An Evening Chasing Big Bream
by
Dave "Nugget" Downie

The plan was to collect some live bait with the cast net then motor down to Mark’s Rocks just on dusk and fish the night in a favorite little hole that has over the years produced some good quality jew. Unfortunately the live bait would not play the game and we ended up spending till almost eight o’clock trying to fill the live bait tank. Four small mullet, five herring and half a dozen diver whiting were the end result of throwing the cast net so many times I almost dislocated my shoulder. If we didn’t get a move on we were going to miss the turn of the tide and therefore the prime fishing time. As we motored down river towards the mouth I saw several lights indicating there were boats anchored where I wanted to fish. Bugger it, no decent size mullet for bait and now no room to fish.

‘I think we should have gone down the pub Jacko’.

‘I know it’s a bit early in the season Dave, but why don’t we try for a decent bream instead, leave the jew for another night’.

We had small live baits and a reasonable tide, it sounded like a better alternative than musseling in on the jew hole. A short run out of the River and north to a small rocky outcrop just off Mackleay Island was greeted with isolation, not a fisherman in sight. We cut the motor a long way back and let the momentum drift us to within casting distance of where we wanted to fish. I put the pick over as quiet as I could, we were fishing shallow water and trying hard not to spook the fish. I wasn’t in any hurry to get a bait in the water. It usually takes a while for the fish to settle down and start feeding again after the ripples and water movement disappear. Our main objective was to be quiet. I call it stealth fishing. I pinned a small herring just behind the head with a Mustad Big Red hook. For larger baits I usually use a Mustad Hoodlum but they can weigh down a small delicate herring, killing it quickly. There was less than two meters of water under the boat and 20 meters back was a swirling eddy caused by a rocky ridge rising half a meter off the bottom. The plan was to drift the un-weighted herring back through the eddy then hold it there as long as the current would allow without it dragging to the surface. To make the bait swim towards the bottom I clipped the bottom half of the tail fin off. Now every time it kicked it’s tail it dived towards the bottom. Jacko took a fillet off one of the whiting and rigged it with a 000 sinking on top of the hook. His intention was to cast to the shallow edge of the eddy and slowly bounce the bait down the rock ledge into the slightly deeper water. He was using six kilo main line with an Albright knot connecting a meter of 10 kilo trace, the same set-up as I had with the live bait. As Jacko’s bait reached the edge of the eddy the line slowly tightened and moved towards the deeper water. He wound backwards on the Alvey giving the fish a meter or so of line before striking fairly hard in an upward motion. He was on. The concentration was on keeping the rod tip high, trying to stop the line rubbing on rock as well as putting upward pressure on the fish, enticing it away from the bottom. A quick dab with the net and a bream of just over half a kilo was landed. We were not after a feed on this occasion, we were chasing XOS bream, besides that I knew neither of us would feel like cleaning fish in the morning. The fish was slipped over the side to fight another day. My live herring had drifted through the eddy, stalling in the swirling current for a minute or two and as I stopped feeding out line was now being slowly brought to the surface by the current. I wound in, checked the bait and started the drift over again. As the herring drifted towards the eddy it started to swim erratically causing the rod tip to jerk about. I carefully picked up the rod in anticipation and waited, nothing happened. The herring quieted down, whatever was putting the wind up him had left the scene. Just when I least expected it, the line tightened abruptly, there was a few seconds hesitation then I was connected to a freight train swimming in the other direction. I had no time or need to strike, all I could do was to palm the Alvey and hang on. After a 10 or 15 meter run I got the rod tip up and slowed the fish to a tussling halt in the distance. Once turned, the odds of landing the fish are much greater. It’s the first 10 seconds when I seem to loose most of my big bream. I’ve often compared the first run of big bream to mangrove jacks. They both hit hard and put a lot of effort into the first run for cover. I concentrated on keeping the line off the rocks and anticipating any further darts for cover. The fish put in another big effort to escape once it saw the boat but was held off the bottom and slowly swum into the net. A quick picture, measure and weigh and the bream was released to fight another day. It was a nice bream measuring 46cm and weighing 1.550 kilos and proved to be the biggest of the night.

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