Alan Clemons, as appeared in The Fishing Wire
Throughout much of the country, anglers are winding down their fishing pursuits and turning their thoughts to hunting, winter sports and staying warm.
Even in the Southeast, where moderate temperatures don’t require ice augers for a fishing hole, fishing activity is dialed back a notch. Bass anglers are still at it, getting in their last licks. Walleye and sauger anglers are watching water temperatures, and crappie anglers in some areas are putting their minnow-tipped jigs to good use.
One species that gets overlooked this time of year is bream. It’s part of the sunfish family, which includes bass, and is found in farm ponds, streams and larger waterways. Bream help comprise the forage base for larger predators such as bass and catfish. Stripers and probably a walleye or sauger will munch on a bream if it gets too close.
Bream spawn throughout late spring and summer, creating circular “beds” that are easy to detect in shallow parts of a lake. Any angler with a good sense of smell may detect an area with bream beds due to the sweet scent, which some liken to ripe watermelon. Once you get a whiff, it occupies a spot in your memory that likely won’t be erased … especially if you’re armed with a cane pole or spinning rod, some crickets or a Road Runner and a cooler ready to be filled.
Crickets may be the easiest and most effective bream bait. They’re hard for panfish to resist. Threaded on a small, straight-shanked hook and dropped under a cork float, if a bream – or bluegill, shellcracker and even a bass or catfish – is around, chances are that cork will start dancing and bobbing.
Spring and summer are the prime times to catch bream and their colorful cousins, but that doesn’t mean they stop biting when temperatures start falling. It might take some searching on a large body of water to find them in deeper areas, but don’t overlook farm ponds or stocked lakes for good action. On a sunny day when the kids aren’t involved in after-school activities or on a weekend getaway, catching a mess of bream from a dock or shoreline is a fun way to pass the time.
I’m always looking for cool baits to try out and Northland Tackle came out this year with a line of panfish baits that are pretty darn sharp. They’re called the “Bro Bug Collection” and are colorful, diminutive larvae replicas that really do a number on the bream.
Among them are the Hexi Fly, Gill Getter, Scud Bug, Slug Bug and Bro’s Bloodworm. Each has distinctive characteristics that replicate small larvae; the bloodworm, for example, is a round jighead with a “teaser tail” a little less than two inches long. The Scud Bug looks like some kind of critter and has a segmented scud body with legs and tri-tail.
If the fish you’re targeting are a bit larger, or maybe more aggressive shellcrackers, the Mimic Minnow might be the ticket. It has a small fish-shaped body that looks like a tiny minnow. For crappies or perch, the Slurpies Small Fry Tube adds more realism with tube-bait tentacles and a larger hook.
Ol’ Man Winter will be arriving in full force soon, meaning those of us who don’t sit in ice shacks looking at holes in three feet of frozen water won’t be thinking about bluegills or perch. But until we’re warming our sock-clad toes by the fire and dreaming about spring, head to a pond for some late-season panfish action and have some fun.