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“Bream Fishing”

May 25, 2005

The full moon in May offers such an irresistible time for bream fishing in the farm ponds of our county.  Even a novice angler can fill a sheetrock mud bucket half-full of bluegills and shellcrackers after fishing only half a day.  Whether jigging with a cane pole from the bank or spin casting from a johnboat, crickets or red worms on a long shank hook flipped into a bream bed are sure to provide a tasty supper of fresh pan fish. 

During that particular time of year, even seasoned bass masters can be lured away from their plastic worms rigged on weedless hooks and artificial baits armed with treble hooks.  As exciting as landing an eight-pound large mouth bass is, feisty bream offer no better fight ounce-for-ounce.  Besides, large-mouth bass fishermen tend to be large-mouthed.  Something about the simple humility of bream fishing is good for them, if only once a year.

The week after Christmas, citizens who know the finer nuances of bream fishing load their pickup trucks with Fraser Firs discarded by the road like fallen soldiers.  These dedicated anglers have a better use for these trees intended to be ground into mulch.  They haul the trees to their favorite farm pond and sink them in the cold waters of winter.  A clump of Christmas trees dumped on the bottom of a pond becomes a bream bed where fish find cover in the branches by the full moon in May.

Also important to the experienced bream angler is the catalpa tree, with its soft wood and large leaves.  “Say catalpa, not Catawba,” a friend once told me.  “Catawba is the name of a river and a tribe of Indians.  Catalpa is the tree.”  Actually, catalpa is an Indian word that means _______.  This tree’s whirl of purple blossoms in the spring attracts the female sphinx moth to lay her eggs on the large green leaves.  When the larvae hatch, those leaves provide food for hundreds of catalpa worms.

Catalpa worms are the premier bream bait.  Their tough skin holds a hook far better than either crickets or red worms.  One fisherman bragged that he had caught six bluegill on the same worm. He added, “A catalpa worm is to a bream like a T-bone steak is to me.  It’s just too good to turn down.”

A fishing buddy and I went fishing late one afternoon a few days after the full moon in May.  After about an hour, the only bites I had were from mosquitoes.  We quietly paddled the johnboat across the pond to the largest bream bed I have ever seen and decided to fish around the outside of the bed, leaving the center as undisturbed as possible.  We anchored the boat and started casting, he to one side of the bed and I to the other.  Using catalpa worms, we caught a bream on almost every cast and kept only the fish we intended to clean and eat.  By dark, we had a basket full of shellcracker and bluegill.  With only the light of a nearly full moon, we continued fishing, setting the hook when we heard or felt the bream hit. 

Throughout the evening, we were treated to a concert by bullfrogs, crickets, and a whippoorwill and to the fragrance of honeysuckle, which the cool breeze carried.  Moonlight glistened on the water, and stars flickered in the sky.  Bream fishing is healing to the spirit.  The psalmist David wrote, “He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul” (Psalm 23).  To be a fisherman requires unusual patience.  Though success is never a certainty for a fisherman, hope springs eternal with every cast.  Even when the fish are not biting, the seasoned fisherman does not lose heart.  Another day to try again awaits.

No wonder Jesus called fishermen to be his disciples.

-Kirk H. Neely 

© H-J Weekly, May 2005

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