Some of the Best Bream Fishing In the World Happens Right Here
I’ve fished all over the country for all kinds of game fish, but I’ll admit, I still get a thrill from the dance and dip of a red and white bobber when a big bream takes my hook. Whether it’s a bluegill or a big old redear, I love to catch bream.
Alabama is one of the best places in the world to catch bream, too. In fact, the world record bluegill came from a small private lake in central Alabama way back in the early 1950s. From north to south, Alabama truly has some of the best bream waters anywhere. Bream anglers from all over the country make journeys to Alabama to take part in the great bream fishing every spring.
Right now, I’m concentrating on my little bobber as it jumps and then disappears below the dark water surface. I know that I’m in for a short, spirited fight with this fat, strong bream. I know this because I’ve already taken several good keeper-size bream from this same bedding area earlier.
Of course, the good things about bream don’t end when the fight is over and the bream is in hand. Bream are some of the best tasting freshwater fish and there’s nothing quite like a mess of fried bream for supper to make this bream angler happy.
A Little Bream Biology
Bream, especially bluegills, are prolific reproducers. In fact, bream left to their own devices will soon overpopulate a small body of water. This will cause the size and health of the bream to decline. A specific body of water can support only a certain amount of bream poundage. If the fish overpopulate, there’s not enough food and the fish don’t grow much.
Fisheries scientists have long known that for optimum bream production, there needs to be something in the water to control the numbers of young bream. We anglers know that the best controller of bream is a healthy population of largemouth bass. Largemouth bass will consume many smaller bream. This thinning of small bream helps larger bream develop and prosper.
“Smaller lakes that hold more predators actually produce more large to trophy-size bream. — Nick Nichols, fisheries biologist”
So, what’s the big deal about all of this? Because of the connection between good bream population size and big bass to help thin them out, it stands to reason that waters which have good bream populations must have also good bass populations. Therefore, those lakes and rivers in Alabama that are famous for great bass fishing also have great bream fishing and that’s all good.
Nick Nichols, chief of Fisheries for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says, “Typically, big bream are found in waters that are relatively fertile and support the production of invertebrates that are the primary food items for panfish. Also, smaller lakes that hold more predators actually produce more large to trophy-size bream. This is due to the predators thinning the many juvenile bream that are produced, allowing those individual juveniles that do survive to have less competition for food.”
Best Bream Fishing Up North
We talked with two of the best panfish guides in Alabama. Capt. Lee Pitts and Capt. Brad Whitehead take folks fishing for crappie and bream all year long. They both get excited when asked about the best bream fishing spots in Alabama.
When asked to name his favorite bream fishing waters, Captain Brad says, “I like to fish Pickwick Lake. It’s full of pea gravel bottom, which is great for bream bedding areas. Pickwick is full of big bluegill and shellcrackers. I also like Bear Creek Lakes. These lakes are not as popular as the larger lakes in the area. Most people fish them for crappie and bass so the bream are not as pressured there. I also like to fish Wilson Lake for bream. Wilson has a high population of bream. On the east end of the lake, there’s a lot of pea gravel bottom in shallow areas that is great for bream bedding.”
Capt. Lee Pitts tells us, “I prefer to bream fish the Tennessee River chain of lakes. The Coosa River lakes where I bass and crappie fish is just not as good for big bream. I go to Lake Guntersville when I want to catch bream. I really like downriver toward open water on Lake Guntersville. There are lots of back bays and short pockets with hard bottom and shallow water for best bedding areas.”
Best Bream Fishing Down South
Toward the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama anglers have a wide range of waters to chase bream. However, for many bream specialists, the one place in South Alabama to look for big bream and lots of them is the Mobile-Tensaw Delta area near Mobile. This massive expanse of bayous, creeks, backwaters and big rivers has a strong population of both bluegill and redear sunfish, also called a shellcracker, but they are not always easy to access.
For best delta bream fishing, a small boat of some kind opens up the world of fishing possibilities. A small boat whether it is a flat-bottom johnboat, a small bass boat or even a canoe or kayak puts a bream angler in reach of prime bream fishing.
