Southern black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) are one of Tasmania's great sport fish. They have the lot, great fighting, great eating and, on Tassie's North East and East coasts, they are in great numbers.
In the late nineties, I set myself a personal goal...to catch a bream out of my home ground, the Tamar Estuary. Bream have been caught out of the Tamar before, but not consistently, which probably indicates that they are low in number in the river; and also, they are not targeted consistently.
After putting in a considerable amount of time, in 1999, I finally got my first taste of Tamar bream action! One spring afternoon, on the shore of the Tamar, whilst soaking a frozen prawn, my eight foot bream rod went off! I grabbed it as the little TX2000 Shimano reel started screaming. The fish was heading up current at a rate of knots. Finally, he stopped, I started slowly retrieving the line back on to the reel. After two more hard dogged runs, I knew I had the fish beaten.
My hear was racing, it felt like a big bream but I wasn't sure, big sea trout was also flashing through my mind, finally I saw colour. I could not believe my eyes! I would have been rapt with my first Tamar bream weighing 500 gms but this fish was the biggest bream I have every seen, easily weighing over 2 kg.
I was ecstatic! I slowly started heading the fish to the bank when tragedy struck! The small size 8 hook fell out of its mouth, I was devastated. My first and perhaps only chance of catching the elusive Tamar bream was shattered.
Although I didn't give up, I felt like it, believe me, when the next two seasons went by and I drew blanks, not because of lack of trying. Through the summer months, I was fishing about a trip a week, I tried every bait and lure known to mankind but the fish just were not there. I finally started to lose interest when my friend, renowned fishing author and snapper freak, Geoff Wilson, rang me up from Geelong to see if I was interested in spending a week fishing for bream on the Tamar to see if we could crack another big bruiser bream, and then do an article on them. I said yes, but was more interested in going snapper fishing with Geoff than chasing bream that were not there.
Geoff flew over and we fished most of the week for bream, with the odd snapper trip thrown in to keep me happy. At the end of the week, we drew a blank, with only one sus run which possibly could have been a bream? We were both worn out and disheartened.
Another season came around and I started on my quest again; I started to think bream fishing in the Tamar was a complete and utter waste of time, when one summer afternoon I went fishing with my two eldest sons, Benjamin and Jack. We fished a different area from the one where I first made contact. We had live nippers, oysters and garfish for bait. It was high tide and a light sea breeze was rippling up the surface, the shore was very snaggy with large rocks covered in sharp oysters, bad news for monofilament. We had been there for half an hour when Benjamin's rod buckled over at a rapid pace, and let go. It puzzled me as to what species of fish could strike that fast...a minute or two later, Jack's rod buckled over and started to head down the shore into the Tamar at a rapid pace. I leaped and grabbed the butt of the rod just in time. The 4 lb line was screaming off the little Shimano at a rate of knots but it did not last long as the fish had cut us off in the oysters before I had a chance to hand the rod over to Jack but at this stage, I knew what we were dealing with! After four more bust-offs, I finally hooked a fish on my heavy rod, which had 6kg mono on it. I tweaked up the drag on the Shimano Sustain 4000, the 7 ft Uglystick rod had a mean working curve in it. I didn't give him an inch, and held the rod up high over the sharp oysters, I knew this fish was not a little fellow because of the serious bait (I threw out a whole garfish head.) I finally saw colour, I knew this fish was mine;. my boys were as excited as I! The landing net came out and I had my first Tamar bream, which weighed in at 1 kg!
I probably should have stayed but I packed up and headed home. I rang up my fishing friend, Steve Robinson and planned a session in my boat for a couple of days later. Steve was a bit skeptical of bream existing in the Tamar but I soon changed his mind! We had an unbelievable session where we boated eleven bream up to around 500 gm; he couldn't believe it. The boat was definitely the way to go for you don't have to retrieve the fish over the nasty snags.
I had several other trips where we didn't miss out. Another great trip was with my middle son, Jack. On this occasion, larger fish were present again. I lost two which I could not stop and they made it to the oysters. Jack landed two nice bream, we released two small fish and just after dark, we landed an 800 gm bream. The choice bait for that day was square backed crabs.
Altogether, through the season, Steve, Jack, Benjamin and I landed 23 bream. What an unbelievable turnaround!
Does not seem to be overly important although high tide seems to be the most productive.
Time of Day
You can catch bream out of the Tamar all day long if they are in the mood but early morning and late afternoon seem to be the peak times, especially for big fish.
Prawn, crabs, mussels, crabs, nippers, all took fish last season but my favourite bait for big bream is a small whole garfish head. It stops the picker and sorts out the size factor.
A light running rig is fine with a size 2 Gamakatsu baitholder hook, make sure the hook point is exposed when baiting up.
Rods and Reels and Tackle
Rods for bream should be around 6.6 - 8.6 feet long. Nibble and sensor tip type rods are ideal. Shimano Spectrum 8 ft bream rod is perfect. Reels should be around the 1,000 or 2,000 size and have a smooth drag. It should hold around 100 yds of 3 kg monofilament line or 6 lb to 10 lb Fireline, if your budget allows.
Good spots to target bream are - anywhere there is some sort of structure, it does not have to stand out, even a single submerged log on a mudflat can hold a school of bream. Don't be too fazed about depth, our best catches were out of very shallow water.
The best bit of advice I can give you is...don't give up! If I had given up, I never would have cracked it! And don't wear your good leather boat shoes bream fishing...