I’M guilty of loving all types of fishing. No matter if the fish are big or small, or if I’m targeting them from boats, rocks or beaches, I enjoy it all. Having a breakwall not five minutes’ drive from home has provided easy access to some great fishing over the years. Although it’s not rocket science, the way I approach a session to catch some breambos off the wall might provide you with handy tips or at least food for thought in your local waters.
I can remember going through a phase of addiction where I’d find myself zipping down to the stones at every chance, even between jobs for an hour to have a quick throw. I’d take a single bag of whitebait (my favourite bait) which meant I only had limited fishing time and thus wouldn’t run late to get to my other commitments.
My mate Paul Hartman and I would often have competitions that would end with scores like 18 to 15 in a session that only went for two hours. One particular day I climbed down to the water’s edge to a spot where I’d been doing pretty well. Everything looked awesome: dirty water, run-out tide, baitfish nervously jumping around. On my first cast I got a good bite but missed it. I then caught three bream in a row, all good fish and one still my biggest at an estimated 1.4kg.
I was working as the photographer for the local paper at the time. While I was rebaiting, my phone rang. It was a mate saying, “Can you see the main street of Tuncurry? It looks like the whole thing is on fire. There must have been an explosion or something”. I had my camera in the car and thought I’d better take a look. I climbed up the breakwall – it looked like doomsday over towards town. A huge plume of black smoke was coming up not a kilometre from where I was.
“Damm,” I thought as I hurried down to collect my gear. I glanced into the water. Jeeez, it looked good. “Why not," I said to myself and and quickly baited up for one more throw. The fire was a massive news story but the fishing was just too good to leave. I ended up getting busted off by what felt like another great fish before heading off to get the shots!
Keep it basic
Breaming off the breakwall requires only very basic kit. It’s this aspect of the fishery that makes it a great option for a quick fishing fix. All you need are three or four different size ball sinkers, starting from a 000, 00 and 0 (which is the size of a pea). When it comes to hooks, I prefer a bronze Mustad Viking pattern in sizes 1, 1/0 and 2/0. The assorted hooks and sinkers all fit into a small tackle box that can be carried in your pocket. I fish with 12lb mono on a 2500 size reel (10lb braid with a 12lb leader is fine) and a 3-4kg rod around seven feet long, which helps me steer the fish away from snags. A pair of pliers, a knife and a shoulder carry bag are about the only other things you really need.
This is another great part of this style of fishing. I use the most basic rig possible: a small sinker which I loop my line through twice with a hook tied at the end. Once I’ve put the bait on, I slide the sinker down to the top of the hook and it’s done. It’s handy to have a simple rig because of the high number of snags you get.
Let’s get this straight out of the way. Although many anglers out there already know what I’m about to say, I see far too many people fishing breakwalls and similar areas unproductively. Time after time I see people casting way out into the channel and winding their untouched baits back in. Fact is, there’s nothing out there. The fish are in close. Some of my casts are lucky to hit the water 10 feet from where I’m standing. The fish are in the structure that you’re standing on. This means snags and lost gear are part and parcel of this style of fishing. However, you will definitely catch more fish so the loss of a few sinkers and hooks tends to balance out.
The next secret is to fish with minimal weight, which is why I use the 000, 00 and 0 sized ball sinkers. The small sinkers allow the bait a natural drift. More often than not, you’ll get a bite while your bait is sinking, usually well before it gets to the bottom.
My personal favourite is whole whitebait. I’ll often look through the freezer at the local tackle store and hand choose my packet. I’m looking for a pack with good sized fish and the least amount of damage or freezer burn. As with most types of fishing, bait presentation can mean the difference between a good session and a great one. I’ll occasionally take a slab of mullet when the pickers are thick. At low tide there’s an abundance of cunjevoi readily available. Remember to abide by state Fisheries regulations when collecting cunji for bait.
