Bemm River is a little town in Far East Gippsland, Victoria. A four-hour drive from Melbourne and a six-hour drive from Sydney. Bemm River is home to a few bream tournaments, and along with near by Malacoota is one of Australia’s best southern light tackle fishing destinations. The main water system you’ll be fishing is the Sydenham Inlet otherwise referred to as the lake. The inlet stretches over to meet Bass Strait and the opens up to it at certain times of the year. The lake is fed by the Bemm River in the west and the Little River in the east. Depending on what time of year you visit the mouth to the inlet may be closed or open and this can vary the way the system fishes and how you go about navigating it. The beauty of Bemm River as opposed to a place like Mallacoota is that it is quite small and you don’t need to be a local, a pro or have fished it countless times to get on to some fish. If you’re planning a fishing holiday with mates or a family trip or stop off for a few days, then you can’t go past Bemm River, it’s a light tackle enthusiasts angling paradise.
Accommodation and Services
Accommodation is abundant and most places if not all are catered for fishermen. We recently stayed at Cosy Nook Cottages, which were clean, comfortable and had ample parking for car and boats. The cabin was filled with fishing DVD’s and had a nice fishing cabin vibe. Cosy Nook also has a large outdoor undercover barbecue area with cooking utensils and cooking facilities that’s great for large groups. It’s important to note that no one knew we were from a fishing mag or that they would get a mention and it was refreshing that everyone in the town was helpful and friendly and wanted to put us on to fish. Of important note when planning a trip to Bemm is to be sure to have enough fuel in your boat and car as Bemm does not have a petrol station.
The Pub is a great place to have a feed and a beer at night and the walls are decorated with record capture moulds of monster bream, estuary perch and flathead. Fishing magazines can be found all around the pub and it didn’t take too long before we were into conversations with other fishermen about what we had all been catching. Bemm River Bait and Tackle is a great little tackle store with an excellent range of lures and they sell pro gear so don’t fret if you forget some lures or lose them all. The owner Mark was very helpful and was full of great information. He advised us of what lures were working best and why and gave helpful insights into how the system works. The store has a Facebook page and I suggest you “Like” them as Mark keeps up steady posts about how the place is fishing and how the system is operating.
As fishing destination Bemm River has a lot going for it and its best feature is that it’s a relatively easy place to get on to fish. I admittedly have only fished it a few times and I’m writing this story from that point of view; you don’t be need to be a local, a pro or spend days figuring the system out to catch a lot of fish, it’s a great destination for those that are new to light tackle lure fishing or the pro. Having said that, it’s a very shallow lake and it’s not necessarily an easy place to navigate. The lake has channels that you must follow as running aground is easy to do if you don’t have your wits about you. Check in at the pub or tackle store for maps and advice if you’re not confident. Launch facilities are great with a nice ramp and jetty and cleaning tables. Like everywhere in Victoria the weather can be unpredictable and the lake can get quite rough in a big wind, so take the time to look at weather patterns, speak to the locals and plan your trip accordingly to ensure you can spend as much time on the water as possible.
The lake itself is not huge and if the bite goes quiet you don’t have to move too far before you are on to some fish again. Most people travelling to Bemm River will go there to target bream. The bream are big, thick, healthy and in great numbers. On our last trip in two and half days fishing we caught and released over 60 bream on various lures and very few were under 35cm in length with many coming in over 40cm. The majority of these fish were all caught in a relatively close area and it didn’t take us too long to figure out where the fish were. By prospecting likely looking bream haunts we found the fish pretty quickly and managed to stay on them. Soft plastics, hard bodies and vibes are all effective in this system. Terrain surrounding the lake varies and is rich with structure from partially submerged trees to reeds and muddy banks. The south eastern side of the lake is lined with submerged trees and structure and casting into this proved to be the best fishing grounds at the time we were there (which was May). At certain times the fish will move into deeper water (a max of about four metres) and vibes or plastics worked over the weed beds are your best bet in this situation. We used a range of lures while targeting bream and suspending minnows such as the Jackall Squirrel, Warlock Pro Series and the IMA Foxy Fry proved to be the stand out hard bodies. Berkley Gulp! Turtle Back Worms and Fry’s, Squidgy Wrigglers and Bait Breath Shift Tails were the stand out soft plastics. You can easily spend all day catching fish just in the inlet without entering the river or the sea arm. There is a lot of ground and structure to explore. Keeping a good eye on your sounder and casting at the thick structure got us onto fish pretty quickly.
While regarded as such a great bream fishery it can be forgotten that the system is also an excellent flathead fishery. While targeting bream you can expect to pick up quite a few flatties and don’t be surprised if you get some big girls too. If big flathead are what you’re after then up sizing your lures and sacrificing rate of capture and bi-catch is your best bet.
While not as abundant as bream, estuary perch are also on offer in the system and captures of enormous EP’s have been reported from Bemm River. The river itself is the best area to target EP’s and they are a much harder species to find success with than what the bream are. The river is a beautiful river and one of those places where you’re just happy to be fishing. It’s deep and snaggy and caution must be taken while navigating it. The further up you go the more picturesque the river becomes and the snaggier it becomes so you can expect to have a few bumps along the way if you’re not careful. The river is surrounded by thick scrub, overhanging tress, muddy banks, rock walls, submerged boulders and farmland. You’ll eventually come to a bridge and a rocky section where boats cannot go any further. On my most recent trip we had a good crack at targeting perch up the river but could not keep our lures in the water for more than five seconds without them getting annihilated by big ravenous tailor. While it wasn’t the target species a quick upgrade in leader saw us catching tailor until we were bored of it. They were ferociously smashing baitfish up into the banks and splashes and boofs could be heard all around us.
While we didn’t come across any, Australian Salmon are another species you will encounter in the system and much like the tailor enter when the mouth is open. Driving up to the mouth to target all manner of species is worth it just for the picturesque scenery. If bait fishing is more your thing you can do it from the boat in the rivers and the inlet or leave the boat behind and hit the surf beach to target tailor, salmon and gummy sharks.
As a fishery it is an amazing place and well worth a visit for Melbourne and Sydney based anglers. There are many species on offer and you can get in some great surf angling and estuary fishing all in the one place. It’s a great location for using a multitude of lures and various techniques and you don’t need a high-powered boat to get around the place, a small tinny will do you just fine. It’s important to remember that the fish in Bemm see a lot of lures so be sure to use light line and leaders and present your offerings as naturally as possible, these fish won’t fall for sloppy presentation.