A Boatload Of Bream At Lake Horton

When the fishing is hot, two rods will keep you working overtime pulling in bream after bulging bream.

Brad Bailey | April 25, 2006

Three Lake Horton shellcracker that fell for our worms-on-the-bottom tactics. Mike says the bigger fish seem to prefer worms fished on the bottom rather than under a float.

The shellcracker on the end of Mike’s line was a blur of flashing gold and orange as it cut crisp “Z”s and spiraling “S”s through the clear water of Lake Horton. The ultralight rod bounced and whipped as the flashy-colored fish finally came splashing up to the boat and over the side — just as Mike’s other rod tip bounced from the bite of another bream.

“When you are on them hot, you can’t fish two rods at the same time,” said Mike, as he set the hook on the other rod. “They will really make you work.”

On April 19, Mike Vosler of Hampton and I spent the day on one of the best public bream lakes in the Atlanta area — the 790-acre Lake Horton in Fayette County. The relatively-new lake, completed during the summer of 1996, was filled and opened to anglers for the first time in July 1997. During the three years the lake has been open to fishing, it has built a strong reputation as a bass and crappie lake. According to Fayette County Deputy Marshal Warren Chamberlin, an 11-lb., 3-oz. largemouth was caught in May, and a 2-lb. crappie was pulled out by a bank angler in April.

The sleeper fish in the lake, however, are the bream that are both abundant and big, but nearly ignored by anglers intent on catching bass or crappie.

The original “stocking” of both bass and bream came from a series of 10 or so small ponds where an individual raised largemouth bass and bream. These ponds, as well as a larger pond on Antioch Creek, were flooded when Lake Horton was filled. The fish that found themselves in a brand-new lake instead of a small pond liked their spacious new, high-quality habitat and have thrived with excellent reproduction and rapid growth.

For a bass angler, Horton is full of great structure — road beds, pond dams, creek channels, ditches and brush. It’s also full of shallow flats that are just right for bedding bream. The lake is “V” shaped with Antioch and Woolsey creeks forming the sides of the “V.” The upper ends of both creeks are the prime — and mostly overlooked — bream-fishing areas.

“It can get unreal,” said Mike. “When you are on them you will catch one right after another. You can get your limit in a couple of hours and then it’s time to go.”

Last July, Mike and fishing buddy Marion Hutcheson of Jonesboro caught about 150 bream, a mix of shellcrackers and bluegill. They kept the biggest 100, a 2-man limit, that included fish up to a pound. This year, Mike figures the fish in Lake Horton will average a little bit bigger. Three-year-old shellcrackers should be approaching the 1-lb. range. Three-year-old bluegill will weigh a half pound or a little bit more.
Mike, 32, is single and he spends most weekends fishing. Like a lot of bass fishermen, he started fishing on “small-game” — bluegills. He says his mom started his fishing career when he was three years old on bream and he’s been at it ever since, calling himself a fishing addict.

Part of the appeal of bream fishing — aside from the fun of catching lots of fish — is the simplicity. This is low-tech fishing at its best. With a rod, hook, line and sinker and a cup of red wigglers or a tube of crickets you are ready to go.

Mike spends most of his bream-fishing time more than halfway up the Antioch Creek arm.

“It’s excellent all the way back,” he said. “Any of the cuts and coves where you can find flats four to eight feet deep will hold some bream.”

If you go all the way to the back of the creek, a riprapped roadbed crosses the creek. The creek pours out of a culvert and follows a channel about 10 feet deep, according to Mike. The brush-lined flats on either side are four or five feet deep — just right for bream.

The catch is that the back of the creek is a long haul on a trolling motor. Lake Horton is restricted to trolling motors only. You can put a bass boat in the lake, but you can’t crank the big motors. While the bad news is that 790 acres is an ocean of water to cover with a trolling motor, at least you aren’t rocking and rolling in speedboat wakes or being buzzed by pesky jet skis.

Shellcrackers spawn first, in late April or early May as the water temperature rises into the 60s. Bluegill spawn later, usually beginning in late May or June when the water temperature rises above 67 degrees. The water temperature at Horton ranged from 62 to 64 the day we fished.

On April 19, Mike and I did not see any bream beds, despite the full moon on the 18th. The bigger shellcrackers we caught were bulging to bursting with eggs and they should be on the bed with the full moon in May, which occurs on May 18.

Mike agrees that fishing is usually good around the full moon, but he really doesn’t pay much attention to the moon phase — he says the bream fishing at Lake Horton is usually good any time you go between May and August.

Mike and I fished with red wigglers on a small gold Aberdeen hook with a couple of small split-shot pinched on eight or 10 inches above the hook. Mike uses light line to make casting easier and ultralight tackle to make the bream feel even bigger. We anchored over likely-looking spots, cast the worms and then waited for the rod tip to announce a bite. It usually doesn’t take long and it often doesn’t take much moving around to fill your cooler with bream.

“A lot of times I have caught a limit without ever moving the boat,” Mike said.

Mike usually fishes the worms on the bottom rather than with a float. “The bigger fish seem to pick it up off the bottom,” he said.

If you prefer to watch a float, Mike recommends attaching the bobber about four feet up the line.

Crickets will catch bream too, but because the fish are notorious bait-stealers, worms can reduce the amount of re-baiting time and they are a lot easier to catch than crickets.

Because bream are usually so willing to bite, they are the perfect fish when you have a kid to take fishing. Lake Horton, with its booming population of bream is an ideal place to get a kid started fishing. Several times Mike has brought friend’s kids to Horton to catch bream. He says the kids are a lot of fun to watch when they have one of Lake Horton’s souped-up shellcrackers or bluegill on the end of their line ripping those “Z”s and “S”s through the water.

To reach Lake Horton, take Hwy 92 south out of Fayetteville about three miles to Antioch Road. Turn right onto Antioch Road and go approximately 3 1/2 miles to a white entry gate. Just inside the gate a road to the right leads to the Antioch Creek ramp. If you continue straight, the entrance to the Woolsey Creek ramp will be on your left.
Bring plenty of worms or crickets on your bream-fishing trip to Lake Horton, you’ll need them — and maybe a spare trolling-motor battery, too.

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