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Alex's Column 23 June 2023

It’s always good to wake up to a fresh dry season morning in the Top End.

Sometimes it’s a bit cooler than we’d like, but it certainly warms up quickly as the day progresses.

One thing that invariably coincides with the arrival of those chilly Darwin mornings is the aggregation of the northern pikey bream along our coastal bays and up the saltwater creeks.

Both Darwin Harbour and Shoal Bay are as good a place as any to experience this annual bream run.

In Darwin Harbour, the pikeys often appear first in large numbers up the top of Elizabeth Creek.

They then begin to move in around Larrakeyah, up Pioneer Creek and all around the Rock in Shoal Bay.

If you have a boat, catching them is quite easy.

At Larrakeyah, just anchor in any of the little bays from the point back towards the Naval Patrol Boat Base, preferably at night on the last half of the rising tide.

It’s best to use a light line on a suitable rod and reel: 4kg monofilament breaking strain is fine, and an even-thinner braid line, in about 5-6 kg breaking strain, is perfect.

With braid, you’ll need a light mono leader; I’d suggest about 7kg breaking strain.

Use just enough lead above the leader running on the line to get the rig to the bottom, and bait up onto about a No 4 hook with small, whole prawns.

Lure casters should look to small plastic shads, grubs and prawn imitations.

Often the bream are quite small and should be thrown back, but there are plenty of good ones as well.

The Rock can be fished on any tides for bream, but I rather fancy a rising tide in the evening.

Shore-based anglers will have success wherever a rising tide covers rocky foreshore areas.

The pikey bream is found only in the tropics.

It ranges from SharkBay in WA, right across northern Australia and as far down the QLD coast as Rockhampton.

It is different to both the popular silver bream found along the eastern seaboard from central Queensland to northern Victoria, and the southern or black bream found along the coast and estuaries from southern NSW right around the bottom half of Australia and up to Shark Bay.

For starters, the inside of its mouth is black and its overall appearance is usually much darker than the silver bream.

Pikey bream are extremely aggressive little predators, readily taking lures and flies meant for other, often much bigger, species in the saltwater creeks.

I remember once hooking a pikey on fly off a beach south of Darwin.

When it came into the shallows, there was another one with it, biting the trailing feathers and glitter of the fly attached to the hooked fish’s mouth.

According to Grant’s Fishes Of Australia, the pikey bream grows to 560mm, which would put it over the 4kg mark.

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s caught one that big because the biggest I’ve ever seen was about 1.5 kg.

The pikey bream is a terrific family fish — kids love to catch them.

Along the harbour during the dry season you can catch dozens in one session, but it’s best to take only what you and your family need for a feed.

The pikey is not a bad table fish, that’s for sure.

One good way to prepare and cook them is to gill and gut your fish, scale them, score the sides and then cook them whole under the grill, basting with a mixture of lemon juice, lemon pepper and olive oil… yum!

Reidy’s Little Lucifer was the standout small trolling lure for Roxy Woolley at Four Mile Hole.

The cooler weather has brought on the annual pikey bream run in Darwin Harbour.


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