I saw something earlier this week that caused my pulse to quicken just a bit. Driving along the interstate, what I saw harkened back to this time last year. I saw a bunch of something red growing along the highway.
Crimson clover. When it starts to bloom, I have learned over the years that the red blossoms have a special meaning. Simply stated, it means that temperatures are climbing which signals the bream to gather on the shallow spawning beds or at least be headed that way.
There is something special about the spring bream spawn. When things get right, it produces what I have come to appreciate, and that’s “lazy man fishing” because there’s nothing quite as easy as filling an ice chest with all the bream you care to clean.
Why is it so easy to catch bream once you have located a spawning bed? Whereas bass and crappie pick out special spots to individually deposit their eggs, bream seem to love the company of other bream. Catch one and you could possibly limit out by tossing a baited hook, popping bug or small spinner into the same spot over and over until you’re done.
In addition to watching for the crimson clover bloom, you can watch the thermometer and when it hits and consistently hangs around the 68 to 72 degree mark, be assured that bream are on the verge of doing their spring thing.
The most popular sunfish is the bluegill probably because there are so many of them and they’re easy to catch. Running a close second for sunfish is the redear, or shell cracker or as most of us know them, chinquapins. They typically spawn in water a little deeper than bluegills. One reason they’re so much fun to catch is that pound for pound, nothing pulls harder that a big fat chinquapin and they tend to be heavier than their bluegill cousins.
The state record for bluegills sits a 1.83 pounds, a fish caught by Tim Delaney in Iatt Lake in 2016 while the record chinquapin was caught in our own Caney Lake in 1998, a 2.87 pounder landed by Jerry Smelly. Incidentally, eight of the top ten redears listed in the state records were caught on Caney Lake.
Once the bream are on the beds, here’s how I practice the art of “lazy man fishing”. I have access to a private pond where I have fished for probably 30 years and I don’t think I ever came home from a trip to this pond without having all the bream I wanted to clean.
First, I’ll bring along a comfortable lawn chair and set it up under a big shade tree on the pond bank. Sitting on the ground beside me is a bucket of crickets along with a tackle box with a selection of small spinners. I’ll have an ultra-light spinning rod and reel prepared with a stout bream hook, a small lead weight a couple of inches above the hook and depending on the depth I want to fish, a Styrofoam float two to three feet above the hook.
It’s a simple matter of skewering a cricket on the hook and lobbing it into the spawning beds I know are there because that’s where they have been for all the years I have fished this pond. If things are right, the cork will bobble and then slip beneath the surface and here we go again. Often before trying the live bait method, I’ll pick up my other ultra-light rod that already has a small spinner attached and give it a chance first.
Once I’m back home, I’ll filet the whole lot of them save for a couple I’ll scale and fry whole. The first bite will be the crispy tail, sort of like eating a potato chip. Next I’ll “unzip” it by removing the top fin exposing the backbone I’ll carefully lift out to reveal all the goodness of whole fried bream has to offer.
Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is and I haven’t even made my first trip to the pond this spring.
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