to read the water, predict current movements, and use the underwater features to their advantage. The best way to get this experience is to either spend a lot of time on the water, or go fishing with some one who knows the secrets.
The real trick here according to Michael is not so much to feel the bite by hand, as to see the bite. Conventional bite detection methods advocate feeling the "nibble" in the hand, and then letting the line run off the reel. Michael simply lets about a metre of slack line lay on the water, when the bream takes the bait the line moves off without any impediment, once the metre is gone then lift the rod firmly into the strike. Another popular misconception is to strike at the first sign of a bite with a tight line. This tends to only "prick" the fish, resulting in a lost bream.
The best tides are the run out tide, which washes all the food and other tit-bits off the flats and into the gutters. This applies to a whole range of species, not just bream. Flathead are also a voracious run out feeder. The best time to fish the run out is when it coincides with either first or last light. The exception is on cloudy days, where the keen angler could expect to be amongst the action just about all day. Night time bream fishing is not all it is cracked up to be, you are probably better off having a good nights sleep and a fresh start.
This is an over view on a different approach to catching bream, which is becoming increasingly accepted. There is much food for though here for the thinking angler, new techniques always lead to better and more consistent fishing. Remember always conserve bait and fish stocks, and be adventurous, fortune always favours the bold.
In the coming issues we will be featuring more of Michael Hayley and his unique fishing techniques, as well as some great locations and secret spots.
Michael operates Gone Fishing Adventures, and can be contacted on 63 761 553