Early Season Fishing Tactics For Bream

Late spring and summer are usually when anglers turn their attention to bream. But right now isn't a bad time either!

A great thing about fishing for bream is that no matter where you live, you don't have to go far to find a river or pond that holds plenty of bluegill, redears or redbreast sunfish. Another great thing about bream is that they can be caught year-round.

Bluegill are by far the most common of the bream species encountered throughout the South. Photo by Polly Dean.

Anglers in the South know all about the fast-fishing action that bedding bream provide during the warmer months, especially the few days before and after a full moon. Bream protecting their nests will aggressively bite most anything tossed their way. Full moons in May and June are infamous periods for catching a stringer full of these rambunctious panfish. Even in April, water conditions may warm up to ideal bedding temps of 65 to 70 degrees for the mid-month full moon bite.

Fewer anglers realize that even in the cooler and less than ideal weather conditions of March, bream can be quite cooperative. They actually prefer windy days and rough water with a bit of wave action on the surface when they are feeding. If it is overcast and rainy they may feed all day.

The cooler days of early spring provide more hours of quality fishing, rather than just short spans at early morning and evening during much higher temperatures.

Depending on the water temperatures in March, bream can be found in many locations, varying from their wintering areas to shallower waters where they prepare to spawn. When the temperature of the water is at its coolest the fish hold around deep structures, such as brush piles or deep-water points in 15 or more feet of water. They also hang around deep-water docks, especially if there is sunken cover beneath.

As water temperatures warm into the 60s, these fish move towards their spawning areas and can be caught on shallow flats or along creek channel banks near stumps and brush piles. Casting to docks located in transitioning areas between deeper water and shallow banks also brings results.

Bream feed at all levels of the water column and eat almost anything that they can get into their small mouths. They scour the bottom and feed around aquatic vegetation at mid-depths.

Redears, often referred to as shellcrackers, eat very small mollusks. All species of bream take insects off of the surface, as well as insect larvae, snails and worms on the bottom.

Keep your tackle lightweight and they will provide a good fight. Red worms, crickets, mealworms, grubs, maggots and most any small invertebrate makes good bait for panfish. Small spinnerbaits and jigs work well too. Bream will clobber a small popping bug and are a lot of fun to land on a lightweight fly rod. They will take a rubber spider or really any small fly that they can get their mouth on. These aggressive fish even grab lures that are obviously too large to swallow.

Bluegills are perhaps the most abundant and widespread of the bream species. They may even rank at the top of the list of our nation's most targeted game fish. They live in schools of 20 to 30 fish and inhabit about any type of freshwater.

A good-size bluegill runs about 10 to 12 inches in length and in the larger specimens their girth measures as much as their length. A big bluegill weighs a pound or more.

Redears may not be caught as often as their bluegill cousins, but they can be more tenacious and grow larger. Many lakes hold redears weighing 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. These shellcrackers tend to feed closer to the bottom and in deeper water than the bluegills. Fish for these around stumps, logs and standing timber.

The slightly smaller redbreast sunfish aren't quite as widespread as bluegills. But those found where conditions are prime may often weigh about 1/2 to 3/4 pound and are tenacious fighters.

Redbreasts are found in most types of freshwater, but they prefer mid-sized streams, in which they feed along the bottom on snails, crayfish and insects. Unlike most bluegills and redears, they frequently eat minnows.

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