Bream fishing in the winter can be as rewarding and productive as during the warmer months. In fact your catch quality and quantity needn’t vary between seasons at all. Bream aren’t ‘seasonal’ per se, there is no specific Bream season. It is important to know however, that as water temps cool and winter sets in the habits of Bream change. Understanding these behavioral changes in Bream and, employing winter Bream tactics, allows anglers to enjoy fantastic Bream fishing as the water temps dip to a chilly 15 and below. Bream aren’t bears so they don’t hibernate. They need to eat as they do at any time in the year. This means you can still catch them in winter and all it requires is a little know how, good fishing sense, experimentation and some critical and creative thought.
This fishing article is about getting you on the path to making your winter Bream sessions as productive as they would be at any other time of the year. While the focus is primarily on the abundant Yellowfin Bream, many of the principals, estuary based in particular, apply to Black Bream and include Tarwhine. We’ll address Winter Bream baits, locations, lures, rigs and techniques as well as how to employ old school methods and, by contrast, point you in the direction of modern fishing products that have re-written the books on chasing this tenacious, hard fighting, ever so delicious Australian favourite.
The Summer Time Free-For-All
There is no doubt that summer and the warmer months of the year present Bream anglers with a much easier prospect of bagging out on our much beloved species. Your 6 year old can toss a half rancid prawn head from a wharf, connected to a handline rigged not unlike a vehicle winch, and catch Bream. You can cast top water lures of all shapes and sizes to the river bank for explosive, non-stop action and fun. You’re only slightly surprised when your pilchard rigged gang of 4/0’s placed speculatively in a surfside gutter pulls in a Bream of bragging rights size.
Bait up with lures of all types, use Mullet gut, live Yabbies and Prawns, fish light, fish heavy. If you have a wet bait somewhere in a Bream habitat, it’s odds on that you’ll be rewarded with summer time Bream – such is the Bream propensity for veracious feeding during the hot season. So why does the Bream bonanza go pear shaped come the winter?
Winter Bream Habits
It’s winter, it’s early morning and your cold. You’ve spent the better part of two hours collecting live nippers and you’ve tossed many from your favourite upstream location only to get tiny Bream and a lot of nothing. You’ve released the remaining saltwater nippers in frustration, grabbed your other rod and started on your favourite grub tail lure. Not so much as a sniff. So where did all the Bream go and why are they being so uncooperative?
As winter sets in Bream will generally head to the deeper water around the river mouths and estuary entrances. They congregate much deeper in the water column and, for some reason, get very selective about what they eat. If given a chance to see them, with clear winter waters this is often likely, they appear as if very sluggish. Without going into the science, it is likely that this behaviour relates to the soon to arrive spring spawn. Truth is it doesn’t matter why. This is where they are and how they’re behaving.
This is not to say that your usual locations and techniques will not work. They can and do. If however you’re looking for the percentage play and wish to increase your chances of size and quantity, adapt your tactics to suit. Get creative with your approach and employ a selection of techniques. We’ve no doubt, if you do this, you’ll be more than pleased with the outcome.
Two Old-School Options for Targeting Large Bream
- For those with access to deeper harbours loaded with plenty of man-made structure such as wharves with timber pylons, functional or otherwise, you might like to try a handline and pudding bait. Yes, that is very old-school. But if anglers could actually let go of their fancy rods for just a moment and try this, they would realise it is a huge amount of fun, it’s possible from your boat or simply land based and more often than not provides astonishing results in both Bream size and bag quantity.
Fish the evening and get in as far under the wharf or as deep into the structure as possible. You want heavy mono on your hand line. With modern line diameters 10kg is by no means too much. Your line is likely to take a beating and such a line class will take out none of the thrill and sport. Your cold and wet hands are also less likely to get cut trying to drag a 45cm specimen from around a pylon.
Connect a Luderick hook to your mono and fold on a small piece of pudding to cover your hook. A sinker is rarely required. If it is, use a tiny running ball down to the hook. (Pudding bait is more or less like a paste created by mixing cheese, flour and a frankfurt. Check out some of the internet search engines for a recipe.) Bream approach pudding differently to other baits. They will hold it in their mouths and suck it, letting it dissolve. You may feel a slight pressure, and you may feel nothing until they run off with it. The trick is learning when to strike. Try it and discover for yourself.
- For massive Winter Bream 40cm and well beyond, hit the ocean rocks with heavy kit using Cunje as bait. The rig is simple. Strap a 5000 size (minimum) spin reel or an Alvey to a rod 12 foot or longer. Spool with 8-10kg mono that has excellent abrasion resistance, you’ll need it. A short Shank 1/0 will hold plenty enough cunje and gives you the weight to cast the required distance. A sinker is rarely required and often ill advised.
