2005 Georgia Bream Special

A statewide look at the best places to catch a mess of bream, from bluegill, shellcrackers and redbreast to southeast Georgia fliers.

Roy Kellett | May 1, 2005

It has been said of bream that if they weighed five pounds, they could jerk you into the water. There’s no doubt the voracious little feeders are aggressive and put up a pound-for-pound fight that rivals any fish you are likely to catch. And if you want to have a load of fun in May, all you need is a couple of cane poles, some bait, your favorite little kid and a pond full of bream.

The bream is one of Georgia’ s most fun fish and one of its most under-appreciated. And when you smell that old familiar “watermelon” scent of bedding bream, the time is right to go. I fell back in love with the scrappy little panfish in my mid-20s, when I would sit by my uncle’s small back- yard pond and catch them for hours on end. One evening, after catching dozens of fish on the old cricket-under-the-bobber rig, I was getting bored, so I took everything off my line except a hook. I would flip a cricket as far as physics would allow (about eight or 10 feet) and watch as hand-sized bluegill would smash my new “topwater” rig on every cast.

Since then, I get after bream as often as possible. And now is when people across the state will do the same.

Small groups of friends, hunting clubs, and even whole towns will celebrate the redbreast bream in the coming weeks during tournaments and festivals, the shellcracker (or redear sunfish) will be off the bed and the bluegills will begin to spawn. The action should be hot and heavy this summer. So grab a pole and head to the water

Shellcracker and Bluegill: There are populations of bluegill and redear in nearly every body of water in Georgia. On the big reservoirs, the numbers are usually high, but the quality is not as good. Fish can be caught on Georgia’s big lakes, but if you really want to get into some bream, check out some of the state- park lakes and Public Fishing Areas (PFAs).

Kevin Dallmier, WRD fisheries biologist in Region I, says the north- western part of the state has some good bream-fishing opportunities. Sloppy Floyd State Park and Rocky Mountain PFA are both full of bluegill and redear, according to Kevin. At Rocky Mountain, try Heath and Antioch lakes. Though the banks can be a little steep around Heath, there is some bank access. Walking all the way around Antioch shouldn’t be a problem. In northeast Georgia, look to lakes Burton, Rabun and Seed for the best bream-fishing action.

The shellcracker will spawn in late April and stay on the bed for a week. Though they spawn deeper than bluegill, shellcracker can be caught shallow after they spawn.

“You can catch them a variety of ways,” Kevin said. “You can use the old bobber and No. 6 hook routine, fish worms on the bottom with split shot, or even catch them on Beetle Spins.

“They always bed around timber, so look for a blowdown tree. If it’s on a nice, hard-bottom point… even better.”

The shellcracker earned its name because its diet consists mostly of small mollusks that live on the bottom. The fish have small teeth in their throats to crush the shells of the snails and mussels on which they feed. They can typically be found in two to four feet of water. A bottom rig with a worm is the ticket, but small spinners can be deadly.

One of the state’ s best shellcracker populations can be found in Washington County’s Hamburg State Park. Boaters can use motors less than 10 hp to get after some fat redear. DNR fisheries biologist Scott Robinson said Hamburg is a great place to wet a hook this spring. “There is some great shellcracker and bluegill fishing in the lake,” Scott said. “We see some really nice shellcracker caught out of there every year.”

Bluegill will be shallow, and they will devour live crickets, small spinners or worms. They can be caught in every corner of Georgia. Go fishing this month at any of the lakes already mentioned, or one of several great PFAs such as McDuffie, Gillis, Dodge County, Paradise, Evans County, or other lakes like Black Shoals and Rock Eagle.

Bert Deener, DNR fisheries supervisor for Region VI says fishing at PFAs should be good.

“In May, the shellcracker will be winding down and the bluegill will be getting cranked up,” Bert said. Of Georgia’ s big lakes, perhaps none boasts better bream fishing than Clarks Hill Reservoir on the Savannah River. Good numbers of bream can be caught on Blackshear and Seminole as well. It can be tough to find fish on these lakes, but try crickets, worms, or grass shrimp, which you can buy at local bait shops. If you plan to fish at a PFA, make sure the pond you want to fish is open. There will be signs post- ed, and you can obtain information by calling. To find the numbers for PFAs, look in the Georgia Fishing Regulations booklet.

