Florida’s fresh waters teem with life. The Sunshine State is so famous for producing big bass that anglers journey here from all over the world for a shot at that coveted 10-pounder, and it can be argued that there is no better place on Earth than Lake Okeechobee to achieve that milestone.
Florida also has great winter fishing for black crappie, but you have to learn to call them speckled perch or specks if you want to be taken seriously by local anglers. And Florida has great bream fishing too. But wait a minute: What’s a bream?
You probably won’t find “bream” (which can be pronounced “breem” or “brim”) listed in technical fish journals. You won’t find a Latin name for bream either, because bream is an informal catch-all nickname that’s used to refer to several different species of native freshwater sunfish. (Editor’s note: In Europe, bream is used to refer to several fish similar to golden shiners.)
Bluegill, shellcrackers and stumpknockers are the most common panfish species caught in Sour local waters, and we catch a few redbreast sunfish and warmouth here too. There are several other species of bream that inhabit other areas of the state. I have not heard the term bream used to describe any of the exotic nonnative fishes, such as Mayan cichlids, oscars, or any of the tilapias.
The five sunfish species that you’re most likely to catch in a pond or creek in Southwest Florida are all somewhat similar in appearance, though they are easily distinguishable if you’re familiar with them. But just to make life simple for casual freshwater anglers who might not be able to tell them apart (or even realize that there are different species) the FWC lumps all sunfish together in the fishing regulations. The bag limit on sunfish in many Florida waters is 50 per person of all sunfish species combined with no minimum size limit.
So a couple of guys can go bluegill fishing and legally take 100 bluegill home between the two of them if that’s the only species they catch. If a few shellcrackers get caught and kept, those also count towards that 100 fish two-person combined limit. And yes, people do regularly take limits of bluegill in Florida waters, especially during the summer bedding season.
A word of caution about freshwater fishing regulations: There are many places in Florida where there are different rules specific to certain bodies of water. Examples of this can be found in Charlotte County, where there are special regulations for some of the waters in the Webb/Babcock WMA.
The three marl ponds near the Tucker’s Grade entrance and five-mile-long Webb Lake are all subject to size limits and reduced bag limits for sunfish that differ from the statewide general regulations, and the regulations are not the same for all four of these waters. If you plan to harvest sunfish at the Webb or at many other specially managed waters in our region, you need to carefully review the regulations found at http://bit.ly/2LtEiSr.
Let’s go fishing!
Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer, and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Call him at 941-639-2628 or email Captain@KingFishFleet.com.