The Not So Humble Bream

Not many fish can boast a following as big as bream. In Victoria, it doesn’t matter whether you fish in the west coast estuaries, Gippsland or even the Port of Melbourne; bream is a species that appeals as much to everyday anglers as it does to specialists. Steve Cooper talks us through the (not so) humble bream here in his latest article for Kaydo Fishing World.

The Bream Fishing Lifestyle

For some anglers, bream fishing is almost a lifestyle: It isn’t so much a pursuit as an obsession. Diaries are kept with tide, barometer and moon phases noted, baits have to be fresh and, depending on the time of year, they need to be soft or hard.

It isn’t like any other form of angling; cunning, finicky, contrary, and great battlers, it is for all of these attributes that bream rate so high. It wasn’t that long ago that if you were going after bream you took bait. It was slow and even a might stodgy for the young gun anglers.

These days the bream is at the epicentre of a sportfishing upsurge with many anglers chasing them on lure and fly. This is great for angling, however, the majority of bream caught in Victorian waters, and elsewhere I suspect, are still be taken on bait.

Andy Zarro caught this bream on a Stik Bait in the Wallagaraugh River near Mallacoota.

Andy Zarro caught this bream on a Stik Bait in the Wallagaraugh River near Mallacoota.

Big Black Bream

Our southern black bream can grow to 3kg but these days it isn’t too often you see a 1.5kg fish. In Gippsland waters bream are a prime target fish at Mallacoota Inlet, Bemm River, and the Gippsland Lakes region.

In the west, the Glenelg, Hopkins, and Curdies River systems are hot spots. However, most estuaries along the Victorian coastline hold bream populations. Melburnians don’t have to travel far; the Patterson, Yarra, Maribyrnong, and Werribee Rivers produce bream.

Wherever there is structure like boardwalks, boat moorings, marinas and piers, there will be bream.

Choosing Your Tackle

A 2-3kg outfit is about right. Use a threadline reel balanced to suit a light rod about 2.5 metres for bait fishing, and about 2m for spinning. The bait rod should be softer than the spin rod, which should be sharp and have good recovery.

As for the reel, a size 2000 threadline covers most options. When it comes to lines, diameter is more important than breaking strain. Braid is more sensitive than mono is is therefore the best option for spin or bait fishing. Employ a fine braid line, about 5kg, with similar diameter to 3lb monofilament. When you rig a leader, use fluorocarbon.

More bream are being released than kept for the pot.

More bream are being released than kept for the pot.

The X Factor

This material has a light refractive index close to that of water so that it is invisible to fish. Other advantages of fluorocarbon include better abrasion resistance, not affected by ultra-violet rays from the sun and, importantly, it is non-porous. This means little until you discover that some mono lines absorb water that can dilute their strength by up to 15 per cent.

On the negative side, fluorocarbon is dearer and stiffer than monofilament so retains memory, which is why it is best suited for leader material. Lure anglers should use about 6m of leader to allow for loss of line when changing lures.

Another quality bream beside the boat.

Another quality bream beside the boat.

Not Forgetting Bait Anglers

If you want to fish bait then a selection of medium shank Baitholder hooks from No. 2 to No.8 will cover most bait. Make sure you have a selection of ball sinkers. Use as light a lead as the current allows and if you can do it, don’t use any lead at all. Fly fishers will find a 6-7 weight outfit adequate.

Use a floating or intermediate line with a minimum two metre long leader and 3kg fluorocarbon tippet.

This small flathead was brought up by a bream as it was being unhooked. It explains why hard body lures work so well.

This small flathead was brought up by a bream as it was being unhooked. It explains why hard body lures work so well.

Luring For Bream

Small lures are the go. Soft plastics, vibes, crabs and hard bodies will all produce results, however, the same lure will not always replicate the success of a previous day’s outing. Be willing to vary lures and change between soft plastics, hard bodies, crabs or vibes until you strike the right formula. Lure placement is essential to success.

On some snags you may need to your lure inch perfect through the timber to the back of a snag because that is where the biggest bream usually hang out. It can be the same if working lures around pier pilings.

Sneaky Casts Get Results


The ability to cast underarm through the mussel encrusted pilings to the darker nether regions can mean the difference between success and failure. Lure choice is a matter of what catches the individual angler’s eye. Some soft plastic lures that work on bream include ZMan Grubs, Berkley Hawgs and Squidgie Wrigglers. The Cranka Crab does well in areas where there are crabs.

Places like bridges and rockwalls and sand flats. Most of the small minnows and vibes produce results and models weorth a second look include Stiffy, OSP Dunk, Jackall Chubby, Halco Scorpion and Eco Gear SX40.

Hooked on bait, this bream is attempting a getaway.

Hooked on bait, this bream is attempting a getaway.

Fish Smart To Find Them

Think about where the fish will hold. Smart anglers working a river for bream from boats cast towards structure, as the middle of most rivers is a flat, featureless dead zone with no fish.

Options For Fly Anglers

Crazy Charlie, Skinners Shrimp, Squimp and Crazy Charlie will take bream. Add a short rubber tail to the fly and you will be amazed at how much more effective it is. A fly should be presented in the same way as you would a lure, and cast into the same territory.

Give Them What They Are Used To

Locally sourced is always better and, for the record, fresh bait does not come out of a freezer. This is a last resort. Top baits include Bass yabbies, freshwater yabbies, prawns, pipis, spider crabs, shrimp, sandworms, pod worms, and mussels. After a downpour the run off will flush worms into the erstuary, and this is the time to break out the scrubworms.

And remember, if you can source the bait yourself and, even better, keep it alive, then you are already one step ahead of the fish.

38 & 42cm fork length bream caught Nicholson River.

38 & 42cm fork length bream caught Nicholson River.


Shrimp are put on in criss-cross fashion

About half a dozen at a time with the hook set through the centre of the shrimps’ bodies. For worms, these are threaded on the hook. Sometimes several are used but there is always enough worm left to dangle and entice the fish. Prawns are hooked from the tail towards the head with the hook point protruding about 2/3-rds of the way up.




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