Bream is one of the most commonly targeted fish species in Australian waters and for good reason. They are plentiful, can be fished year-round, are a good sport fish and make for good eating. Whether fishing on bait or lure, bream are a cunning quarry – well deserving of an angler’s attention.
Fishing for bream can yield successful results in estuaries and beaches in most parts of Australia. Considering their prevalence, it is somewhat surprising that they are a relatively slow growing fish and take about five years to reach maturity. This longevity may be the reason that bigger bream are often hard to fool, and can require no small amount of skill to get on the hook.
Several species of bream inhabit Australian waterways and which variety you target will largely depend on your location. The most common varieties are black bream and yellowfin but pikey bream and northwest black bream inhabit the waters around the top end of Australia.
Black bream is the primary target species for the southern states (found from southern NSW and WA down to Tasmania) and is predominantly found in estuaries. Yellowfin bream inhabit beaches and estuaries right along the east coast from Cairns down to Victoria.
Tarwhine (aka silver bream) is a close relative of the black and yellowfin bream and the species are often confused. They are just as good as bream to catch and eat and can be found in surf and estuaries from southern Queensland right around to WA.
Estuaries like Patterson River in Victoria are prime bream habitats.
Where to look
The number one rule for locating bream applies whether you’re fishing off the beach or in an estuary – always look for structure, be it a rock formation, jetty or deep holes and troughs. If you’re lure fishing, a good tactic is to cast close to the structure and try to draw the fish out. Casting directly into a snag often produces results too – just be prepared to lose a few lures in the process.
While bream will inhabit built up waterways in cities just as readily as beaches and little known backwaters, they can get spooked easily. So areas with a high level of marine traffic are often less likely to produce results.
The best tackle for bream fishing will vary depending on whether you’re fishing surf or estuary, but also comes down to personal preference. They can be successfully targeted on a range of baits and lures – from soft plastics and hardbodies to squid, sand worms, pippis, prawns and pilchards.
There are a heap of rigs you can use for bait fishing for bream, but our favourites are the running sinker rig and the paternoster rig.
A running sinker rig is both simple and effective.
Running sinker rig
A running sinker rig is just about the simplest setup you’ll find. To rig this up, use the lightest line and smallest sinkers possible (6lb - 10lb mono or 4-6lb braid with a 6-10lb mono leader if you’re fishing estuaries). Tie a small swivel to the end of the line with a small ball sinker running free on the line above it. Tie a 60cm trace to the swivel and tie a hook to the end.
The paternoster rig is an all-time favourite for many anglers.
Paternoster rigs are used in both estuaries and surf to great effect. Because the hooks sit above the sinker, they are less prone to snags so are particularly good for fishing the rocky, snag-ridden terrain bream love.
There are many variations to the paternoster, but the one we’ll look at uses a tear-drop sinker, two hooks and two three-way swivels.
To rig it up, tie a three-way swivel to the end of your line, tie on a length of line about 25cm long, and tie the second swivel to the end before adding a second 25cm length of line with a tear-drop sinker tied to the end. From the third eyelet of each swivel, tie on a 10cm length of line before tying on your hooks.
There’s nothing quite like catching a good-sized bream on a lure. The initial hit followed by the rapid pulls on the line really gets the pulse racing. Bream will go for a range of lures from hard bodies to soft plastics. A nice, slow retrieve with some twitching and jerking on the line should do the trick.
If you’re using hard bodies, a minnow, bent minnow, bibbed shad or micro vibe should yield results with the right presentation. There are many lures out there designed specifically for bream,
Bream also love soft plastics , especially varieties with a wiggling tail. Try the Berkley ribbontail grub, jigging shrimp or swimming mullet.
Legal size and bag limit
The legal size for both black and yellowfin bream varies from state to state but is usually between 25cm and 28cm. This measurement should be taken from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail. If you do catch an undersize fish, you should release it immediately. This will allow it to grow to maturity and hopefully breed – leading to more fish for everyone. Fisheries authorities will issue a fine if you’re found with undersize fish or with quantities in excess of the 10 fish per day bag limit.