I employ two different methods when fishing my local breakwall for bream. In many ways, they contradict each other but they seem to work regardless. The first method involves moving along the wall searching out the fish. Minimal gear means you can scurry along the water line, much like one of the scavenging crabs common in these areas. The most important item here is your shoulder bag which carries bait, a small tackle box and provides a place to carry any fish you may wish to keep.
A lot of fishos carry a bucket but a shoulder bag is much easier as it allows you to use both hands for balance while traversing the jumbled rocks. I usually have 3-4 casts in one area before moving onto the next good looking platform, which might only be a few metres away. Constantly moving provides access to numbers of fish, but if you want bigger bream staying put is often the way to go.
Most times when you set up at a good looking spot, the fish eventually show up. The baits that fall off your hook and the pickers that rat your baits catch the attention of bream in the area. Curiosity usually gets the better of them and they come in for a look. I believe focusing your efforts in a single location is best for targeting bigger fish. A downside is that pickers can make it hard to get the lightly weighted baits down to the bream. I strongly believe that in places that are fished consistently pickers such as toads can see you above the water and congregate where you’re fishing, hoping for an easy feed. In this case, larger sinkers and tougher baits such as mullet strips can prove to be effective.
Picking a spot
I am a keen diver and use this to my advantage when it comes to choosing where to fish from my local breakwall. I dive often and keep an eye on the ever changing bottom of the channel. Huge rocks move all the time in mysterious ways, it’s an unbelievable display of the ocean’s power that largely goes unseen. I’ll find where the fish are schooling up and look up at the breakwall and count the light poles back from the end, giving me a great place to start my session.
If you don’t fancy getting wet, look for places where a rock is out further then the rest and creates an eddy or current break. Cast your bait up current and let it drift into the area you think might hold fish. I prefer to fish the run-out tide when the water is a little discoloured but have had great success in clear water with strong run-in tides. This means the fishery is accessible virtually all day and night. I’ve also had fish year round, although there’s definitely a run of higher quality fish around May through to July.
If you follow these few tips I’m pretty sure it won’t be too long until you find yourself hooked up off your local breakwall. The fight, although short, can be intense as the bream heads for cover. You will almost certainly get reefed at some stage or another. To avoid this, attempt to steer the fish away from obstacles and always check your line for frayed weak areas if the fish took you through the rocks. This style of fishing opens up a great range of bycatch species. As well as common species such as flathead, salmon, tailor and small jewfish, I have hooked many fish that I never stopped and others that won their freedom after long fights. So don’t write off this basic, cheap and easy way of fishing – it can provide you with many memorable moments to look back on.
The lure option
While the basis of this article is on cheap, easy fishing used pre-packaged bait and very simple terminals, there are various lure options to investigate as well. At its core, lure fishing using soft plastics is almost as basic as bait fishing – instead of using a hook and sinker, you employ a lightly weighted jighead. And the whole whitebait is replaced with a 2-3 inch plastic in either a baitfish profile or grub/curl tail minnow pattern. The use of hidden weight or weedless style jigheads will help reduce snags and you’re probably better off using 4-6lb braid as mainline with a trace of 6lb fluourocarbon. A seven foot rod rated at 1-3 kilos with a 1500 size threadline will provide you with plenty of fun on the hard-fighting bream.
The basic technique is exactly the same as using bait. You cast the plastic up along the rocks and drift it back along with the tide. Depending on what style of plastic you use, you can augment the drift with small twitches or just let it dead drift. A curl tail pattern like the popular Berkley Jigging Minnow is very effective dead drifted along the edge of breakwalls and reefs, catching bream as well as drummer and blackfish. The Gulp scent these lures are impregnated with definitely increases the strike rate. Non-scented lures such as the Squidgy range (the Wrigglers and Lobbies are outstanding) or various other brands can be daubed with S-Factor in order to attract bites. Whether you use bait or lures, the fact remains that this is simple but very effective fishing.
So what are you waiting for?