Acanthopagrus australis – Yellowfin Bream

This month Scott Bradley will take a closer look at the little Aussie battler, the Yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis). Considered by many as a timid fish known to mouth the bait before committing to a meal, bream by nature are aggressive predators that hunt the estuaries often in schools and readily take lures.

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Endemic to Australia, Yellowfin Bream are found from Townsville in the north of Queensland right down the coast to eastern Victoria. Unlike Black bream, Yellowfin bream are caught in the surf, around rocky headlands and shallow reefs as well as the more common habitat of creeks and estuaries. Yellowfin bream also occur within the lower freshwater reaches of coastal rivers and lakes. Within estuaries, YFB are found in association with all types of habitat including sea grass beds, mangroves, sand flats, snags, bare substrates and rocky reefs.

Easy to distinguish from Tarwhine, Yellowfin bream lack the obvious golden lines and have a straight upper profile to their head and a pointed snout. They have a silver, bronze body with yellowish pelvic, ventral and anal fins. Their mouth consists of canine teeth at the front of the jaws followed by conical or flattened molar like teeth at the back giving them the ability to both tear flesh and crush their prey.

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Spawning occurs in inshore waters near estuary entrances during the winter months. The larvae enter estuaries and the juveniles subsequently live in sheltered shallow water habitats, particularly sea grass beds and mangrove channels. Yellowfin bream grow slowly, taking about 5 years to reach 23 cm fork length. They mature around 22 cm and appear to undertake extensive pre-spawning migrations. Adults may return to estuarine waters after spawning and can reach up to 65 cm and over 4 kgs. The Australian Anglers Association national record for Yellowfin bream is 4.445 kgs and was caught by Horace Sedgley in Camden Haven River in N.S.W back in 1984. It is also believed that a pro fisherman had netted a YFB over 6kgs and was aged by fisheries to be over 22 years old.

Bream are opportunistic feeders and YFB are no different eating a wide variety of foods including small fish, molluscs, crustaceans and worms. They can be targeted from the shore or by boat and any structure will potentially hold bream. Boat harbours, jetties, rock walls, river mouths, sand flats and beaches are all prime areas to catch YFB. They are also known to feed around pelagic species like mackerel, tuna and tailor picking up the leftovers from bait fish being eaten.

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On the incoming tide YFB are capable of pushing up in the shallows when there is barely enough water, often exposing their backs in order to reach feeding areas first. The first time I witnessed this was fishing an incoming night tide at Moon Pt on Fraser Island. With the cover of darkness they were moving up the creek with the start of the tide. We were fishing lightly weighted mullet fillets and soldier crabs and couldn’t believe the size of the bream we were pulling out of 10 centimetres of water. The initial spurt of activity dint last long because the bream continued up river following the tide.

Bait fishing for YFB is an art form in its self. Bream in general have the ability to pick up the bait and run with it yet spit it out as soon as any tension is applied to the line. This can be a nightmare when bait fishing with braid over graphite rods because it is so direct it can almost be impossible to hook up on finicky feeders. After being skunked a few times while my brother in law pulled fish after fish on his 9 foot light beach rod, mono and a six inch Alvey I decided to go back to fishing mono on a fibreglass rod and that did the trick.

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Because bream like to pick the bait up and run with it, a running sinker fished straight to the hook or to a leader via a swivel is the way to go. I fish as light as possible so I always carry a variety of ball sinkers to suit the tidal flow. You can catch YFB on just about any style of hook but what you need to consider is what baits your fishing with. For example if your fishing prawns on a long shank hook the bait sits strait with the hook exposed under the head. You get a good hook up rate and the bait doesn’t spin. Because we get a fair bit of run in our tidal movements in Hervey Bay you always have to consider how a bait will sit on a hook to look natural and not twist everything up.

Circle hooks are great for bream, the very nature of how circle hooks work is perfect for fish that pick up the bait and run with it, but the problem is they have a tendency to spin. Buying circle hooks that are straight and not off set in the shank can help the problem. Hook size once again will depend on the bait being used but generally anything from number 6 to 2/0 will fit the bill. I use circle hooks with squid and crabs and opt for a long shanked hook for prawns and worms. I find both styles of hook work fine for flesh baits.

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I use half a meter of 6-10 pound fluorocarbon as a leader to give the bait some space from the sinker and allow the bait to sit naturally. If your fishing over rocks try using lightly weighted baits suspended under a float. You can cover a lot of ground that way and reduce getting snagged all the time. I have a friend who fishes bread baits on floats over the rocks and he pulls a lot of good bream during the winter months. He starts out by berlying up with small pieces of bread and then slips a hook in one and the float usually no sooner hits the water and it disappears.

Lure fishing for bream has evolved in this country over many years and with the variety of lures and soft plastics available these days there is something to suit every situation. I carry a range of soft plastics, small hard bodies and surface lures when I fish the flats for bream to suit my location. On the flats I find that the hard bodies are the best for luring bream. They cant resist the swimming action of hard bodies and you get a much better hook up rate with two sets of treble hooks than the singles used with plastics. In other locations the plastics are my go to lures especially when working deeper water. Having the ability to change up or down in weight with the jig head allows you to find the perfect sink rate to suit the conditions.

Poppers and stick baits complete my bream luring collection and are perfect for fishing over gnarly structure like oysters and mangrove roots. Little poppers skipped across the surface create a lot of attention and replicate jelly prawns and wounded fish. A stop start or continual skip retrieve can provoke the doughiest of fish in to striking and you often see and hear bream trying to suck down the lure before you hook up. Like with any form of fishing its what works on the day so a variety of lures gives you the best chance for success. With winter approaching and Yellowfin bream getting ready to spawn there is no better time to get re- acquainted with one of the nations icons, the mighty bream!

Scott Bradley

About Scott Bradley

Scott Bradley was born in Hastings Victoria and grew up fishing for King George whiting, snapper, sharks, Australian salmon and flathead. At 15 years of age his family moved to what he calls ‘God’s own country’ for the fishing and lifestyle that Queensland’s Hervey Bay is famous for. At 19 he bought his first boat and started to properly explore the fish-rich waters adjacent to world-renowned Fraser Island. “I carved my teeth chasing pelagics and to this day find it hard to go past a boiling bait school without firing a slug or popper into the action,” said Scott. “Longtails and spotted mackerel were all I chased until age 20 when I caught my first marlin trolling in 10 meters of water, 500 meters off Fraser Island and I was hooked.” From then on Scott has spent years chasing marlin inside Fraser Island. On the good days he says 5 to 10 shots at marlin are not uncommon. Now 37-years-old, Scott maintains that game fishing is his passion. “But I'd also fish in a bucket of water,” he said. “September to March is when I chase Marlin leaving the rest of the year to stalk the flats for flathead and bream. I also hit the reefs for snapper, reds, cod and coralies plus also throw the net for a feed of prawns or shoot up a creek if the wind is up.”

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