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BREAMING THE HOPKINS

Luke Smith

The Hopkins river is one of the largest river systems in south west Victoria. It begins at the small township of Ararat and after winding through several towns it enters Bass Straight in the sea side town of Warrnambool. The Hoppies, as it is commonly known, has two tributaries, Salt Creek which drains from Lake Bolac and the Mount Emu Creek. The river is only accessible by boat for approximately 7km and this is where the majority of the fishing takes place. In this stretch there are four boat ramps, which allows for easy access at even the busiest of times.

The Hopkins River plays host to several different species including bream, estuary perch, brown trout, salmon, mullet and mulloway. Anywhere above the Allansford Bridge produces great brown trout, along with estuary perch. However the perch are only caught up to the Hopkins Falls, while the trout are stocked above. All other species can be caught below Allansford and toward to the mouth. Whilst there is a great variety of fish to catch, I am going to focus on the favourite for most local fishos, the black bream.

Bream fishing is enjoyed by people of all ages, from young children to the old guru's that have been enjoying this amazing river for many years. Whilst in the past fishing was predominately with bait, in recent times lure flicking has taken over, with soft plastics being the go-to lures. The Hoppies is reasonably shallow and most fishing is done in water from 0.3m to 3m, with the exception of winter when the fish will school in the ski run to spawn.

For chasing bream my go-to lure is the ZMan 2.5" GrubZ rigged on a TT Lures HeadlockZ Finesse 1/12 #2 jighead. After fishing many different GrubZ colours I am quite fond of the UV colours, with Motor Oil and Gudgeon being my favourites. The technique I use is really quite simple. The first step is to make as long a cast as possible. I find that if I can cast a metre further than the next bloke, I have a better chance of getting the bite from a wary fish. It's for this reason that I always run light braid, from 2lb to 4lb tops with long 4lb leaders. After making a cast I let the plastic sink on a slack line, always being watchful of the line just in case a fish hits it on the drop.

Once the lure has rested on the bottom for up to 20 seconds, I begin a twitching retrieve. This is usually two little twitches of the rod, whilst pointing the rod tip to the water and after moving the lure I slowly wind up the slack and allow the lure to sit for a few seconds before making my next movement of the lure. The bites usually come on the pause or as soon as the lure is moved again.

Another very effective retrieve is a dead slow roll along the bottom with the odd pause chucked in. black bream love slow moving lures with lots of pauses, as opposed to yellow fin that respond well to fast retrieves.

A great benefit of ZMan GrubZ is that when they are left to rest on the bottom the GrubZ will sit upright with the tail waving around. In my opinion this is why black bream just love GrubZ! A saying that has always stuck with me when bream fishing is 'if you think you are going slow, slow down some more'. This is an excellent thing to remember as when the fish are shy, a dead slow GrubZ usually brings them undone.

The Hoppies is not full of visually appealing structure but after a bit of exploring you will find several reefs, mud flats, rock walls and some great weed beds to fish. These areas are scattered throughout the river, with the reefs being marked out for boating safety. Any of these areas will produce bream throughout the year but for consistent results on big bream a bit of effort is required. Some of the more popular areas to fish are the ski run, the flats behind Deakin University, the rock walls opposite Rowans Lane or the bank along Hen and Chickens Reef. Talking to the locals is always a great idea as most are usually up for a chat and are willing to share some info.

For accommodation check out Warrnambool Holiday Park. They are situated close to several ramps and they accommodate very well for families and those travelling with boats. Hope to see you on the Hoppies.

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017