Our favorite bream fishing spot on the delta is Byrnes Lake. This eastern shore bayou connects with the major river system only a couple of miles downstream from the only boat launch. From the launch ramp, bream anglers can paddle or motor upstream about a half mile to where a small bayou enters Byrnes Lake. This little junction spot is a flat where bluegills spawn from spring to fall and anglers can fill a live well quickly.
For anglers looking for big redear sunfish, it’s a good idea to run downstream until shoreline rows of cypress trees appear. People fishing red worms on the bottom in deeper water, just out from these cypress trees will find some fast and furious bream fishing.
Other Great Bream Fishing Spots
Although all of the bream waters we’ve looked at so far have been very large and well-known lakes and delta areas, some of the best bream spots in Alabama include rather small state-operated lakes. In these lakes, anglers can expect to find some great bream fishing.
The state of Alabama operates 23 small lakes in 20 different counties. These well-managed lakes range in size from 13 to 1,912 acres. Each lake is specifically managed to provide anglers with very high quality fishing. All of these state lakes have been stocked with bluegill, redear sunfish and largemouth bass. All of these lakes offer very easy driving access and shoreline fishing for bream anglers.
Although all of these smaller lakes provide good fishing, a few of them traditionally produce many big bream. Bream specialists should pay attention to Clay County Lake, Bibb County Lake, Monroe County Lake and Escambia County Lake. For whatever reason, these specific state lakes are traditional producers of large bream.
The state provides anglers with great online information about these lakes. Anglers can go to outdooralabama.com/alabama-state-public-fishing-lakes to find lake contours, depth and other specific information for each lake. For more information and the rules for each lake, call 334-242-3471.
Bream Catching Advice
Our experts both offered us bream chasers some good advice when it comes to rigging up and fishing techniques for bream in Alabama. First, anglers can almost always find fast results for bream by using live bait. Red worms fished on the bottom are deadly for those big, strong redear sunfish. Crickets are the traditional bait for bluegills. Here’s a little secret. When fishing the delta waters for big bream, try 1- to 2-inch long shrimp for deadly action.
The only problem with using live bait for bream is that undersized fish can strip a hook bare in just a second. Even if hooked, a 4-inch long bream just doesn’t have much meat to it. Bream specialists who seek out the larger bream for both fight and eating tend to rely more on artificial lures.
Captain Lee says, “I like ultralight spinning gear for bream. I use a Lew’s Light Series Super Spin reel on a 5.5-foot Lew’s System Bow-Tie Series rod with 4-pound-test test line. I like to use a Bobby Garland Itty Bit Swim’R soft-plastic body on a 1/64-ounce jighead. I like dark colors. I work this jig through a hot bedding area. The bigger bluegills and shellcrackers love this little jig!”
The size of float matters because a small float doesn’t cast a very big shadow to spook the bigger fish.” – Lee Pitts, fishing guide
For his best advice to bream anglers, Captain Lee tells anglers to stay away from the bed where the bream are taking care of their spawning duties. He says, “I love easing around fan casting to find the bream. Then, I like to back off the beds. I use a small float. The size of float matters with this kind of stealthy fishing because a small float doesn’t cast a very big shadow to spook the bigger fish.”
Captain Whitehead tells us, “Most of the time, bigger bream come on prespawn situations, before they go on the beds. I use my side-scanning side imaging electronics to find deeper bluegill beds because the bigger fish will be in deeper water.”
For rigging for big bream fishing in April, Captain Brad recommends light line on a B’n’M Sharpshooter 5-foot, 5-inch long rod. He particularly likes Slider brand soft plastics such as the Slider Spin Jig for deep shellcrackers.
It’s Prime Time for Big Bream
Since we lucky Alabama residents live in the middle of some of the best bream fishing in the world, it just makes sense to spend some quality time catching these hard-fighting fish. Whether we head to the big Tennessee Rivers up north or the massive Mobile-Tensaw Delta down south or even some of the fine state lakes, there’s no better way to spend a great day outdoors than watching a bobber dance and dip from the pull of big old bream.
Important Contact Information
Little River Marina and Lodge Pitt Stop