BREAM CREEKOLOGY

In the deepest darkest backwaters of an estuary, is where you will find Jamie Robley targeting bream. Join him as he unlocks some of the secrets to tempt some of these bream on lures.

Kayaks and creeks go hand in hand. Small craft like this are silent and deadly when it comes to bream, although small powered vessels do have some obvious advantages as well.

Kayaks and creeks go hand in hand. Small craft like this are silent and deadly when it comes to bream, although small powered vessels do have some obvious advantages as well.

Unlike many of our favourite angling targets, bream are incredibly adaptable and inhabit a very broad range of environments around the country. The Eastern Yellowfin variety are particularly versatile and hardy, so they can comfortably dwell in salty ocean water, as well as pure fresh and anything in between.

Another trait of the species is that they can be found in numbers during any month of the year from offshore reef systems to the surf zone, estuaries, brackish and even freshwater creeks. This is regardless of their spawning periods, which mainly occur along the NSW coast from April through to August each year. While a large percentage of them are congregating for spawning duties close to estuary mouths and adjacent headlands or beaches, plenty still remain in other places.

I’ve personally caught bream while bottom bouncing for snapper over reef several kilometres from shore and as by catch while chasing bass in the fresh. The furthest upstream I’ve seen them was five kilometres above the nearest brackish water, well above several rocky falls. At the time I was targeting bass on a big north coast river when several bream charged out to chase my lure.

Regardless of them turning up almost anywhere at any time they do have preferred habitats where better numbers may be encountered at certain times of the year. Like their southern black cousins though, most of their lives are spent within the confines of an estuary.

Hot Spots

Sheltered creeks are always a nice place to spend some time, regardless of the fishing!

Sheltered creeks are always a nice place to spend some time, regardless of the fishing!

Within each estuary system there are bream hot spots and such places may vary in each waterway, up and down the coast. As a very broad general rule, the majority of large adult bream will be found in the lower reaches during the winter months while they’re spawning, or migrating to and from their spawning areas, while numbers of smaller fish gravitate towards upstream areas, including feeder creeks.

During the warmer months they can still be found down around the mouth or way up in the brackish creeks. In many systems bream are also found in good numbers around shallow bays, lakes and lagoons, feeding up on prawns, which are more prolific at this time of year.

Sheltered Water

Any man made structure is worth a look.

Any man made structure is worth a look.

Some common problems facing the keen bream angler and particularly those who favour lure casting, are wind, strong current flow and boat traffic during peak holiday times. One of the easiest ways of dealing with these problems is to head up a sheltered creek or similarly protected backwater.

Depending on the size of the river or creek, small vessels like powered boats under 3.6 metres and kayaks are preferable, although in some cases it may be possible to enjoy good fishing by walking along the banks. From my experience, shore based options are more common in urban areas, where bashing your way through the scrub isn’t something that needs to be dealt with. As mentioned, at least a few bream are present in most creeks during every month of the year. While many may only be small, it’s certainly not out of the ordinary to hook a big Yellowfin bream way up towards the fresh right in the middle of winter while most other adult fish are down towards the ocean making babies. So it pays to expect the unexpected and use tackle that’s capable of dealing with a decent fish.

As a rough guideline, bream gravitate towards timber snags, rock walls, jetties, pontoons and moored boats, regardless of the time of day or season. However, they’re more likely to be present in spots that are shaded, rather than sunny and more inclined to hit lures in the morning or afternoon, rather than through the middle of the day.

The author with a fish caught in a Gippsland creek, when it was too windy to try out in the open body of the local estuary. This fish took a metal blade along a clear, snag free bank.

The author with a fish caught in a Gippsland creek, when it was too windy to try out in the open body of the local estuary. This fish took a metal blade along a clear, snag free bank.

Another factor to be aware of is current flow or lack of. Some creeks are quite tidal, while others remain relatively still. Many also have a semi-permanent constant downstream flow as a result of freshwater trickling down from the surrounding hills. Bream tend to be more active where there’s some current flow, as opposed to still water. So while a bank may be lined with snags or simply look good, bream may be more catchable in spots that don’t look so inspiring if there’s more water movement. So overall, we’re looking for a combination of good structure, shade and current.

Of course, flooding can make a big impact on creeks and estuaries in general. Minor flooding may simply colour the water up a bit and give fishing a boost and that includes a boost in the flow rate in creeks. On the other hand, large floods may wipe out all angling options for a few weeks.

