Bream Fishing the Moorings

07/11/2011:  On my home waters of the Parramatta River in Sydney there are myriad options for the avid lure fisherman.

We are spoilt in our choices, with natural rock walls, manmade walls, rock bars, wharves, pontoons, bridges, flats, deep holes and my personal favourite, moored boats, of which there are literally thousands to choose from.

The depth of water around these structures varies from around 50cm to 15 meters and all hold good concentrations of BREAM, WHITING, FLATHEAD and JEWFISH in particular. It should also be kept in mind that other species such as KINGFISH, SALMON and TAILER can be encountered around these structures, so you should be prepared for when that unknown monster pays you a visit.

In this article I will look specifically at fishing for BREAM around moored boats.

Let’s start with the gear required for this style of fishing.

First off a suitable boat is essential.

There is little point in attempting this type of fishing from a 20’ half cabin, as stealth and manoeuvrability are the keys to successfully catching fish around moored boats. You need a smaller type “tournament style” boat and it is essential your boat has an electric motor, preferably bow mounted, as this makes for quiet and easier manoeuvring in tight spaces. Purpose designed boats like the Attacks, Skeeters and Hornets are the ideal vehicle for this or any other style of stealth fishing. This picture of my own Attack shows what I consider the ideal set up but it’s not essential to have a tricked up boat to be successful at this style of fishing. There are many anglers fishing from tinnies who are very successful so don’t be put off if your boat isn’t a fancy, you beaut, “Tournament” unit:

Rods and reels are a matter of personal choice but a rod length of 6’6”-7’ is ideal and reels in the 1000-2500 size are perfect.

Your outfit needs to be light and be capable of throwing ultra light jigs in weights that range from around 1/40oz to 1/8oz. The reel should preferably be spooled with braided line. Braided lines are preferred as the non stretch factor allows for greater sensitivity and the fine diameters allows for much longer casts. Line of around 4lb-6lb is ideal.

Personally I prefer 4lb braid as this makes for much easier and longer casting and there aren’t too many bream capable of breaking this line.  Attached to the end of your braided line should be about a rod length of either monofilament or fluorocarbon (my preference) leader. Again, I find that 5lb is ideal but you may find you need to scale down to 3lb or 4lb if the water is very clear or the fish are being fickle. These days lot of anglers are also leaning toward fishing only very light fluorocarbon lines.

Depending on the depth you are fishing, a weighted jig head of about 1/24oz (even lighter if you prefer) is attached to your leader (1/16oz or 1/8oz if fishing deep or fast running water). The BERKLEY/NITRO BREAM series, in size 1 or 2 is the perfect weapon for attaching plastics in the 2” to 3” range. Whatever your choice of plastic, it is essential they are rigged perfectly straight as a poorly rigged plastic will not present well and will spin in the water. This picture is an example of correctly rigged baits:

OK, so we’ve got our boat, rigged the gear and we’re on the water, where to next?

Look for any concentration of moored boats and you’re half way there. My personal preference is to look for boats moored in water depths of around 8’-15’.
When targeting moored boats I find the crustier they are the better fish holding potential it has. By crusty, I mean boats with plenty of marine growth on the hull. Barnacles, weed and algal growth all attract fish and they can be seen on many occasions feeding on this growth. This boat is a typical example of what I’m talking about; notice the growth along the water line. This growth is like a magnet for BREAM:

Although old, crusty boats are a favorite target, do not ignore the “cleaner” boats as fish will also gather around these for shelter, particularly during the middle of the day.

I also find that sailing boats to be a better target than cruisers as they have an extended keel, which seems to attract more fish. This is not a hard and fast rule; it is simply something I have observed over many a long session on the water. Having said that, there have been occasions where cruisers have produced fish yet sailing boats haven’t. It is up to you to observe and come to your own conclusions on this point.

So what to do once you’ve located your target area?

As I mentioned earlier, stealth is vital in this form of fishing. Fish that may be feeding on the marine growth or simply sheltering under a hull will spook easily if you charge in under power or bang around on your boat. When approaching a target, cut your main engine well short of the target and motor in under electric power. By doing this you reduce the chance of spooking any fish that may be around.

Once you have reached your target it’s time to get serious.

I will generally start with a NITRO 1/24oz jig loaded with  a GULP! of some description (2” Shrimp, 3” Minnow etc) and make adjustments to weight and lure from there, depending on water depth, wind and current flow.

Initially I like to position the boat on the up current side of a boat (even better if this is the shady side) and cast as close as possible to the hull without banging the jighead on the hull. Allow the lure to sink slowly and under the hull with the current. When doing this I like to stand off about 6-8 meters and cast at the boat, there is less chance of spooking flighty fish if you don’t get too close. Allow the lure to sink for a few seconds and then work it SLOWLY while allowing it to continue its descent to the bottom. If your lure hasn’t been hit on the drop, let it sit on the bottom (called dead sticking) for about 5 seconds before imparting a couple of SLOW twitches. Dead stick again and continue this while working the lure back to your boat.  You can also fish unweighted baits by allowing them to waft around while sinking even slower. Hard bodies can also be used but I find these are best used by positioning your boat at either the bow or stern of the target boat, casting beyond the length of the hull an slow rolling the bait along and under the hull.

If after 3 or 4 casts you have not had a hit move to the down current side of the target and do the same thing. If you still haven’t had any luck, move to the next target and do it all again. If you get lucky and manage to pull a fish from a boat, don’t leave it immediately, continue casting as many times the hooked fish will stir up any other fish in residence. If you don’t catch anything further, leave it for another target hull but come back for a second shot a little later.

With this form of fishing, it is vital that you watch your line at all times as sometimes the bite is only detectable by the slightest of “ticks, generated up your line (this is where braided line comes into its own). If you notice a “tick” or your line suddenly moves in the wrong direction, chances are you’ve got a fish on. Strike to set the hook, but should you miss the hook up, don’t retrieve your lure straight away. Allow it to sink back down and let out a little slack line, as more often than not, the fish will still be there and may nail it the second time around or his ‘mate’ may be lurking and have a go at your offering.

Remember, both sides of a target boat should be worked.

If you are fishing boats in deeper water, say 20’+ try starting with a 1/24oz jig head but don’t be afraid to go a bit heavier and use up to 1/8oz. From experience I find it rare to have to use anything heavier than 1/16oz but as I have already stated, conditions will dictate weight for you.

BREAM are not the only species you will encounter while fishing in this way. Trevally, whiting, flathead and mulloway are also frequent captures so be prepared to react accordingly. Above all things, this type of fishing dictates that you work your lures SLOWLY.

These pictures are examples of the quality fish that you can expect when targeting moored boats:

Yours truly with a stud BREAM caught using the methods described above. This fish was taken using Berkley Gulp 6” sandworm on a 1/16oz NITRO jig head and BLACK DIAMOND 7’ FLATS RANGER rods.

But don’t be surprised if you encounter a Trevally or two:

Even the much sought after Jewfish can be caught when targeting bream around moored boats:

The principals of fishing moored boats are the same wherever you go, be it the Gold Coast, Sydney or anywhere else so get in and give it a go. You’ll be surprised at the great fishing to be had by targeting crusty old boats.

Good fishing and may the Wind Gods be kind.

Bill Maguire