Nearby Store: Find a Store

Posted 20th July 2022

How to Catch Bream: A Complete Guide

How to Catch Bream: A Complete Guide
How to Catch Bream: A Complete Guide

By Robert Thornton

One fish that almost all Aussie anglers will be familiar with is bream. They are without doubt the most targeted and caught species in the country, and when you take a look at their credentials, it’s easy to see why.

For starters, there are bream species available from every part of the Australian Coast, which over 80% of Australians are scattered along. Whether it’s a steamy mangrove creek in the Top End or a busy Harbour in Tassie, you can bet your last Slippery Dog that there’s bream there. It’s not just lure anglers having all the fun either – bait anglers can also rack up great numbers of these tenacious little fish. In fact, bait fishing for bream is how many anglers start their journey, and for this reason they are an awesome species for anyone looking to get kids into fishing!

Nation-wide Coverage

Bream are part of a large family called Sparidae, with similar bream-like species occurring all over the world. There are three main species of bream in Australia: black bream, which are widespread in southern regions; yellowfin bream, found mostly in the middle latitudes and temperate regions; and pikey bream, confined exclusively to the tropics.

There is overlap in their distributions, and even areas where anglers can target and catch multiple species in the same session! Victoria’s Gippsland region and Queensland’s Gladstone Harbour are two examples.

This availability has made them a very popular target, and with the initial explosion in fishing tackle throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s (which bream are largely responsible for) anglers are very well accommodated to target these guys! Daiwa Australia has long provided a huge range of bream specific tackle, and if ever there’s a new and exciting way to target this species, you can be sure that Daiwa will have the gear for it!

Bream In-depth

To avoid making this article into a dossier-sized pile of pages, we will cover the two most targeted bream species, yellowfin and black bream. Pikey bream are less frequently targeted, but can be caught using most of the techniques employed for the other two.

We’ll look at the different seasonal habits of both species and the techniques that bring them unstuck.

The Deep South

Southern black bream (acanthopagrus butcheri) are found along our southern coastal and estuarine environments, venturing as far north as about Sydney in the east and Shark Bay in the west, and covering all of Tasmania’s coastline. In fact, Tassie has some of the very best black bream fishing available anywhere!

Mark Gercovich lives in Victoria’s south west, and frequently uses Daiwa’s extensive bream-spec range to scratch his lure fishing itch.

“Someone said to me that when you go fishing for bream, you catch bream,” he says, “And I think that sums up why people like them so much.”

Black bream are prized for their larger average size, with kilo fish a real possibility in any part of their range.

“We regularly get kilo fish down here, and I find it’s harder to catch yellowfin that size,” Mark explains.

Like any bream, they are a reliable target year-round, but this doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Knowing and understanding their seasonal habits is the key to year-round bream fishing, and Mark adjusts his approach to match the time of year.

In the summer, black bream are usually found in the shallowest parts of estuaries and rivers, taking advantage of the abundant prey available at this time of year. Their prey can vary from prawns, crabs, small baitfish, insects, and just about anything small enough for them to eat.

“In summer it’s mainly about lightly-weighted plastics and topwater presentations,” Mark says, “Calm evenings in shallow areas – that’s where you’ll get some really aggressive surface action.”

The shallow areas Mark’s talking about may be as shallow as only a few inches. If there’s bait there, the bream will not hesitate to venture super shallow, even if it means their backs are out of the water!

“It’s super exciting when they’re eating Infeet Slippery Dogs off the top,” he continues, “Bait anglers would probably be wanting to use an unweighted glassy in summer.”

As the mercury drops a bit, anglers tend to shift their focus to the deeper water, particularly around structure.

“As it cools we switch over to crankbaits, targeting rock walls and edges,” Mark explains, “We want stuff that dives a little deeper – I find the new Infeet Kodachi in ghost perch and Double Clutch 48SP in chrome are great.”

Fishing these lures as close to structure as you dare is the way to get a response from bream, and the general rule is that if you’re not getting your lures stuck in rocks or hung up on snags occasionally, you’re probably not in the zone!

In the very depths of winter it can get pretty cold where Mark lives, but there’s always options for black bream, and he chooses to fish deeper and slower. Bream have generally left the upper reaches of rivers to pursue a more oceanic way of life. Those that stay in the estuaries tend to settle into the channels.

“We like to fish plastics deep, often to schools we find on the sounder,” he says. 2.5" Bait Junkie Grub in pearl gudgeon with heavy heads sometimes up to 1/8oz are our go-to plastics.”

“Black Steez Vibes bounced off the bottom are another great one in winter,” he adds.

Bait anglers will do well to fish in these same deeper areas with crabs, mussels, Bass yabbies and sandworms. It’s important to keep your baits near the bottom with a paternoster or running ball sinker rig.

As the temperatures start to climb again in spring, black bream will venture back into the sheltered waterways in preparation for spawning in the upper reaches of rivers and creeks. Areas where the freshwater meets the salt, often known as the ‘salt wedge’, are where this typically happens. Clued in anglers will tailor their approach to intercept these fish as they gradually move shallower.

“In spring I’ll go back to throwing crankbaits around structure while it’s still a bit cool,” Mark explains, “and I’ll work my way to topwater action as it gets warmer.”

