Bream come in many colors and types. From the gaudy pumpkinseed to the tough sounding shellcracker, they are the first fish many of us caught in our youth. And they are some of the best eating freshwater fish that swim. Limits are high and they can be found from the smallest stream to the largest lake. They are a great "starter" fish for children. No wonder they are so popular.
Shellcracker, or redear sunfish, are the biggest of the bream, with the world record a 4 pound 13 ounce monster caught in Florida in 1986. As their name tells, they eat snails and muscles, crushing the shell with a tough muscle in their gullet. They also eat other food like insects, worms and crawfish, but feed on the bottom. To catch them, you must fish on the bottom. Best baits are live earthworms. They generally bed only one time each spring, when the water warms into the 70's. That is as early as February in Florida, May in mid-Georgia and June in Indiana and North Carolina, the northern most point of their natural range. They can be found from the east coast to Texas and have been stocked outside that area.
Bluegill are one of the most common of the bream. A huge 4 pound, 12 ounce bluegill was caught in Alabama in 1950 and still stands as the world record. They are native to the eastern half of the U.S. and a small part of northeastern Mexico, they also have been stocked all over the world. They will eat anything and you can catch them on live worms, crickets, small minnows, artificial flies, spinners and even crankbaits. They will bed each month during warm weather, often on the full moon.
Redbreast sunfish are some of the prettiest of the sunfish with their bright red bellies. They are found naturally from Canada to central Florida east of the Appalachians in North America and have not been introduced much outside that range, except in Texas and several lakes in northern Italy. Redbreast are one of the few bream that can be caught regularly at night. They feed on many different things, so a wide variety of baits and lures will catch them. The record is a 1 pound, 12 ounce fish caught in Florida in 1984
Warmouth are stocky sunfish like weedbeds and will tolerate muddy water better than many other sunfish. It has a big mouth for a sunfish and lookes much like a rock bass. It is dark with ligher areas between black verticle lines or bars. Native to the Great Lakes and Mississippi River area, it hass been introduced to many other areas. It is not sought after by most anglers but is good to eat.
Green Sunfish look a lot like a warmouth or rock bass, with brown to olive green bodies with a ligher belly that is y ellow green. Emerald or bluish spots on the head and wavy or radiating lines help identify them. They are found naturally throughout the eastern and central US and into Canada and northern Mexico. They have been introduced east of the Appalachaians and on teh west coast of the US, too. They are good to eat with white flaky meat and will hit earthworms, small live baits, spinners and most flies and poppers.
There are other species of bream common to some areas. They are all fun to catch. Grab a pole and a can of worms and go fishing.