Redbreasts: For some panfish enthusiasts, nothing compares to the redbreast bream, a river fish that will provide hours of fun when you figure out how best to catch them. Though redbreast can be caught in nearly every river in the state, they are revered in some parts of Georgia. The town of Midville has built an annual festival around the fish, which grows up to 3/4 of a pound or more.

Redbreast like to hang out in eddy areas or in the slack water behind timber. When redbreast are ready to eat, they will hit on top, on bottom and in between. While crickets fished under a bobber close to timber is the preferred method of catching a stringer of red- breast, they will also demolish Beetle Spins or flies. Last summer, my best friend and I could have made a living casting yellow popping bugs on a fly- rod in sloughs off the Ogeechee River.

The Ocmulgee River has a good population of redbreast, as do the Flint and Ochlocknee rivers in southwest Georgia. Craig Robbins, WRD fisheries technician, said the Flint is easily accessible, with plenty of boat ramps and navigable water. And while the Ochlocknee can be a jam-up place to catch redbreast, the river provides less access and the water level can rise or fall rapidly, shutting fish down, and making boating difficult.

“It can get too high or too low, but if you hit it at the right time, it is great,” Craig said.

This spring, for the best redbreast fishing, head south. Southeast is more like it.

“The Satilla River is going to be absolutely phenomenal this year,” Bert said.

Low water and cool temperatures last winter made for slower-than-normal fishing in the summer of 2004. However, with plenty of rain this year, and plenty of fish stacked in the river, expect some great catches.

Redbreast love a 1/16- or 1/32-oz. Beetle Spin. The white body/red dot color is very good, as is the black body with yellow stripes. Those two sizes and color combinations are what Bert recommends, but he says when the fishing gets really good, it almost doesn’t matter.

“If you hit it right, it doesn’t matter what color you throw, you will catch fish,” Bert said.

Bert said fishing will be good on the Satilla when the Waycross gauge is between five and six feet. You can check the level of your favorite redbreast river by going to http://water The website will contain river levels and flow rates for nearly every body of water in Georgia.

Georgia offers a wide array of opportunities to catch every member of the sunfish family. The hard-fighting redear, the plump bluegill and the feisty redbreast will all be biting this month.

Get After Okefenokee Fliers!

In the March 2001 issue of GON, Bert Deener wrote about fliers, a unique fish in a unique fishery. The flier, a member of the sunfish family, looks like a cross between a crappie and a bream, with big fins, a small mouth and beautiful black and iridescent green coloring. What makes flier fishing so much fun is getting in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Boats with motors under 10 hp are allowed in the swamp, and with ramps at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston, there are a couple of good access points.

If you go to the swamp after fliers, downsize your gear to upsize the fun. Fliers are small fish. The world-record flier, weighed in at 1-lb., 4-ozs., was caught from a pond in Valdosta a few years ago. However, you should catch some in the 3/4-lb. range.

“A 10-incher is a sure-enough trophy,” Bert said. “But they are a ball to catch.

Bert loves chasing fliers in the swamp and says it is a 12-month-a-year fishing opportunity on water that is different from anything you have fished before.

“It is a totally unique fishery,” Bert said.

A 1/50-oz. white/red dot Beetle Spin is a great flier bait, but for some real fun, take a small flyrod or a Bream Buster pole, stop by a tackle shop in Waycross or Fargo, and pick up a handful of Yellow Sallies. The tiny streamer works best in a No. 6 or No. 8

Pitch your Sally next to lily pads or a stump, and watch the fly until it sinks just out of sight, give it a tiny twitch, pick it up and pitch it again. If the Sally suddenly dis- appears, set the hook.

“It’s just like fishing a floating worm for bass,” Bert said.

If you get a flier on the line, get him to the boat quickly, as the local gator population might be looking for a snack.

To try something completely different this spring, get to the Okefenokee Swamp and get after some fliers.

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