The water you are fishing is often shallow, jam packed with rocks, snags and weed. This is why they fish live there. Your baits are carried over these snags via wave and wash into the strike zone. Vigilance is needed to ensure you don’t get caught up too often. You will get hung up and you may go through a few hooks. But with a half dozen Bream in your keeper bag in excess of 40cm, you won’t be complaining. You can also expect a visit from big Drummer and Big Groper. A critical requirement is that you must increase your drag. There is simply too much cover and the fish will run straight for it. Feel free to up your 10kg line class and be ready to hang on! A tip. If your fish does find cover and won’t budge, let your line go slack a give it a few minutes. He may well come out giving you a second bite of the cherry.
River Rigs for Winter Bream with Modern Fishing Techniques
Keep it simple and lighten up to bring on the winter Bream bite on the river. Complex rigs are annoying at the best of times but come the winter, your Bream hunt can be seriously hampered by fancy rigs, heavy lead and a hefty line class. The water is often clear so Bream will spot chunky lines. Bream become sluggish, so unlikely to go out of their way to attack a passing bait not quite in the zone, so you need to get right in their lounge room. They are timid on the bite and their appetite has become very selective, so your baits and lures need to be extra appealing.
If you don’t have a light outfit, on the lines of a finesse style set up, now would be a good time to invest. A sensitive, yet strong rod around 2 to 2.2 meters in a 3kg (max) class would be ideal. Strap on a 2500 size spin reel or smaller then spool it with mono or braid as light as you dare. Leaders should also be as light as your courage allows and as invisible as technology permits. Going super light is critical, particularly if you want to catch winter Bream on lures.
If you’re using flesh baits on mono it is a good idea to fish with no lead at all. We understand that this is often impossible, so where required, use the minimum you can get away with and run a small ball down to the hook or a couple of split shots. There is good evidence to suggest a drop in hook size mollifies the timid biter so if you struggle a little then give this technique a try. Go as small as practical to retain baits and ensure hook up. If you intend to catch and release, maintain a standard size hook or consider using circle hooks.
If you’re in a boat, drifting the banks and drop offs will yield by catch in the form of decent Lizards otherwise known as flathead but you’ll likely miss the Bream. And a paternoster rig, a staple drifting rig, is not exactly keeping things as simple as possible. Come winter it’s best to select deeper downstream holes and channels using your local knowledge and/or a sounder. Anchor up as far away as possible from your target. Bream will be spooked into inaction during the winter, particularly in heavily fished, high traffic areas.
If you’re land based and looking for access to the river mouth, hit the break walls. Of course you may need to go to a heavier rig but the same principal of keeping it as light and simple as possible applies. Run a sinker to a swivel with a leader length that’s suits your conditions. If you need to cast lengthy distances, you may have to consider shortening your leader.
The Best Baits and Lures for Winter Bream
While soft plastics like grub tails and fish tails etc. get results, winter is the time when blade lures and hard bodies like Vibes and Cranks come into their own when fishing the rivers, harbours and estuaries. They are brilliant for fishing deeper in the water column and their unique actions can excite the laziest of Bream into a savage attack. They are, arguably, the best lures for catching winter Bream. You will also do well with these lures in your regular spots, on weed beds and structures like oyster racks. We strongly advise having a decent selection of colours at hand in your tackle box. For some reason the winter sends Bream all Barramundi-like and they can get ridiculously selective with colour. Another very good tip is to spend the extra coin and get premium quality, top shelf lures. It really does make a difference. Using a fish attractant on your lures is also wise and has often proven the difference between no Bream and full live wells.
For non-artificial baits, I.e. flesh baits, experimentation is the order of the day. There is however bait/location combinations that have proven results as the best baits for winter Bream. Save your live Yabbies for downstream in the winter. You’ll catch Bream where you catch the Yabbies but they’re likely to be juvenile. Take your hard earned live Yabbies and fish the surf gutters. They’re an excellent bait for winter Bream in the surf. Crabs, both live and dead, are brilliant in the surf and brilliant from the rocks and break walls. Great flesh baits include mullet gut, cubed Bonito or Frigate Mackerel, bread and, particularly if you fish busy city harbours and rivers like Sydney, Wollongong or Newcastle, cubes of beef or chicken. Yes, a cheap piece of chopped up chuck steak can have outstanding results.
Check the Links Below and Kit up for Winter Bream Action
Having read this article we’ve got no doubt many of you will be champing at the bit to hit the water, try some new tactics, confirm some of your own suspicions we’ve covered here or, simply try a new technique. Before you race out the door, check the links below for kit you may require to maximise your chances by equipping to rig effectively for awesome winter Bream.