Bedding shellcracker & bream, hard to do it wrong

Shellcracker and bream fishing are both excellent right now, with the next few weeks likely to produce some of the best bream and shellcracker fishing of the entire year.
Terry Madewell/Clarendon Citizen - Shellcracker and bream fishing are both excellent right now, with the next few weeks likely to produce some of the best bream and shellcracker fishing of the entire year.

I’ve heard about the excellent shellcracker and bream fishing for a few weeks. Finally, I took my own advice and went fishing for them. Of course, I went just ahead of the full moon, which is an ideal time to catch them on the beds.

With turkey hunting season open in April, it’s sometimes difficult for me to take time out to fish. The fishing action has been strong lately, so I had to pass a day of gobbler chasing. I had not taken much time to toss a redworm, flip a cricket, crank a beetle spin or cast a popping bug with a fly rod to these special fish.

It’s certainly not that I don’t enjoy it; I enjoy good shellcracker and bream fishing action as much as any type of fishing. It’s a great way to get mentally “lost” in the act of catching lots and lots of fish. It’s a prime way to introduce kids, spouses and anyone for that matter to the sport. All that’s required is a cane or fiberglass pole, some line and a worm or cricket. You can get as fancy and high tech as you want, but that basic combo of items is all you have to have.

With all that said, I finally slipped out for a day of panfishing and despite the unseasonably warm weather we’d had for most of the spring (that changed last weekend), I figured the bream and shellcracker would be biting. As it turned out, the bream and especially the shellcracker were biting incredibly well.

When I launched the boat with a friend, we decided to begin fishing right where we launched. We both were armed with spinning reels as well as “bream buster” style fiberglass poles. We had redworms, night crawlers and crickets as bait. In fact, while I was putting the boat in the water, we watched a person fishing along the tree-studded shoreline catch a huge shellcracker. Once loaded into the boat, we quietly slipped along the shoreline. We were flipping our bait; I used worms and my buddy used crickets to see which worked best. We fished around and adjacent to any type of cover we could find. Sometimes, we’d just drop it into open-looking water where no cover was visible. Fish seemed to be just about anywhere you wanted to drop bait that day.

We began catching fish almost immediately, but kept moving along until we both hooked big, brightly colored shellcrackers from around a smallish stickup. Redworms worked best for that. We worked the bait close to that stickup and within a few minutes, we had about a dozen big shellcracker (red-eared sunfish) in the cooler. A couple of minutes in that spot with no action except a smallish hen bream taking the worms, was all we needed to prompt us to move along the shoreline. We continued to catch fish on a regular basis, but we went about 30 yards before we caught another big bream. This spot yielded about a half-dozen nice-sized bream for the cooler.

We were now getting pretty picky about what we kept, as it seemed obvious that the limit of bream might come long before we were ready to stop fishing if we didn’t become somewhat more selective on what we kept. By the time we had worked over the third bed, which consisted of mostly shellcracker, we were getting plenty of fish in the cooler. We then tried using the spinning rig and a bream buster to double up … which we did on occasion.

I changed tactics again and used my ultra-light rod loaded with four-pound test line with an orange and black grub hooked onto a beetle spin rig. I wanted to experiment with this rig to see if there was anything (within reason) that wouldn’t catch a bream. To our knowledge, on that morning, everything we threw at them was quickly gobbled up.

It was fishing on the beds at its finest. Granted there are some bream beds so big that you can limit from a single spot, and if we’d employed more patience, we’d most certainly caught more in these same spots. However, we wanted to move around and pick the cream of the crop off as many different areas as possible. Those big ol’ shellcracker and bream are easy to fillet with a good electric fillet knife and fried bream fillets are about as good as you can get in terms of quality fish to eat.

The fishing should be as good or better right now than it was when I went. The colder blast of air last weekend might keep fish in the shallows and slow the rising water temperature. The bream and shellcracker fishing should be at its peak for the year for the next few weeks. If you want some great fishing action for yourself and/or a kid, spouse, relative or friend, now’s the time to go panfishing.  

But I’d suggest you begin culling small fish early or you’ll have a limit of fish and have to quit.