One would automatically assume that floods wash all the bream downstream so there’s no point in heading back up a creek until the water level drops right back and it clears up. To an extent, that’s true. However, flooding can also encourage fish to move upstream, possibly looking for food being washed down. While it’s definitely not advisable to try navigating and fishing a creek with a torrent of water gushing down, sometimes it can be worth trying your luck a week or so later.

Which Lures?

Surface lures that resemble a prawn are one of the very best things to cast around for creek bream through the warmer months. They’re also more snag resistant than most other lure types.

Surface lures that resemble a prawn are one of the very best things to cast around for creek bream through the warmer months. They’re also more snag resistant than most other lure types.

One of the first considerations when choosing a lure for creek bream is whether there are a lot of snags present or not. Most upstream areas are quite snaggy, due to fallen timber and rocks. So floating or very lightly weighted lures are the best bet and fitting them with upwards facing W hooks can also make them more snag resistant. In many of the creeks and other estuary areas I fish through the warmer months, surface lures are a very good choice. Not only are they the least likely to snag up, they’re also the most effective on bream which are actively hunting their prey towards the surface. Such prey items include prawns, shrimp and insects ranging from flying ants through to beetles and cicadas. Shallow diving hardbodies which swim only a few centimetres under the surface can also be great. Models like the Daiwa Wise Minnow, Maria MC Wake and Ecogear MX48 fit the bill perfectly and are proven winners on creek bream.

Slow sinking plastics like small Berkley Gulps and so on are always a good choice in calmer places where current flow isn’t too strong. Thread these over a size 1 or 2 TT Lures HWS jig head and they’ll slowly waft down towards fish or snags, without plummeting straight into trouble zones. On many occasions I’ve done well with lightly weighted Gulps, when other lure types aren’t getting much attention.

Not all creeks are snaggy though and during the cooler months sinking vibes can be deadly on bream. It’s also interesting to note that winter bream may not always be hugging the snags either. It’s quite common to find them out towards the middle and sometimes higher up in the water column. This is probably due to thermoclines creating a slightly warmer zone here, then deeper down or along the banks. So when chasing bream in winter it’s always worth firing off a few casts out in the middle.

Colour Choices

Very lightly weighted soft plastics normally do well in creeks with minimal current flow. When matched with a TT Lures HWS jig head they slowly waft down, rather than plummeting straight into the snags.

Very lightly weighted soft plastics normally do well in creeks with minimal current flow. When matched with a TT Lures HWS jig head they slowly waft down, rather than plummeting straight into the snags.

The basic guidelines when choosing colours are the same across the board when it comes to bream. In clearer, relatively shallow water the more subtle or neutral colours tend to work best, while bold colours that stand out are a better choice in discoloured water.

In quite muddy conditions some good colours to try include bright chartreuse, orange, yellow and solid black or black with a contrasting orange belly. The colder and dirtier the water, the slow the lure needs to be worked so fish have a better chance of detecting it in the first place.

Heavily scented soft plastics, like Gulps or Squidgies with S Factor scent applied, are another good alternative in discoloured water so bream are more likely to smell them and take a bite.

This is why it’s a good idea to have three different classes of lure colour in the tackle box. Clear, translucent or very subtle colours for gin clear water, average natural colours for typical water conditions and those bright or bold lures for the muddy water.

Observation

This wary Victorian bream took a Berkley Gulp, after the author peppered the same snag with other lure types, without result. Sometimes you need to try a few different lures or retrieve techniques to bring fish undone.

This wary Victorian bream took a Berkley Gulp, after the author peppered the same snag with other lure types, without result. Sometimes you need to try a few different lures or retrieve techniques to bring fish undone.

Despite all the technology available to us these days, the very best equipment an angler possesses are eyes and ears. Simply scanning the surroundings, looking and listening for any potential fishy signs goes a long way towards success. In the creek environment some things to look out for are the sounds of bream slurping or attacking prey items, bankside reeds that suddenly twitch, indicating a fish is probably feeding at the base of the reeds and the water itself, including bubble or debris trails that could indicate extra current flow or wind lanes where bream could be looking for a meal.

At least a few bream are present in most creeks, most of the time. If however, success isn’t coming your way then it’s still nice to spend some time up a creek just taking in the surroundings. There are a lot more worse places to be that’s for sure!

Jamie Robley

About Jamie Robley

Based on the New South Wales Central Coast, less than two hour’s drive north of Sydney, Jamie Robley started fishing around his local lakes at an early age. Bream, flathead and tailor were the main source of entertainment for a young Jamie but of course, like many other kids who’ve been bitten by the bug, he quickly became interested in other species and more advanced styles of fishing.

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