In my youth, bream was a species anglers sought to put food on the table. It was a ‘kill it and fillet’ favourite. Both yellowfin and black bream fought well, but the sedentary nature of bait fishing – sitting around waiting for a bite – was ho-hum.
Times have changed. The humble bream has moved to the top of the estuary sportfishing chain. A combination of bream fishing tournaments, the soft plastic lure revolution and slick marketing campaigns helped push the bream cause. The result has been a swell of anglers moving to lure fishing, and a boom in catch-and-release.
These days in shallow water, anglers can fish for bream by sight, which is what Brett Wilson, Colin Tannahill and I were aiming to do. We launched Brett’s Bass boat at a small sheltered ramp at Lilli Pilli in Port Hacking. These boats are ideal for lakes, estuaries and the shallow water we fished in Dolans Bay, several kilometres south-west of the boat ramp.
Port Hacking is a sheltered bay surrounded by two-, three- and more storey homes that seem to hang precariously from the sides of steep embankments. Typical features of many homes are the boatsheds with rail lines running to the water. Some properties have mooring jetties and some have jetties and boatsheds.
Brett steered us into an area of extensive shallow sand flats interspersed with weed beds. We were fishing with ultra light gear: small threadline outfits, 2 kg line and Stiffy Fat Boy minnow lures. Brett explained that the method was to drift over the flats, working the lures down to the weed beds where the bream would be feeding. If you caught weed, you were swimming the lure too deep. Lures were retrieved slowly, with a lift and tug on the line. As you stopped pulling the line, you lowered the rod tip and the lure rose in the water column as you wound up the slack. This was the likely time for a strike.
Brett’s experience at this style of fishing showed early when he spotted bream, cast his lure and hooked up. It was a yellowfin bream of about 1 kg. The fish was brought to the boat, the hooks removed and it was released probably to be caught another day.
Not one to waste time, Brett recast, started to retrieve and was rewarded with another. Soon after, Colin hooked up and his fish was slightly bigger. There were certainly enough bream to hold our interest. Brett said that when these flats were firing the fishing was unbelievable and it was common to hook large numbers. The flats hold other species, such as dusky flathead and sand whiting.
During the previous couple of days anglers in Port Hacking had been trolling squid, hooking into yellowtail kingfish up to 15 kg in size. Brett had to leave early so Colin and I went and collected his boat, launched and headed across the bay to Bundeena, an area Colin said was consistent for squid. It was late in the day and sadly we couldn’t hook enough to go trolling.