Bream Fishingby: theangler
With the warm months comes a bonanza of fishing opportunity that, for the most part, passes untapped and unnoticed. Too much stock is placed these days in the size of the catch, and the lion's share of lures, rods and reels that are built to wrestle these wished-for brutes from dense cover.
The joke of it all is that, no matter how hard we try, more little fish are caught than big ones.
The quest for a Texas second 18-pound largemouth has so overcome most anglers that they have forgotten the old-fashioned good time it can be to battle hand-sized bream on hair-fine line. But if more anglers appreciated the relative speed and power of redears, longears, stumpknockers, redbreasts and bluegills, the night crawler business might become as lucrative as selling water dogs on power-plant reservoirs.
On suitably light tackle, the more diminutive members of the sunfish family can pull with the best of them. And unlike their big-mouthed relatives, the little guys usually are easier to catch than a cold in a kindergarten class.
Bream, as the entire family is collectively called in some regions, are common to nearly every body of water throughout Texas and many other states. And as the days get warmer, the fish move onto shoreline flats to feed and spawn.
A really large sunfish (exclusive of largemouth bass and crappie) may be older than you think. In most species, a 5-year-old fish will not be more than seven or eight inches long. A bona fide monster, say a 10-inch redear, is at least 6 years old. The world-record redear, by the way, weighed 4 pounds, 13 ounces and the world's best bluegill was only one ounce lighter.
Their sheer numbers and aggressive nature make bream the ideal first fish for youngsters. And before any parent nixes the idea for lack of personal angling skills, understand that bream fishing is not exactly brain surgery. Even the most rudimentary tackle and common sense approach is more than a match for sunfish, which rarely exceed one honest pound.
A cane pole (if you can find one these days), a few yards of line, bobber, split shot and small hooks are all the tackle needed to get started. Simpler still is the selection of proper bait.
Most of us can remember when we caught long stringers of bream on night crawlers pulled from our own backyard, grasshoppers palmed in shoreline weeds, store-bought crickets when we had a dollar in our pocket and bits of leftover hot dog when we did not.
One trick to successful bream fishing is to use the smallest, lightest bobber that will suspend the bait. Europeans are fond of those long, needle-shaped floats most Texans have seen but never bought in sporting goods stores. A delicate float makes it simpler to detect bites, and it presents minimal resistance to a nibbling fish.
A key to successful bream fishing, regardless of age or acumen, is the use of tiny hooks. Use nothing larger than a No. 8 for a sack-'em-up perch trip; a No. 10 or No. 12 is better still. These fish have tiny mouths, and their ability to suck bait off a hook without tasting metal is second to none.
Adults who want to add a degree of finesse to their bream fishing should acquire a lightweight fly rod and an assortment of popping bugs. With buggy whip in hand, beating the odds requires a delicate presentation and fast reflexes.
On a conservative note, bream fishermen young and old should not keep any more fish than they are willing to clean and eat. While there is no daily limit on pan fish and the supply sometimes seems endless, they are not an inexhaustible resource. If the fish are small, teach your children -- and force yourself -- to release them.
Unless your cache of crawlers is unlimited, though, you might want to give the throwbacks a gentle toss beyond the immediate fishing area. Otherwise, because they are so eager to oblige young anglers, they'll get right back in line and slick your hook again.
Added: Tue Jan 06 2009
Last Modified: Fri May 15 2009