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Fresh bait is the best bait
  |  First Published: May 2016



For most of us, the first time we dipped our toes into the world of fishing, it would have been to use a frozen prawn or tiger worm on a hook on holidays. If luck was on your side, you may have caught something and perhaps the flame to learn more about fishing ignited. This in every sense of the word is what the term bread and butter fishing means. I have to admit that I had probably forgotten this initial inspiration, until recently when weather closed the door on one fishing opportunity and opened another.

On a visit to Marlo in East Gippsland, the plan had been to endeavour offshore to fish the local reefs in the hope of catching a gummy shark or two, maybe a few flathead or one of the kingfish that had started turning up in the area. Strong easterly winds put paid to this and other options were required.

Les Heyne from the Marlo Ocean Views caravan park had for many years threatened to take me to fish the feeder drains of Lake Corringle. This sounds simple, but Lake Corringle is extremely shallow (virtually impassable at low tide), so Les set up a Hunter Marine flat bottom punt with a Tohatsu jet motor, which allows you to run the craft in 10-15cm of water. This gets you across the Lake and onto some pretty fishy waters. Les was keen to take me, but hadn’t done the run across the Lake for a while, so he organised his son Wade to show me what proved to be an amazing place.

Fresh bait at your doorstep

Although I was keen to put the arsenal of lures I had in my tackle bag to good use, I was assured by Les and Wade that going and getting some fresh local bait to use was one of the keys to success on the Marlo black bream population. After a quick stop at Snowy River Tackle for a coffee and some Mustad bait keeper hooks, we hit the water. I had questioned Les as to why we hadn’t purchased some of the local sandworm at the tackle store and he assured me we would have no trouble getting our own.

After launching, Wade took us into a shallow area not far from the boat ramp and pulled up in 1-2ft of water. Here he promptly hopped out of the boat and started to use a bait pump to pump the bottom into a bait sieve he had set up to float. It only took Wade a couple of pumps before he could show me what we were chasing. The sieve already had some bass yabbies, sandworm and the gun local bait, soft shell. Soft shell is a cross between a pipi and a mussel. The mollusc inside the soft black shell is very similar to a pipi, with a large white tongue that is ideal to thread onto a hook. I had never come across these before, but Wade assured me that the bream love them. He said that these three baits are the key baits for the system, with a local black crab also dynamite at certain times of the year.

Wade looks for a sandy muddy bottom to pump bait. He said the best ground was not muddy to the point that you sink to your knees in it, but not too sandy that you don’t sink in at all. A couple of pumps with a bait pump in an area will tell you pretty quickly if you’re in the right spot, as we had enough bait in our bucket after 15 minutes of pumping.

Lake Corringle

The trip across Lake Corringle was an experience in itself. The Tohatsu jet motor had no problems getting the Hunter Marine punt on the plane and we were flying across the Lake. Looking at the horizon, was like any other body of water. Look over the side and it was very obvious the water we were in was extremely shallow and there were enough logs and other structure strewn around the place to keep you on your toes. Wade wasn’t giving too much away, but I think he was enjoying my facial expressions.

Once you are across the Lake there are a number of feeder drains that go for miles. They provide the depth change from the Lake that the bream love and it was on one of these depth changes that we sidled the boat against the bank and began fishing. I tried my hand using a few lures, but I quickly changed to a simple running sinker bait rig as Wade (using soft shell for bait) caught a couple of fish in quick time. Even though we were quite a distance from the main system, tidal influence is an important factor and the fishing slowed as the outgoing tide lost its intensity. Ideally the channels fish better on an incoming tide, and although we caught five fish, the decision was made to head back across the Lake before it became impassable.

Wade’s face was a little more animated on the return trip over the lake, the muddy wake showing that we didn’t want to leave our crossing for too much longer.

Snowy River fishing

Lake Corringle had been tremendous. We had three bream between 31-34cm in the keeper net and had released a couple more just legal fish (apparently they were on the small side, but for this Queenslander they were solid fish). There was better to come.

We didn’t go far from Lake Corringle to start our fishing in the Snowy, as we anchored on the current line at the entrance of the Lake. It wasn’t terribly deep, but there was a visible current line that we targeted with our baits. Wade’s soft shell bait again proved itself as he added a couple more 34cm fish into the keeper bag. I had changed to sandworm and only managed a smaller fish. The wind and lowering tide created havoc for us so we decided to make another move.

We tucked in behind one of the islands off to the right when you leave the boat ramp. It provided welcome cover from the easterly wind, and with the tide now slowly coming in, another excellent current line to cast our baits along became visible. This proved to be an inspired move, as within minutes, both our baits were taken by larger fish. My 4lb leader proved to be no match against the structure below, but Wade managed to avoid it and bring a beautiful 42cm bream to the net. Apparently this was the quality of fish Wade was expecting to catch and the fish so far had been on the small side!

We continued to catch fish at this location, with the bait of choice proving to be sandworm. Even though I changed my leader to 10lb, I still managed to get rubbed off a couple more times (these fish really know where the structure is), but I also contributed to the bag of fish with a couple of solid 35cm fish. The fishing then slowed as the current line disappeared, which was most probably a good thing, as we had a nice bag of fish in the keeper net and the lunch bell was calling.

Outfits and rigs

There were a number of differences between Wade and my outfits. Wade was using a 7’6” 2-3kg Shimano rod and 8lb monofilament line while I was using a Wilson Magnum 7’ 2-4kg rod, 6lb Mustad Thor braid and eventually 10lb leader. With the vigour in which the bream hit the baits, the stretch in the mono, and the extra length of Wade’s fishing rod helped cushion the initial bite and set the hook. I found with the braid that I had to run a very soft drag to ensure I didn’t pull the hook at the start of the fight. Either way both outfits got a workout and I think the mono would be the way I would go next time.

The rig we used was a simple running sinker set up comprised of a small ball sinker (as small as you can use for the depth and flow of water) to a swivel and then a 2-3ft leader with a size #1 bait keeper hook. A bait keeper style hook is essential because the sandworm and Bass yabbies are quite soft, which makes it a little harder for the pickers to steal your bait.

A few of pieces of advice; firstly, hold onto your rod or have it securely in a rod holder as the bream have a smash and run mentality and it wouldn’t take much for a loose rod to head over the side of the boat. Secondly, these fish really know where the structure is and take advantage of it, so hold your rod high during the fight to limit their ability to cut you off on structure you can’t see. Last but not least, look for current lines and cast your bait along the edges of them. They are like fish highways, bringing the fish to you.

Talk to the locals

The fishing we had at Marlo is not limited to this system. There are umpteen options throughout Victoria where you could do the same thing. Speak to the local tackle storeowner, talk to the caravan park managers or listen to the conversations in the pub. All are fabulous sources of information.

As far as the Snowy River system is concerned and the area in and around Marlo, your fishing options are not limited to fishing from a boat either. There are numerous shore-based options where you can get the same results (the jetty at the boat ramp is a very popular option). You can certainly gather bait with a bait pump all along the foreshore at Marlo to French Narrows and the access via walkways is excellent (Snowy River Tackle also sells fresh bait). I know my kids love gathering bait probably more than they like fishing. As far as fishing spots go, fish where you gather your bait. If food is there, the fish won’t be far away.

This really is bread and butter fishing at its finest!

Equipment

7’- 8’ 2-5kg fishing rod

1000-2500 fishing reel spooled with 8-10lb monofilament line

Bait pump

Bait sieve

Assorted ball sinkers

Size #1 bait keeper hooks

Fish keeper net

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