By Joshua Davey
The morning begun as most days fishing do, ridiculously early. It was 4 am and good friend of mine Josh Bland (@jb.angler on Instagram) had just arrived at my house bustling with excitement for the day ahead. We had both been planning this trip for weeks, keeping an eye on the weather, tides and hopefully a gap in the crazy amounts of freshwater that are flowing through our estuarine systems this summer.
For those that aren’t familiar, fresh water flows to the Coorong here in South Australia are almost entirely regulated through human intervention through the means of barrages and locks. Due to the flooding in the upper Murray this year, these environmental flows have been particularly high this summer. To put it into context, typically in February there would be 0-10 gates open in the system and most of the time < 5. This year it has been up over 80 gates with the system running almost entirely brown and fresh! This obviously makes fishing difficult, however provides great opportunity for the endemic bream and mulloway to successfully spawn (which can be a rare occurrence). So when I saw that the open gates had nearly halved overnight, followed by a barrage of larger than average tides I knew it was our best shot at getting onto some fish.
We hooked up the boat and made the journey down to the Coorong, launching at first light, perfect timing. I wasted no time getting to the first likely spot, with finding salt water the first task. For those that aren’t aware, sounders are particularly good at finding salt/fresh water lines. Salt water is denser than fresh, meaning that it will usually sit underneath a layer of fresh water, particularly in deeper holes or areas with lots of bottom structure.
No sooner than finding some salt water, my side-scan lit up with an impressive school of fish on the HDS Live. We wasted no time rusting up the bream gear and throwing the kitchen sink at them, nothing, not a touch. That was until Josh Bland (hereafter JB) tied on a metal vibe and hooked up first cast. This fish took a blistering first run, then identified itself with some signature headshakes. They were mulloway, and by the sound of JBs screaming Exceler 2000 not small ones either. After a short tussle, JB’s line went slack and silence filled the air, that was the last we saw a sign of a mulloway on this day.
The next few hours, well specifically the next 6 hours were dire. It started raining, there were minimal signs of fish and that layer of salt water was slowly disappearing with the outgoing tide. The day was looking grim and after covering some serious kilometres, we made the call to try one last spot near the boat ramp before making the journey home.
The first pass along this area didn’t show anything too impressive on the sounder, but there was structure and there was salt water. We spent a few minutes sounding around and then we saw a very small pocket of fish holding off the back of a coral bommie, the best sign we had seen since that mulloway school earlier that morning. The electric motor went in and we spot locked the boat just downstream of the bommie. I opted to try one of the new Bait Junkie Risky Critters, tying on the GP Chartreuse colour to try and match the green tinge of the water. Little did I know this decision would change the entire tune of the day!
Within a few casts I was on the board, a little bream but a fish nonetheless. Quickly followed by another, then another and then another! With each fish getting bigger and bigger up to the mid 30 cm range. At this point JB has changed lures about 10 times for not even a sniff, and no it is definitely not because I am the superior angler!
The next hookup was an absolute line burner, I recall setting the hooks, turning to JB and saying “Uh Oh” before my little Freams 2000S got lit up by a big brute of a bream, swiftly busting my 6 lb leader on the sharp coral. This was followed by JB quietly mumbling “hey, can I try one of those Risky Critters”.
I just laughed and said “what took you so long”. I wish I was making this up, but the very first cast JB has hooked up to a line burner. It was causing him all sorts of grief, I think he did at least two laps around the boat before it was time to grab the net. It was a chunky fish and a new PB for JB measuring in at 43 cm. Once we cracked the code with the Risky Critters, the session kept firing on all cylinders with countless big bream coming over the side. Many measuring over that magical 40 cm mark.
The key was to fish the Critters slowly, opting for 1/8 and 1/12 oz jigheads to keep them in contact with the bottom. We were casting upstream of the bommie the fish were sitting on, almost dead sticking the plastic and just keeping in contact as the lure bounced along the bottom with the current. Fish were hitting the lure truly and aggressively, very rarely missing a hook-up! I was throwing the Risky Critters on one of the new Infeet Z 732LFS (the ideal rod for this fishing) paired with a Freams LT 2000S spooled with 6 lb J-Braid Grand and 6 lb J-Thread FC leader joined via an FG knot.
This was our first time fishing the new Bait Junkie Risky Critters and I will confidently say that it will be far from our last. Now here is hoping for the stars to align again so that we can head out in search of some more big South Aussie black bream.
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