IT’S LATE SPRING AND THE WEATHER isn’t the only thing heating up around here. Water temperatures are on the rise at lakes all across the state and the fish are biting.
One of the hottest games going these days is bluegillin’. Actually, bluegillin’ isn’t a game. It’s the term my good friend Lonnie Stanley of Huntington coined years ago to describe bream fishing. Bream is an umbrella term often used in reference to a wide variety to pint-size sunfish such as redear, bluegill, red breast and longear.
Bream can be found in big numbers in public reservoirs and community lakes all across the state as well as in private stock tanks and ponds. Some of the best are found in eastern Texas, where the water quality is good with good habitat to support abundant populations of fish.
Although bream can be caught year-round, the best time to go after them is during late spring through the summer months. The fish like to loaf in the shade around docks, piers and bulkheads, but perhaps the best way to run up the score is to find them on spawning beds.
Bream gather in large groups and fan out beds for spawning. The beds, often slightly larger than a dinner plate, are usually stacked side-by-side on points, ridges, humps or shorelines that offer a hard bottom riddled with gravel or shell. Spawning “colonies” can easily contain 50 more beds.
Beds are easy to identify in clear water, because they appear lighter than the surrounding bottom. From a distance a large spawning colony looks sort of like a giant honeycomb.
If the water is clear enough to see the beds, you will be able to tell pretty quick if anyone is at home. Bream swarm around active spawning beds, and they are super aggressive toward something perceived as an intruder.
Bream can be taken with assorted baits, live, dead or artificial. Just remember you aren’t dealing with Moby Dick.
Small jigs cast on ultra-light spinning gear are deadly on spawning bream, or you can catch them on flyfishing gear using a small popping bug, nymph or a select sub-surface lure.
Probably the most elementary way to go after bream is with a 10- to 14-foot B&M Black Widow telescoping pole. The lightweight pole has a single line tie at the tip. Guides and a small reel can be added if you want, but it really isn’t necessary. Four-pound test mono line the length of the pole allows for covering plenty of water sufficiently.
The biggest mistake beginning bream fishermen make is using a hook and bait that’s too large. Sunfish have small mouths, so you need to use a combination they can inhale easily. A long shank hook with a narrow bite is ideal. Best baits are crickets, small waxworms or artificials such as Berkley Power Wigglers or Fish Fry. Both come in multiple colors, are inexpensive and are much cleaner to use than the real thing.
Another key ingredient of a good long-pole rig is the cork. Use a float the fish can pull under easily.
One of the best around is the Shy Bite by Thill.
Bream may not be big, but they are a blast to catch on light tackle. They also make great table fare when deep-fried golden brown and paired with hush puppies, french fries and fresh tomatoes with a slice of sweet onion.
Think I’ll head to the lake to catch a few.
—story by MATT WILLIAMS