TEN years ago black bream were not the highly rated sportfish they are today.
Times and attitudes have changed.
Back in the dark days before the soft plastic revolution that overtook angling preferences, bream were seen more as a table fish.
A new millenium and the introduction of serious estuary lure-fishing competitions resulted in bream moving to the top of the light-tackle sportfish pecking order.
Bream were made to order for these competitions, being plentiful, easy to find and feisty to boot.
Even better, the fish require a minimum of tackle. Anyone with a 3kg outfit, such as would be used for whiting or trout, has a bream fishing outfit. And this fish will take bait, lure or fly, so it has all the necessary feeding and fighting attributes.
Black bream are a year-round fish for estuary anglers, but, like any fish, there are times of the year when bream are more willing.
Autumn is a good time to fish bream in Gippsland and anglers going to fish the many lakes, rivers and estuaries on offer can expect to catch quality bream through to mid-spring.
In my experience, the bream get bigger and are more prolific through winter with a peak, at least in terms of size, from early to mid-spring.
You don't need a boat, but it helps. There are many shore-based options, but the best results are to be had from a small boat as this allows you to find bream more easily.
Destinations worth a visit include Gippsland Lakes, where there are 250sq km of lakes and rivers to chose from.
When the bream are running, the Tambo, Mitchell and Nicholson Rivers come alive as hundreds of anglers converge. Any of these rivers is likely to produce a 2kg trophy.
Lakes Entrance is situated along the Cunningham Arm. Bullock Island is a popular fishing venue.
The Reeve Channel connects Cunningham Arm with Lake King to the west, which is fed by the major bream rivers mentioned above.
Lake Tyers is a magnificent bream fishery where the two main arms, Toorloo and Nowa Nowa, provide the best results. During the spawning run, bream will move into the upper reaches of these arms.
As you drive past Lake Tyers towards Orbost you cross the Snowy River, which, along with the Brodribb River, flow into an estuary system that exits to the sea at Marlo.
It is a highly productive bream fishery. Next is Sydenham Inlet, better known as Bemm River, and it is about 40km east of Orbost on Princes Highway.
Bemm River has become a by-word for bream due to its consistency and quality. There is no lack of boating and accommodation facilities.
Tamboon Inlet is an out-of-the-way place south of Cann River.
Take the road to Tamboon Inlet, veering left on Pt Hicks Road for about 5km before turning right on to Peach Tree Creek track that takes you to Fishermans Landing where there is a boat launching area and jetty. The estuary isn't always open to the sea, but when it is, the fishing reaches its peak.
Wingan Inlet is about 30km southwest of Mallacoota. Little known, but well worth visiting, the inlet is a national park and though camping is permitted it is necessary to rough it.
Mallacoota Inlet is a huge system and as winter closes in anglers need to be moving farther upstream.
The Genoa and the Wallagaraugh rivers are the major feeder rivers and as conditions get colder some of the best bream fishing is to be had from Gipsy Point upstream in both rivers.
One way of telling whether the bream have been around is to check out the snags and see if there are scars where the barnacles have been chewed off by bream.
Another method is to look at the sand bars for signs of craters where bream have been digging out crabs and the like.
Use a 3kg threadline outfit for both spinning and bait fishing. When bait fishing, rig up with a No.4 Baitholder pattern hook on a running sinker.
If working bait into snags it pays to use an unweighted rig, feeling your line as the bait sinks.
Preferred baits include sandworm, shell, yabbie (freshwater and Bass), crab and scrubworm.