Coming in an abundance of sizes and numbers, bream — like the bluegill shown here — provide fun and satisfaction for anglers of all ages and skill levels.
Their names are many and varied, and some of them are quite fancy. They’re also hard to learn and pronounce.
Take Lepomis macrochirus, for example. Or how about Lepomis auritis or microlophus?
Maybe you’d prefer to call them bluegill, redear, or redbreast sunfish. Perhaps you’d even like to argue over what your grandfather called the 11 different species listed in the American Fisheries Society’s “Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States and Canada.”
Or maybe you’re more comfortable with just plain “bream”, the name you’ve heard them called for generations, a piscatorial colloquialism southern anglers have grown up loving and respecting.
Bream is really a strange term for these ubiquitous panfish of our youth. Actually, true bream are minnow-like fishes that the Europeans pronounce “breem.” Where our “brim” came from, is a matter of conjecture. And we all know Americans, particularly Southerners, are very apt to tweak the language with their own unique linguistic “spin.” One lady I know doesn’t bother with nomenclature at all, simply calling them “those little flat round fish.”
In the long run, none of that really matters. Bubbas like us have been fishing for “brim” since granddaddy first stuck a fresh-cut bamboo pole in our hands. Somehow one gets the idea they’ll always be just that as far as we’re concerned.
Time was, bream were our glamour fish while largemouth bass played second fiddle. Bass, in fact, were often little more than accidents that sometime happened during the course of a bream fishing trip. Now, though bass have largely replaced bream in the hearts of many, it is refreshing for fishermen, not to mention outdoor writers, to get back to basics once in awhile and concern themselves with a mess of honest-to-goodness blue-collar meat fish.
Bream, primarily bluegills, shellcrackers, and redbreasts, are in many ways perfect fish. They bear no prejudices toward young or old and are usually willing to take the offerings of novice and expert alike. Topping that off, where you find one bream you’ll more than likely find a whole bunch, a fact over which few anglers, no matter how sophisticated, will thumb their noses.
Bream fishing doesn’t require a ridiculously expensive boat or a mint’s-worth of tackle. Hook, line, sinker, and a few dozen worms or crickets will normally suffice. There’s no need to journey to the back of beyond to pursue and catch them. Give a kid from eight to eighty a creek or a pond and he can catch bream with the best of them. Give him a pleasant spring, fall, or summer’s day in the bargain and he has something very close to heaven on earth.
Bream also have the distinct advantage of abundance. Being rather low on the aquatic food chain, they are forced by nature to take the command “be fruitful and multiply” quite literally. Bring a legal limit of largemouth bass to the dock and you’re likely to be vilified as a slob or a resource rapist. Bring in a limit of bluegills or redbellies and you’ll have those same folks begging to be told where you caught them. Keeping limits of bream seldom raises the ire of even the staunchest conservationist.
One of the bream’s loveliest attributes is the role he plays as angling equalizer. While we might somehow feel inferior to the accomplished and consistently successful bass fisherman, we can be secure in the knowledge that we are able to hold our own with almost anyone where bream fishing is concerned. On any given day, anyone can catch bream with the same frequency as anyone else. The average bream angler may never make headlines or merit his own television show, but his neighborhood fish frys are always well-attended.
In the South, bream have even carved out their own legendary niches. North Florida’s Merritt’s Mill Pond has produced at least 3 world-record shellcrackers (redears) through the years. Scores of anglers sing the praises of Flint River redbreasts. Banks Lake, near Valdosta, contains some of the feistiest bluegills in the world. You’ll not find many anglers venturing too far north to go bream fishing.
Best of all, bream are tailor-made for dirty-faced little boys and girls. These pugnacious little fighters are the aquatic world’s version of schoolyard playground scufflers. Kids take to bream fishing with the same enthusiasm they show for ice cream cones and summer vacations. Case in point: In 1995, three-year-old Kellyn Carter of Blackshear, Georgia landed a 1-pound, 1-ounce warmouth sunfish on her Snoopy rod and reel from Triangle Lake in Waycross. The cherubic tot earned a 1995 Georgia Angler Award from the DNR for her accomplishment.
Countless other youngsters smile their own big smiles each year over bream large and small, award winners or otherwise.
So, regardless of your age or fishing prowess, rest assured there is a fish out there you can catch.
You may never be a Bill Dance or a Hank Parker, or any of a number of today’s “young lions” of bass fishing, but the bream can make you a fisherman and keep you fishing for the rest of your life.
Besides, who’s to say some of those legendary bass pros don’t every now and then get a notion to dunk a red worm or fiddle around in the bottom of a cricket cage?
Wanna bet most of them do?