Mark uses a few different outfits, but if he had to pick an all-rounder, the Infeet 732LFS spin rod paired with a 2500 Revelry MQ FC would be his choice.

“There’s no need to go down super light with braid and leaders,” he says, “5-6lb is fine, unless fishing a tournament or there’s mulloway around!”

Yellow of Fin, Not Character

Yellowfin bream are similar in many ways, but possess a few unique quirks that set them apart. There are actually two ‘strains’ of yellowfin, one in the east coast and one in the west. These have been formally identified as two separate species, acanthopagrus australis and a. morrisoni respectively, although they are more or less like identical twins.

Unlike black bream that spawn in the spring and summer, yellowfin tend to breed in the cooler months, usually schooling up around river mouths to do so. Strangely, blacks and yellowfin have been known to hybridise in areas where both species occur!

In the east, yellowfin are found from about Gippsland in Victoria to about Rockhampton in Queensland, while the western species is said to be found between North Queensland, across the NT, and down to about the West Australian central coast, however the science is still a bit patchy on this latter species.

Catching them is a slightly different game, as yellowfin are known to be tougher, trickier and more clued on than their southern counterparts. South East Queensland-based Grayson Fong knows this better than just about anyone.

“The yellowfin fight harder gram for gram,” he explains, “and I think this has a lot to do with water temperature; the bream here tend to be more active.”

“Our bream are happy to cruise around, whereas I find with black bream that if they were in a spot yesterday, they'll be there again today,” he adds.

Despite their transient nature, Grayson finds he’s able to target them all year in his local area.

“In summer they’re on the move, but staying mostly shallow, getting around in little packs,” he says, “there’ll tend to be in shallow water and eating bait like prawns and baitfish off the surface.”

“This is when you’ll get your surface bites, but I also really like using shallow Infeet Rolling Cranks and lightly-weighted plastics in summer.”

When bream are shallow like this, they will usually sit tighter to structure when the sun is up, but move around more freely in lower light conditions. Structure can be mangroves, fallen timber, pontoons, boat hulls, rock walls, and really anything that they can hide in or around.

Bait anglers will find summer an easy time to pick a bait, because yellowfin will be eating just about anything that lands near them, especially if presented lightly-weighted or even unweighted. Prawns, squid, mullet filet, bloodworms and Grayson’s favourite, chicken thigh, are all great baits.

“Chicken’s easy to handle, it’s not smelly, and you can buy it whenever you need it,” he says.

Given that yellowfin breed in the cooler months, a sudden drop in temperature sees them scattering and getting into an ‘in between’ phase.

“Traditionally in autumn, they’re prepping for the winter spawn,” Grayson says, “I find that this is when they’ll tend to feed with the tide, so they’ll feed shallow with the high tide, and come back into the channels with the low.”

It therefore makes sense to have a range of presentations on hand, making sure to cover everything from fast-paced topwater action to slower, subtle bottom fishing techniques.

Once winter sets in, you can expect most bream to be in ‘breeding mode’. What this means is they will be hanging out in the deeper channels around river mouths and seaway entrances. Fishing slowly with plastics, crab imitations, vibes, and other sinking presentations is best in this scenario.

“Bait anglers like to fish the mouth areas on the three full moon phases in winter when they spawn,” Grayson explains, “The action is usually rampant on each run-out tide, and there should be good fishing a few days either side of those full moons.”

Heavier paternoster or running sinker rigs will help get baits down and stay in these deeper areas.

Not all fish will be in the channels spawning, however, and shallow water extraordinaires can still ply their trade, but there’s an added degree of difficulty.

“There are still some fish around the usual places,” Grayson says, “but our winter skies are clear, and the water is also clear, and this makes the bream a bit more wary.”

Once the winds pick up a bit more as spring rolls around, the bream will finish their spawning and head back to shallow areas, and Grayson reckons this is the best time to pick up good numbers of fish.

“The water clarity decreases, which makes the fish way less skittish,” he says. “The action should move shallower and become more exciting as it edges closer to summer.”

Grayson also likes to pick from Daiwa’s wide range of light spin tackle, but his allrounder outfit of choice is better for the angler on a budget.

“I’ll always reach for an ultra-light spin rod about 7ft,” he explains, “A TD Hyper 701ULXS rod and Freams LT 2500 reel is good all round; the Caldia MQ FC 2500S is another good reel.”

“With lines it’s good to not to go too light to start,” he adds, “6lb J-Thread FC is good if fishing straight through, or as leader material.”

“10lb J-Braid Grand is a good mainline, because it’s easy to tie and to fish with and you can go lighter as you start to hone your technique.”

Australia’s Most accessible Fish

Catching bream is a much-loved pastime in Australia, and there’s good reason for that. Being able to access red-hot lure or bait fishing action from anywhere along or near the coastline may sound too good to be true, but if you know a little bit about bream, there’s no reason why you can’t get in on the action.

Many anglers start with the basics and graduate to more technical methods, which can offer more exciting fishing and larger fish!

Don’t let anyone tell you bream are boring, too easy, or just ‘rats with fins’. They are the cornerstone of our fishing community and the reason many of us got into the sport.

Most experienced anglers have many great bream memories, and with Daiwa’s world-class range of light tackle, there’s nothing stopping you from making your own!

Check out these other Posts

See All
See All