LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – The bass, the trout, the crappie and even the catfish get the headlines, but bream are the most numerous of fish caught and taken home for eating by Arkansas anglers.
First, the dictionary necessities. The comprehensive term bream is pronounced "brim," like the edge of a cup. It is a category, not a specific species. Bream refers to several members of the sunfish family, a family that also includes black bass and crappie. A European fish called the bream is not connected to the Arkansas bream.
In Arkansas, the four types of bream most often encountered by anglers are bluegill, green sunfish, red-ear sunfish and long-ear sunfish.
They are all small when compared to other game fish. All are ferocious fighters when hooked despite their size, and all are good table fare.
Bluegill. According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, bluegill, among the larger sunfish, thrive in still, warm water such as ponds and small lakes. They have been widely stocked in farm ponds. Spawning begins in May and can last until July; nests are built close together. Males guard eggs but not free-swimming fry. Bluegill eat insects, crayfish and small fish.
Fishermen go after bluegill with red worms, crickets and many other types of live bait. Green and black catalpa worms are highly desired by anglers as bluegill bait. The fish may also hit small jigs and lures and sometimes live minnows. Bluegill are often found in groups, so several can be caught in one spot – of the angler is fortunate.
The state record for bluegills is 3 pounds, 4 ounces – a huge bluegill.
Red-ear sunfish. Many other names are used for this fish that is highly popular among anglers. Chinquapin is one name often voiced in south Arkansas. Government-improved bream is another. Many anglers call it the red-ear bream.
Red-ears are usually found a little deeper in the water than bluegill and often are close to stickups, stumps and fallen logs. They also will hit a variety of live baits and several types of small lures.
The state record for red-ears is 2 pounds, 14 ounces.
Long-ear sunfish. This little sunfish, as beautiful as any tropical fish, has adapted to almost all types of habitat in Arkansas but prefers the clear streams and reservoirs in the highlands. It is an opportunistic feeder but mainly eats insects and crayfish. It spawns in colonies on gravel bottoms in June.
Highly attractive with its bright orange, blue, green and yellow hues, the long-ear sunfish prefers clear, moving water and is often found in creeks of the mountain areas of Arkansas. Baits include crickets, worms and artificial flies.
The state record for long-ears is 1 pound, 2 ounces.
Green sunfish. Many Arkansans know this fish as the rice field slick or just slick. It is found over most of the state but especially in the lowlands of eastern Arkansas. Rivers, lakes, oxbows, bayous, ponds, drainage ditches all are home to the green sunfish.
Drive down a rural road in east Arkansas and see someone fishing at the mouth of a culvert where water is running. Chances are they are going for green sunfish with worms or crickets.
The state record for green sunfish is 1 pound, 11 ounces.