One of the most accommodating of our coarse fish, the Common Bream is not only common but always willing to grace your net. The Common Bream is usually the target for that first ton up bag and it will readily feed in all weathers and at all times of the year.
Bream are a typical shoal fish and move around in large groups, frequently turning a quite session into a hectic biting frenzy as the shoal moves through. Small Bream, also known as skimmers or blades, can be mistaken for Silver Bream and can frequently exist in high enough numbers to drive the average angler crazy, or turn a light bag into a fat one!
Large Bream can reach an incredible size and are frequently caught in our fisheries well into double figures and sometimes over the fantastic 15lb specimen barrier. These monsters are called dustbin lids or slabs for obvious reasons and are frequently mistaken for Carp as they cruise in small shoals just under the surface.
Bream have quite a small head with a protractile mouth, a deep laterally compressed body with a long anal fin compared to their dorsal fin and a forked tail. Adults are bronze in colouration, varying from pale to dark specimens with their fins being grey/black. Juvenile Bream are silver when young and gradually develop the bronze colouration as they grow. All bream have a very heavy covering of protective slime covering their bodies. They are popular with match anglers as they feed freely and exist in shoals, so will provide good weights for competition angling, they commonly refer to young Bream as ‘skimmers’ as they fight little when hooked and simply skim the surface on the way to the net and larger Bream as ‘dustbin lids’ or ‘slabs’ which are carefully eased in with little resistance other than their own bodyweight which can be considerable.
There is a separate species found in the UK called the Silver bream (Blicca bjoerkna), these are pure silver in colour with pink/red anal and pectoral fins and much smaller in size. A new British record claim of 2lb 14oz is awaiting determination as a new record. This species is not present in FAS fisheries.
Bream naturally inhabit most medium to large lakes and rivers in the UK, they are able to deal with a degree of brackish water in tidal estuaries and prefer slow flowing rivers and warm, shallower lakes. Bream live in large shoals with fish of similar size or age, with such shoals becoming larger in winter.
This species is primarily a bottom feeder and likes nothing better than foraging in deep silt for bloodworm and small crustaceans.
Gravel Pit Bream can reach stupendous weights and are frequently caught by accident by Carp anglers and released without weighing!
Bream shoals moving around a fishery can give themselves away by rolling and topping and during the Spring are frequently in large shoals in the margin or near weed beds as they spawn.
Bream frequently spawn with other fish and hybridisation is common, especially with Roach, and the Bream/Roach hybrids are popular angling targets giving excellent sport.
Bream have quite small mouths and yet can take surprisingly large baits and a shoal moving in will soon clear a substantial bed of groundbait.
Tactics for bream depend on the size of the fish you are after. The smaller members of this family fall easily to the standard pole or light float tactics, while the larger members are frequently caught by Carp anglers using the ubiquitous boilie!
Large shoals of Bream respond well to heavy ground baiting and the old method of using mashed up bread can still prove successful although the modern angler tends to go for the convenience of pellets.
Massive slabs can also be found in Badshot Lea Big Pond, but the knowing specimen hunter would head to Mill Lane for the best chance of a personal best or even a National Record!
Bream/Roach Hybrids can be found in Farnham waters at Badshot Lea Big Pond.
Bream become sexually mature aged between 3-4 years and will spawn when water temperatures reach 12-20°C in May to June, with some females spawning alternate years. River populations will migrate to their spawning grounds and this journey can take some months in large rivers, starting in the autumn, slowing over the colder winter months and finishing in the spring: this migration has been recorded at up to 100km on some rivers in Continental Europe.
Males develop white tubercles on head and upper body and often defend territories in the spawning areas. The females are likely to deposit their eggs, which increase in size as they age, in a single deposit over a day or over a period of 7-14 days in 3 batches: they can deposit between 90,000 – 300,000 eggs/kg of bodyweight. The sticky eggs being shed then fertilised over large areas of weed or within reed beds.
The eggs hatch within 3-12 days dependant upon water temperature and the emerging larvae secrete themselves to weeds and absorb their yolk sac before becoming free-swimming fry that will stay in the warmer water around the weed beds and margins initially and then form large shoals of juvenile fish that gradually move into deeper water. The fry feed on zooplankton during the day initially, growing quickly during the warmer months and then becoming bottom feeders that filter the substrate for invertebrates and molluscs. They have been known to filter feed when zooplankton is in abundance.
Stunted populations of Bream can occur due to successful recruitment in waters with low predation. Bream will commonly breed with both Roach and Rudd and Roach-Bream hybrids will be found at Badshot Lea Big & Small Ponds.