Modern freshwater fishing is often defined by visions of tournament and recreational anglers racing up and down a waterway in a flashy boat, rigged with enough fish-finding electronics to see a brush top under the surface at 60 miles an hour.
Forget that, for now, and imagine this scenario:
You’re sitting in a bag chair at water’s edge, either at a farm pond or a small public lake, a cold beverage in the chair’s cup holder. Your gaze, though often distracted by the flight of a bird or the color of the dogwoods or wildflowers, is centered on a small piece of fluorescent Styrofoam, bobbing up and down on the water.
Maybe there’s some Al Green playing in the background, or perhaps Willie Nelson, or maybe not. It’s your call.
Then, all of a sudden, the bobber shoots under the water.
You react, grabbing the pole and giving it a yank to set the hook in whatever has eaten your cricket.
Without leaving your seat, you swing the hand-sized bluegill bream within reach, remove it from the hook and toss it into the open ice chest at your feet, where it joins about 20 others you’ve already caught. It flops once or twice before settling down on the bed of ice.
By then, you’ve already put another cricket on the hook, swung the line out into the water and returned to your gaze. Maybe Brother Green has moved on to another song, maybe not.
Either way, all is right with the world.
Now, that’s the essence of fishing, and truth be told, one of the great pleasures granted us in this life. It’s simple really: a pole — be it cane or modern graphite — with a box of crickets, a small tackle box with a few spare hooks, split-shot and bobbers, and bedding bream — but so rewarding in both a soul-satisfying and mouth-watering way.
“As good as it is for your soul, the best part of bream fishing comes hours later when you sit down with a mess of fried bluegill,” said fisherman Joe Watts of Canton. “The fun you have catching them, and the enjoyment of eating them, is worth having to clean them in between.”
Watts is a dedicated bobber-watcher who lives on a bream-filled lake and has access to several others. He often bass fishes, loves to chase reds and specks in the Gulf, and has fought marlin and tuna.
Yet his true love is, as he said, “drowning crickets.”
May is his favorite time, too. It’s just too easy.
“They bed up first in April, especially the redear, but in May, all the bluegill come in on the new and full moons,” Watts said. “The fish in our lake have some historical bedding areas, but on other lakes, I like to smell them out. When you get downwind of a big bed, believe me, you’ll know it.
“It’s an aroma that is semi-sweet, like watermelon, mixed with an acrid, earthy smell of wet dirt and with a fishy smell. You find that on the wind and then follow it upwind to its source. You can fish it from a boat, but usually it’s close enough to the bank that you can go ashore, set up chairs and wear them out, comfortably.”
Watts has an array of 11-foot B’n’M crappie poles at the ready at all times in the spring, including some with ultralight spinning reels to cast to beds just out of reach without casting.
Bream bed throughout the spring and early summer, he said, usually on the new and full moons.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Watts said.