The Smells of Success
Following your nose to bedding bream
Easing along with a sculling paddle in an ancient river oxbow, my nose is on full alert. The leaves, damp earth, moss and cypress trees all blend together to make a pleasing aroma, but the bittersweet overtones I seek have not been located. As the muddy bottom gives way to sand near the mouth to the old river, an intoxicating smell rises up and nearly knocks me from my perch in the boat. It seems to me a strange combination of sweet, summertime watermelon and a fresh fish market. It is the smell of bream on the bed, and it is the first of many great scents in a perfect day for the outdoor enthusiast.
When bream (or more specifically, bluegills) begin bedding, there is opportunity for everyone to get out and catch fish and in many places, they are bedding for much of the year. This is the kind of simple fishing that allows you to relax and forget the stresses of the day as you watch a cork bounce in the shallow water. The best part is anyone can do it. There are just a few things to keep in mind that will maximize your time spent at the lake: First, eliminate unproductive water. Second, pinpoint bed locations and, finally, use the right equipment.
Eliminating unproductive water for bream is fairly easy. The number one requirement for all bream fishing is sunshine – thus the name "sunfish." Many times the north bank of a lake will be the best as it will warm the soonest, but be sure to look for any areas where the water gets direct sunlight.
In river or creek systems, get out of the current. Panfish will move into shallower coves that are protected from wind and current to spawn. Not only do these coves provide an excellent spot for the fish, they also allow easy access for anglers. Another common place to locate spawning bream is in backwaters littered with stumps and trees.
In reservoirs and lakes current is not much of a factor, but bream will still use coves and pockets that are protected from wind. They will also relate to sunny banks with deep water nearby. Ponds are likely to have bedding fish all around and small acreages allow you to eliminate water by fishing it all.
So you've found a good location, now it's time to pick the sweet spot. A great way to do this is to keep your nose open. Bream beds have a very distinct smell. It is slightly fishy, slightly sweet and probably a little different to everyone, though it reminds me of watermelons. However, there are certain things to look for if your sniffer lets you down.
Bedding bluegills prefer hard sand or gravel bottoms. In oxbow lakes, beds are often found in old creek mouths or outlets where sand has collected. Even if water is muddy, it is fairly easy to find sand bottoms by paying close attention to the bank. In areas without sand or gravel, fish will make do with silty mud bottoms.
Weeds, stumps and other underwater objects provide cover that is essential throughout the year, but when these are located in prime bedding areas they become magnets during the spawn. Look for scattered lily pads or hydrilla in shallow water with plenty of bare bottom nearby.
Actually seeing the beds is the absolute best way to pinpoint spawning activity. Beds can be four feet long and four feet across or up to 25 feet by 50 feet and there may be a few or a few hundred individual nests on each bed. Males will move up to very shallow water and create nests roughly the size of a dinner plate. From above, these look like craters in the lake floor and the males guarding them are as aggressive as bream will be at any point in the year. The largest females are often found in deeper water adjacent to these spawning grounds.
Now that the mystery regarding location is dissolved, we come to the most important part of the bream fishing equation – tackle. There are thousands of combinations of rod, reel, line and lure out there. Which one is best?
Bream fishing aficionados may suggest fancy ultra-light rods with the finest reels available, but what the line comes from is not nearly as important as what it is tied to. Get a bargain-priced rod and reel combo or a cane pole and go fishing.
Line can be important in clear water. Keeping in mind that one small spool will last an extremely long time; it is worth spending an extra dollar to get the good stuff. Silver Thread fluorocarbon or copolymer lines offer the toughness and low visibility that serious bream anglers demand and could make the difference between bites and looks.
Most anglers prefer live-bait when bream fishing. Crickets and grass hoppers definitely top the list for effectiveness, though they are not available everywhere. Red worms or pieces of nightcrawlers run a close second and are nearly as effective. Bait should be placed on a #8 or #10 hook and weighted appropriately under a bobber.
For those who would rather not use live-bait there are several options available. Small jigs in various colors can be fished under a float or attached to a jig spinner and fished more quickly. A good versatile jig for both of these presentations is the Lindy Little Nipper in 1/32 oz. Though bream can be caught on a variety of jigs, there is always something that they will react to better than others so experiment with color and size.
Whether live-bait or a jig is used, the choice of floats is paramount to success. Thill offers a line of premium balsa floats that offer near neutral buoyancy – meaning the angler can see even the slightest of bites without the fish knowing the float is there. This is a factor often overlooked, but extremely important. If a float is too big or a jig too small, the fish will feel pressure as they inhale the bait and spit it out quickly. If they don't feel any resistance, they'll hold on for longer and end up getting caught. Pro Series slip floats are good for bigger water or windy days, while the Gold Medal Mini-Stealth is the ultimate in sensitivity for those extra picky fish in clear, calm water.
When the day is done, the real fun begins with the ultimate aroma of victory – cornmeal and peanut oil. A bucket full of bluegills makes for excellent table fare, especially when covered with your favorite spices and fried whole. So what are you waiting for? The sun is shining, the fish are bedding and the grease is ready.
By: Lindy Team